Pros and Cons of 5 Different People Counting Sensors

Whether you’re running a retailer or a facility, businesses that rely on foot traffic need to have a reliable people counter (or door counter) on their side.

People counting technology enables businesses to understand their customers and occupancy patterns, which helps them optimize their space according to which areas are most used and when.

Particularly in the case of retailers, using a door counter is directly related to increased revenues, allowing them to analyze, improve and build on retail foot traffic trends and events.

The case for using a door counter sensor to track your business’ foot traffic may be strong, but when it comes to purchasing a foot traffic counter for the first time or upgrading your existing technology to improve retail analytics, choosing the right one is critical and not always a simple decision to make – unless you have all the facts.

In this post, we’ll walk you through the top 5 types of people counting -or door counter- sensors so you can learn which one is right for you.

Thermal Sensors for People Counting

Put simply, thermal sensors are devices that detect heat.

When it comes to door counters, thermal sensors detect the light generated by body heat radiating off people as they walk past the sensor.

One of the best advantages of using thermal sensors is that they provide anonymous data regarding the people they track.

Dor - Thermal People Counting Sensor

➣ Where can thermal people counting sensors be used

Thermal sensors can suit just about any business that is looking to analyze foot traffic and grow from the data. Their anonymity also makes them a great solution for businesses that may have privacy concerns or must comply with privacy requirements.

Related: Deep dive: Why do we use a thermal sensor?

Businesses that are an ideal match for a thermal sensor include retailers, co-working spaces, offices and other large facilities.

➣ Average cost of thermal people counting sensors

Although prices vary, thermal sensors are typically cheaper than video camera sensors.

They can also be placed per space or entrance, allowing you to cover more area than with many other people counting sensors. This makes thermal sensors a more affordable option for many businesses.

There are also new-generation thermal sensors on the market that help lower installation and maintenance costs for businesses. One such innovative product comes from Dor, who created the world's first battery-powered thermal sensor.

Not only does the battery only need to be changed every two years, but Dor's thermal sensor can also be installed in minutes. All you have to do is just peel and stick the sensor anywhere you want, and it will start counting people right away.

By eliminating the need for technicians as well as installation costs, this type of technology can save businesses a lot of time and effort – especially those with hundreds of stores or ones who can't afford to close temporarily to install a sensor.

Click here to discover how a people counting solution like Dor can help your team make better business decisions based on your store's foot traffic data.

➣ Benefits of thermal people counting sensors

The greatest benefit to using a thermal door counter is undoubtedly the anonymity aspect: Not only are the images blurred as compared to a video camera, but thermal sensors also don't rely on obtaining mobile data from visitors, as is the case with WiFi, break-beam and Bluetooth beacons.

Thermal sensors are also significantly more accurate than WiFi, break-beam and Bluetooth beacon technologies.

Here again, Dor's thermal sensor stands out from the competition, as it was developed using a machine learning algorithm that allows the sensor to constantly learn and get more accurate at counting people each day.

➣ Limitations of thermal people counting sensors

While the privacy factor is critical for many businesses, the anonymous data you get from using a thermal sensor doesn’t let you learn anything about your foot traffic’s demographical data or behaviors.

So, this may be a limitation for retailers looking to learn more about their customers, such as their age groups and genders.

Video Camera Sensors for People Counting

Video camera door counters work by identifying people walking through the areas covered by the camera.

Although many businesses already have security video cameras in place to cover every corner of their business, video camera sensors are different in that they focus on the foot traffic and actively count humans, including those in large groups, to get an accurate foot traffic count.

Video Camera People Counting Sensor

➣ Where can video camera people counting sensors be used

Video camera sensors can be used almost anywhere throughout a business.

Traditionally, they’re best used in brick-and-mortars, placed near storefronts and doors to track the foot traffic of in-and-outs.

➣ Average cost of video camera people counting sensors

There’s a large selection of video camera door counters on the market, so prices can vary.

But video camera sensor technology has a pretty high price tag to start, and that is before you factor in installation, setup and maintenance fees.

➣ Benefits of video camera people counting sensors

When tracking foot traffic, you want a solution that is going to be as accurate as possible – and accuracy is probably the single biggest advantage for video camera sensors.

Plus, video camera sensors can give you a picture of who your customers are, allowing you to understand their gender and age and how people interact with your space.

Related: 17 Questions to Ask Before Purchasing a People Counter

➣ Limitations of video camera people counting sensors

Video camera sensors are pretty complicated to install and require a power outlet.

As they're generally powered by electricity, the installation process may be time-consuming and require you to hire a professional. It’s also important to take into consideration the space you want to have covered by the video camera sensors, as many businesses require more than one sensor to really track foot traffic throughout their entire space.

Also, unlike the thermal sensors, a video camera technology as a door counter should not be considered by retailers or facilities that have privacy concerns, since video camera sensors cannot 100% comply with privacy laws.  

