While it's crucial for organizers and retail business owners to know how many people attend an event or product launch, it's even more important for them to be able to apply that knowledge to current and future events. Fortunately, for today's business owners and event organizers, it's easier than ever to collect valuable attendance data via crowd-counting technology that can be used to make strategic business decisions and increase their return on investment (ROI).
What is a Crowd Counter?
Crowd Counting is a technique used to count the number of people in a crowd. It is especially important today when venues must comply not only with emergency and fire safety standards but also occupancy limits and social distancing guidelines related to COVID-19.
Fortunately, today's event planners have a variety of innovative technologies at their disposal that allow them to count the number of people entering, exiting, or present at a particular venue, shop, or event space. These systems can even analyze the data to help them optimize operations, plan for emergencies, predict trends, and ultimately increase revenue.
Why is Crowd Counting Important?
Various factors influence crowd dynamics, including time, space, the information available to guests, and the group's collective energy. Crowd managers must be ready for unanticipated events – moments when circumstances can change rapidly, influencing real-time dynamics and requiring immediate action. Without effective crowd management, trampling incidents, crowd crushes, and violence can occur.
Large-scale events' inherent complexity and volatility underscore the need to provide crowd managers with accurate and relevant information in real-time. Today, these challenges can be addressed through the effective use of occupancy control technology, allowing event organizers to estimate attendance and subsequently allocate enough resources (security personnel, emergency exits, etc.) for the anticipated quantities.
Benefits of Using Crowd Counters
While many event organizers and retail business owners have started using crowd-counting solutions to comply with government requirements related to the pandemic, the versatility of the data collected can deliver positive long-term results:
- Increased Safety: For organizers of large-scale events, ensuring the safety of attendees is of utmost importance. Understanding the movement of people at a venue or shop is an integral part of providing reliable security and appropriate guidance to crowds.
- Streamlined Operations: Knowing the number of people entering or exiting an event or retail location is important for making informed decisions, allowing management to adjust staffing as necessary, and ensuring greater efficiency and better guest service.
- Improved Experience: Understanding dwell time helps event organizers determine where people spend the most time at an event and which areas are ignored completely. This helps them appreciate the guest's journey and enables them to optimize space accordingly.
- Enhanced Directionality: Devices that are capable of bidirectional counting can help crowd managers identify anomalies in movement, such as an individual traveling in the opposite direction of crowd flow, looking over their shoulder repeatedly, or standing in one spot longer than what would be deemed normal.
- Boosted Revenue: Crowd-counting technology provides organizers with data related to the success of different marketing techniques and media channels used at various locations. This allows them to boost methods that attract attention and generate leads while eliminating less effective methods.
Types of Crowd Counters
Until recently, organizers and business owners had few options for gaining insights into crowd dynamics. Traditional counters have tended to be slow, inaccurate, and unreliable. Moreover, they produce little to no helpful information that can assist organizers in saving money – and potentially lives – when planning future events.
Though they tend to be more economical, traditional crowd counters have little purpose outside of tracking attendance.
- Manual Counters: Traditionally, crowd counting was done manually – a person would stand at an entrance, clicking a hand-held device whenever someone passed. While this is still an acceptable method for small, one-time events, it is not well suited for large events that need continuous monitoring or in-depth crowd analysis.
- Turnstiles: Some venues have relied on turnstiles to count people. They can restrict entry to only those who present a ticket, pass, or another payment method. Today's turnstiles use biometric technology to scan retinas, fingerprints, and other individual human characteristics.
With the help of crowd-counting technology from companies like Ombori, it is now possible for organizers to determine and analyze the number of people attending an event, calculate their ROI, and make strategic decisions accordingly. Below are some of the more popular tech solutions available today.
- Thermal Imaging: Thermal cameras can detect individuals and identify which direction they are moving by using body heat. However, if an individual stands still, walks close to another person, carries something warm, or the ambient air temperature is close to that of a human, these cameras struggle to count people accurately. They are also prone to error when the door of an air-conditioned building is opened on a hot day.
- Video: Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras can be used to track people's movements by connecting the cameras to a crowd-counter algorithm that can detect and record how many people pass through a counting zone. However, they are typically aimed at security concerns and are often not positioned in an optimal way for crowd management purposes.
- WiFi: Individual mobile phones and other devices can be used with WiFi tracking to detect the presence of people in a crowd. However, if an individual is not carrying a device, if they have multiple devices, or if their device is switched off, then the counts can be inaccurate. WiFi tracking is also less accurate in smaller spaces since it relies on triangulating signals to determine a person's location.
- Infrared (IR): IR counters consist of a receiver and transmitter installed side by side at entrances. When the transmission signal is blocked due to an object, a count occurs. Unfortunately, they don't provide separate in-and-out numbers since they have no sense of direction. They're also less accurate since side-by-side objects are counted as one, and accuracy decreases as door width increases.
Crowd-Counting Technology from Ombori
Ombori is a leading provider of technology solutions that help businesses, including event venues, crowd managers, and facilities planners, bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds. It has developed a full range of tools that can be used to effectively count and manage large crowds at special events.
Ombori People Counter
The basis for effective crowd management begins with implementing a counting device. Ombori People Counter relies on strategically placed cameras to tally people entering and leaving a space without human intervention. Even if a venue has more than one entrance, this tool automatically counts the total number of people inside at any given time. The People Counter collects real-time data at a variety of levels: across multiple locations, in a single space, or even within a particular area of a venue. It can provide daily, hourly, or even minute-to-minute information and track occupancy across years, seasons, or events.
Ombori Occupancy Control
When used in conjunction with People Counter, Occupancy Control allows event organizers to further ensure safety by controlling occupancy levels. As the venue approaches its maximum occupancy level, People Counter communicates with Occupancy Control to automate the closure of entrances. Notifications are sent directly to staff, advising them to adjust their position to assist with traffic flow and make the guest experience as seamless and enjoyable as possible.
Ombori Queue Management
To further enhance the event experience, Ombori Queue Management allows guests to avoid long lines by joining a virtual queue. They can reserve a spot in line via their mobile device or self-service kiosk. If they've opted for mobile notifications, they receive a message indicating that they're approaching and should proceed to the location (e.g., concession stand, merchandise area, etc.). They receive a second notification when it's their turn in line. At any time, guests can view their position in line and the expected wait time.
Ombori Digital Signage and Signage Playlists
Queue information can also display on Digital Signage. When combined with other Ombori products, Digital Signage becomes a powerful tool for communicating with event-goers. Sharing real-time information about current occupancy while managing guests with "Stop" and "Go" notices can help crowd managers improve operations – and an improved guest experience can lead to future visits and increased revenue.
Crowd-Counting Technology Impacts The Bottom Line
The risks associated with large crowds will never disappear, and crowd managers will always face immense responsibilities that technology alone cannot address. However, thanks to tech companies like Ombori, event organizers and management teams can receive the relevant, real-time information they need to make critical, split-second decisions. The ability to apply the knowledge gained from crowd-counting technology allows leaders to provide a safe, seamless, and satisfying experience for all guests, customers, and crowds.
Björn is Chief Experience Officer of Ombori Grid. He spent the early part of his career in the music business before moving into retail design and video production. His passion is for creating unique and memorable retail experiences that excite and delight customers. He spent 6 years at Visual Art in Stockholm before joining Ombori in 2018.