Glossary of People, Vehicle and Passenger Counting Definitions

Dictionary of terms used to describe people counting, queue management, passenger counting, footfall systems, smart city counting and related topics. Any questions get in touch.

How closely the measured people counts match the actual number of people entering and leaving. The best performing systems achieve over 98% accuracy.
Acoustic Detector
Detects vehicles by the sound created as the vehicle passes.
APC stands for automatic passenger counting.
Average Shopping Time
Average Shopping Time – the length of time a person stays in a store.
Beam Counter
See Infra-Red Beam Counters
Bi-Directional People Counting
Counts in two directions.
Gathers data from Internet-of-Things devices (like smart counters) and serves the information to top level applications seen by people. Merges data from many different sources.
Building Management System
A computer control and automation system for buildings, managing such things as heating and lighting. People counting systems are sometimes part of the Building Management System.
Business Intelligence
A technology-driven process for collecting and analysing data, and presenting actionable information to help managers make more informed business decisions.
Capacity Monitoring
Monitoring the number of people entering and leaving a building to ensure maximum capacity levels aren’t exceeded.
A measure of how reliable and stable the results are. Whether the same accuracy is produced over differing times.
Conversion Rate
The number of people who make a purchase divided by the number of people who enter the store. If 100 people visit a store, and 5 of them buy something, the conversion rate is 5%.
Counting Zone
The area through which people must pass to be counted.
Customer Conversion
See Conversion Rate.
Diagonal Split
There are times when two people side-by-side may at first look like one person. Diagonal Split watches for this “one” person splitting into two. This happens, for example, when people enter through narrow doors before spreading out when more space is available.
Directional Counting
Records in and out counts: video and thermal counters do this automatically. Some infra-red beam systems rely on you dividing the count by two, although the more expensive beam counters are directional.
Doppler Microwave Sensing
Doppler microwave detection devices transmit a continuous signal of low-energy microwave radiation at a target area and then analyze the reflected signal. The detector registers a change in the frequency of waves occurring when the microwave source and the vehicle are in motion relative to one another. This allows the device to detect moving vehicles.
Dwell Time
The length of time a person stays in one area or pauses at a display.
Count totals are saved at regular intervals: every 5 minutes or every hour say. This interval is called an epoch.
Event Counting
Counting how often something occurs, in our case how often a person or vehicle crosses the counting zone.
Event People Counting
Counting the number of people attending an event.
The number of people entering an area, shop or building in a given time.
Footfall Comparison
Comparing the number of people entering an area, shop or building over two different time periods – year-on-year or on different days for example. It is also used to compare footfall across different areas or shops.
Freeze Time
A video counting system detects people moving through a counting zone. It may be, though, that a person enters the counting zone and then stands still. If they stand still for long enough, the system will consider them to be part of the background. The length of time a person can stand still and yet be counted is called the Freeze Time.
Heat map
Shows the most popular area of a store or room. The most well-travelled paths through the store are represented by colours overlaying a photo of the area.
Heat map in a children's clothing store
Hot Spot Map
Similar to a heat map but shows where people stop and linger.
Inductive Loop
An inductive loop may be used in vehicle counting. It is a square of wire embedded into or under the road. The loop utilizes the principle that a magnetic field introduced near an electrical conductor causes an electrical current to be induced. In the case of traffic monitoring, a large metal vehicle acts as the magnetic field and the inductive loop as the electrical conductor. A device at the roadside records the signals generated.
Infra-red beam counters
A sensor sends a beam to a reflector on the the opposite side of the doorway. As someone passes through the beam breaks and a person is counted. Accuracy tends to decrease with wide or busy entrances. If two people cross a beam together, for instance, only one count will be recorded. Direct sunlight onto the beam will also affect the system.These were in demand some years ago – now higher accuracy and more comprehensive information is generally demanded.
IP camera
An Internet protocol camera. A digital video camera commonly which can send and receive data via the Internet.