WiFi Sensors for People Counting

WiFi door counters count people by connecting with their mobile devices. These sensors rely on the premise that most people's smartphones are set to search for nearby WiFi networks for connection.

As people enter a business, a WiFi sensor will detect these devices searching for a WiFi network, enabling it to "count" the number of unique devices and estimate foot traffic based on this data.

WiFi Sensor - People Counting

➣ Where can WiFi people counting sensors be used

WiFi sensors are best suited for businesses with a vast space they want to cover with a sensor.

Large retailers and malls are examples of businesses that could benefit from a WiFi sensor.

➣ Average cost of WiFi people counting sensors

WiFi sensors may not be the most affordable foot traffic counter on the market, but most businesses only need to purchase one sensor for their entire space.

They are also relatively easy and fast to install, with most sensors on the market featuring detailed instructions on setup, eliminating the need for professional assistance.

➣ Benefits of WiFi people counting sensors

Through a WiFi door counter, you can measure a lot and gain really interesting insights and data on your customers and their shopping habits.

Related: How Small Businesses Can Utilize People Counting Solutions

For example, you can measure how long a customer spends in your business, track where they spend more time in your business, and tell if they’re returning customers.

➣ Limitations of WiFi people counting sensors

WiFi sensors are only accurate if the phone and device settings are right for it.

If someone were to turn off the WiFi settings on their device, that person would not be counted in foot traffic data.

Furthermore, given the increased privacy and security concerns in the world today, many device manufacturers are changing the way networks are detected by default to protect users from malicious parties, making many WiFi sensors pretty unreliable.

Break-beam Sensors for People Counting

Break-beam sensors work by detecting motion. These sensors send a beam of light that’s invisible to the human eye, and the sensor counts every time the beam of light is crossed.

Break-beam sensors count people by understanding that a person will cross the beam of light twice (once as they enter and once when they leave), allowing the sensor to estimate the foot traffic of customers.

Break-beam - People Counting

➣ Where can break-beam people counting sensors be used

Break-beam sensors should be placed in entrances or doorways, and are ideal for businesses that don’t necessarily attract larger groups of people at the same time.

➣ Average cost of break-beam people counting sensors

Break-beam door counter sensors are one of the most affordable sensors on the market, with some basic, small-space sensors costing as low as $2 per set.

That said, installation isn’t always straightforward. Depending on the break-beam sensor, some businesses may end up spending more on having someone install the sensor than the cost of the sensor itself.

➣ Benefits of break-beam people counting sensors

Besides the price, break-beam sensors are a great solution for small shops and boutiques that want a really basic, easy way to count foot traffic in a really simple way, once installed.

Similar to thermal sensors, break-beam sensors also provide businesses with anonymous data.

➣ Limitations of break-beam people counting sensors

Break-beam sensors will only work where they’re placed and most sensors need to have a set distance covered by the beam of light.

This means break-beam door counter sensors may not even be suitable for all entrances and doorways, only for those with certain dimensions.

Related: How Enterprise Retailers Can Utilize People Counting Solutions

These sensors also struggle to count people when large groups enter together or when the store is at its busiest, making it a less-than-accurate solution. Last but not least, break-beam sensors only provide data about the number of visitors, which doesn't give businesses any further insight into the behaviors of customers in the long run.

Bluetooth Beacons for People Counting

Bluetooth beacons as door counters are small, portable transmitting devices that work by automatically sending Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals to Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Many businesses may know of Bluetooth beacons from the world of location technology and proximity marketing. Traditionally, most Bluetooth beacons are used as a marketing tool, allowing businesses to send location-based promotional notifications to customers nearby.

However, some businesses use Bluetooth beacons as people counters, as when connected to a person’s phone, the beacon is able to recognize a unique device and can track it while in the radius of the beacon (i.e. the business’ location).

Bluetooth Beacon Sensor - People Counting

➣ Where can bluetooth beacons for people counting be used

Bluetooth beacons are great for large spaces such as malls and other public facilities.

➣ Average cost of a bluetooth beacon for people counting

Bluetooth beacons are fairly inexpensive.

That said, there are many options on the market and the cost may vary based on signal range, battery life and more.

➣ Benefits of a bluetooth beacon for people counting

Bluetooth beacons are battery-powered and simple in terms of installation, allowing businesses to get up and running with one of these devices quite quickly.

Related: 7 Factors That Affect Foot Traffic for Retailers

Plus, as a door counter, these devices are portable and can be moved around a space without any hassle.

➣ Limitations of a bluetooth beacon for people counting

When using a Bluetooth beacon as a door counter, a business is either reliant on visitors' device settings, meaning a Bluetooth beacon will be effective only when all customers have their devices turned on with both Bluetooth and WiFi enabled.

This, in turn, makes Bluetooth beacons a rather inaccurate method of monitoring foot traffic

Click here to discover how a people counting solution like Dor can help you make better business decisions based on your store's foot traffic data.

Hi there! If you liked this post, please feel free to share it on social media to help us reach out to more retailers like you. You can also leave a comment below and let us know if you have any questions!