Using 3D sensor technology for retail store traffic analytics

In order to obtain accurate counts in high-traffic environments in both indoor and outdoor locations, as well as in areas with dynamic lighting or areas where precise count lines are required, HeadCount utilizes Brickstream 3D sensors from FLIR Integrated Imaging Solutions, Inc.

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For retail stores that utilize camera-based trafficand conversion programs, the key to a successful program is acquiring data that can be trusted and is accurate. HeadCount Corporation, a company that specializes in traffic counting and optimizing data, believes that without confidence in the data, managers will question the traffic counts instead of applying the insights to improve performance.

"If you can’t trust your traffic count data, nothing else matters," says Mark Ryski, CEO and Founder of HeadCount Corporation and author of Conversion: The Last Great Retail Metric. "It all starts with an accurate traffic count and getting that is not as easy as it sounds," he says. "In fact, it’s not uncommon for even the largest, most sophisticated retailers to struggle with traffic count quality issues."

In order to obtain accurate counts in high-traffic environments in both indoor and outdoor locations, as well as in areas with dynamic lighting or areas where precise count lines are required, HeadCount utilizes Brickstream 3D sensors from FLIR Integrated Imaging Solutions, Inc. Brickstream 3D sensors measure 2.6" x 6.1 "x 1.3" and collect and store metrics in 1 minute intervals.

The stereo vision sensors feature two CMOS image sensors and two lenses and are used to capture 3D video. Height, direction, mass, and velocity of people and objects in the field of view are extracted and used to identify people (and groups moving together, such as families), from the background and from objects such as strollers and shopping carts. The 3D stereo images are processed within the device itself, eliminating the need for PC support.

HeadCount works with retailers that have traffic count data from existing systems, as well as retailers who are not yet counting. While the company considers itself ‘technology agnostic,’ and continues to evaluate new traffic counting technologies, they have stuck with the Brickstream sensors for their systems.

"We evaluate traffic counters based on three primary criteria: count accuracy, functionality and reliability and Brickstream is the only traffic counting solution that delivers on all three," said James Cummings, HeadCount’s Vice President of Operations who oversees all technology implementation and support of traffic counters.

In order to provide accurate counts in retail stores, the sensors have to consider a number of factors that may contribute to unreliable numbers. This includes eliminating kid counts, which Brickstream does by using a height setting so that counts generated by children can be separated from adult counts or eliminated altogether. Additionally, the sensors need to be constantly monitored and maintained, which can be accomplished with the sensors’ device management software tools, which enables sensor monitoring and troubleshooting, as well as traffic count audits.

When it comes to the temptation of using newer technologies in their stores, Ryski suggests not to jump right into anything, and instead, use something that is proven to provide accurate and reliable data.

"I’d advise all retailers to start with a solid foundation of store traffic and conversion analytics first before spending time and resources on more speculative analytic efforts."

View more information on HeadCount.
View more information on the Brickstream sensors.

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