Internet of Things. Connection of physical devices, sensors, counting units, vehicles, buildings and other items over the internet. More…
Unit which counts pedestrians, vehicles, passengers and bicycles as part of a Smart City. More…
Key performance indicators, like sales conversion or average shopping time.
Manual Counting
Where a person counts the number individuals entering an area or getting on public transport, rather than an automatic counting system.
Magnetic Sensor
Detects vehicles by measuring the change in the earth’s magnetic field as the vehicles pass over the detector.
Minimum Separation
When a person first enters the counting zone, it may be that two parts of a person enter with a gap between them. For example a person carrying a briefcase might enter first by the case and then with an opposite foot or hand. To prevent this causing two separate people being “seeded”, you can specify a Minimum Separation number of pixels. (Seeding is the first sign of a person.)
Occupancy Monitoring
Counting the number of people currently on the premises.
People Counting
Measuring the number of people crossing a zone.
Used in vehicle counting – collect data by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy.
Pneumatic Tube Vehicle Counting
A method of vehicle sensing with 90% accuracy.
Point-of-Sale. The place where a customer completes a transaction, such as a checkout counter. Integrating point-of-sale data with people counts allows conversion rate and other parameters to be calculated.
Radar Sensing
Radar is capable of detecting distant objects and determining their position and speed of movement. With vehicle detection, a device directs high frequency radio waves at the roadway to determine the time delay of the return signal, thereby calculating the distance to the detected vehicle.
Retail Analytics
Studying past data to improve decision making and test assumptions. Includes indicators such as conversion rate, average shopping time, number of items per transaction and average spend.
Retail Sensing
Manufacturer of advanced video people counting systems and provider of business intelligence.
Sales Conversion
The number of people making a purchase divided by the number of people entering the store. Also known as conversion rate and customer conversion. More…
The system’s first sight of a person.
Smart City
Where sensors and systems share information about the city via the Internet-of-Things. More…
Smart Mobility
Measuring and managing the flow of people, vehicles and bicycles around a area. More…
Passenger Counting
Counting passengers getting on and off buses, trains,
trams and other methods of public transport. More…
Queue Management Technology
Technology used to reduce waiting times. More…
Tally Counter
Handheld tally counterHand-held tally counters are the least sophisticated of solutions. A person stands clicking the tally counter whenever anyone passes through the entrance. Tally counters were once used in nightclubs and bars to monitor occupancy, but are now being replaced by automatic counting systems.
Thermal Sensors
Positioned above an entrance, they detect people’s body heat. Quoted accuracies are between 96 and 98%. Accuracy, though, can be affected by the ambient temperature within the counting area being above or below a certain value. Low ceilings can also reduce the accuracy.
Tailgating (Mid Split)
When two people are following one another closely it is sometimes not possible to see the gap between them. This may be because the gap is bridged by shadows or perhaps a swinging arm or leg. Tailgating is more likely when the camera is low. A system like Video Turnstile can split people even when there is no clear gap, by simply altering the tailgating or, as it is sometimes known, the mid split setting.
This is the value against which brightness changes in the picture are compared to detect moving people. Decreasing it will make the system more sensitive and may enable the detection of hard-to-see people. Increasing it will tend to remove any shadows and reflections which surround people. This makes it easier to see the gaps between people. On systems like Video Turnstile you can alter the threshold to suit your location.
Typical Width and Area
We define the expected size and shape of a person by two parameters: Typical Width and Typical Area. These are both measured in pixels. The system compares each person with the expected shape and allocates them a score. When people walk so closely together that it is difficult to tell them apart, these parameters help decide whether to count them as two people.
Vehicle Sensing
Counting cars and other vehicles. More…
Video Analytics
Automatically analysing video to detect events, like people walking past.
Video People Counters
Where counting units analyse CCTV or IP-camera pictures and identify people crossing a counting zone.
Video Turnstile
Intelligent video recognition units which count people.
Walking Line
The path someone might take through the counting zone.

Jill Studholme

Writing about people counting since 2002.