Image demonstrating the hierarchy of generational people tracking & monitoring

Meet the 3rd Generation of People Counting Technology

Mirroring the technological evolution seen across various industries, People Tracking and Counting Technologies have already entered their third generation.

Feb 23, 2024
Charlotte Simon

Technological evolution is not a linear or uniform process. Significant improvements in performance and capabilities, which open up previously impossible possibilities, typically follow quantum leaps or technology generations.

The transition from approximate People Counting solutions to comprehensive Spatial Intelligence, based on continuous People Tracking, involves not just one, but two generational steps.

This evolution simultaneously also spans two axes, Performance and Scope, as summarized in the figure below and explained in more detail in this article.
LiDAR Technology is the key enabler of the 3rd technology Generation.
An infographic comparing three generations of people tracking technology
Overview of the three generations of People Counting and Tracking Technologies
Understanding the basics of 3D LiDAR Technology
Light Detection and Ranging, also known as LiDAR, is a technology for remote sensing that is used to measure distances in an environment.

A generational change of Scope

A generational quantum leap occurs not only when a highly valuable capability, previously impossible with earlier technology, emerges, but also when this can be applied to a broader scope. This leap is also often accompanied by increases in performance.

Infographic of three generations of people counting & tracking. Lidar poses no privacy risks compared to the other two previous generations
Each generation brings a leap in Scope

In the context of People Counting & Tracking, the key Scope aspects to consider are:

  • Can the technology accurately track actual individual people, as opposed to merely following proxies like their associated devices such as smartphones?
Image of torso holding many smart phones in their hands
Counting smartphones is not counting people
  • Global or Local application: is the People Counting & Tracking technology suitable for large-scale implementation across multiple areas (e.g. an entire airport across terminals or multiple levels in a retail store) or restricted to monitoring a specific spot (like passport control zones or just the footfall of a store) ?

In this example we show how Outsight's technology based on LiDAR data can follow individual travelers across four different levels between a train station and an airport terminal over long distances, something not realistic with 2nd Generation technology:

Multi-level People Tracking

A unique feature of 3rd Generation tech is the ability, with the right software platform like Outsight's, to individually follow the full journey of each individual visitor:

Each individual person can be tracked, among thousands of them
  • People Counting or Spatial Intelligence: does the technology primarily focus on just counting persons, or does it offer additional insights into their engagement with the surrounding environment, such as resource usage analytics?
Specific KPIs or use cases of Lidar for smart crowd monitoring
A LiDAR solution provides a comprehensive set of Analytics

Privacy concerns are equally significant:

  • What potential risks exist regarding the protection of personal data?

Anonymizing data like Images is not the same as using a native Anonymous generation of technology, as explained here:

Anonymous vs. Anonymized: learn the difference
Understanding Anonymity in Sensor Data: discover the inherent privacy characteristics of each type of Sensor data and the potential risks associated with anonymizing sensitive information

The third generation of People Counting and Tracking technology represents a genuine leap forward in terms of data privacy protection, offering a fundamentally different approach compared to previous generations.

Anonymity is one of the key highlights for using laser scanning
LiDAR technology is natively anonymous

Higher performance

As the technology evolves, each generation brings also significant performance improvements.

Each generation of people monitoring brings higher accuracy and data
Each generation also brings a leap in Performance and the new Purpose that this enables

As an example between Second Generation and Third Generation differences, a Camera cannot natively understand depth information nor the size, speed or volume of objects and people.

The second generation lacks depth perception compared to the third
The lack of depth sensing directly relates to underperforming analytics
Stereo-vision cameras installed on ceilings encounter also several limitations in their ability to comprehend scenes due to their unique perspective and inherent optical constraints of the stereo-vision technique.

Getting close to 99% market expectations requires 3rd Generation-approaches that tackle the right problems to solve,

3D lidars can accurately measure object size and distance, volume, speed, and shape while 2D cameras cannot
The difference between Camera and LiDAR perception

To learn more how LiDAR technology compares to other solutions, take a look at the following article or download our People Counting Technologies Guide.

An in-depth comparison of LiDAR, Cameras, and Radars’ technology
This article explores the capabilities and limitations of each type of sensor, to provide a clear understanding of why LiDAR has emerged as a strong contender in computer vision tech race.

Welcome to the 3rd Generation

Three conditions have been met for this new generation of technology to become widely accessible.  

1. Accessibility: The necessary hardware is now performant and reliable.  

There is now a diverse range of manufacturers offering various LiDAR sensor solutions, each with its unique strengths and weaknesses that cater to specific contexts.

This diversity allows for greater flexibility when selecting and combining the right models for a project.

For instance, Outsight's customers typically integrate an average of three different manufacturers' sensors per site, depending on their individual requirements.

2. Affordability: The cost is comparable or lower than legacy technologies like Cameras.  

The cost reduction stemming from LiDAR sensors is driven by a combination of factors. Firstly, the intense competition among numerous manufacturers fuels significant price drops in these advanced technologies.

Secondly, compared to second-generation solutions such as ceiling-mounted stereo-vision cameras, LiDAR sensors can cover between three and ten times more surface area per device.

This expanded coverage translates into substantial cost savings across various aspects of implementation. With fewer devices required per square meter, expenses associated with setup, wiring, networking, processing, and maintenance are significantly reduced.

These costs typically dwarf the expense of purchasing the sensors themselves, making LiDAR an economically attractive solution. 

3. Proven & Scalable Usability: Spatial AI Software like Outsight's not only has a proven track record but also offers the flexibility to handle large scales projects.

Software specialists like Outsight, with extensive experience from many years, can also leverage the best hardware solutions from any manufacturer to deliver actionable insights.

Outsight's spatial 3D analytic software is compatible with numerous lidar scanners
Outsight Software is compatible with all relevant LiDAR manufacturers

Beyond People Counting and Crowd Monitoring

The same LiDAR technology used for People Flow monitoring powers Vehicle Tracking solutions, for Smarter Cities and Roads.

Making City of Bellevue’s Roads Safer: How Outsight’s Software Changed the Game
Discover Outsight’s latest use case in the city of Bellevue, a complete LiDAR installation to increase users’ safety at busy intersections!

To learn more don't hesitate to download our comparative guide:

For more information on Smart Highway technologies, download our free comparative guide
Download our ITS & Highway comparative guides

Conclusion

Transitioning from approximate People Counting systems to advanced Spatial Intelligence solutions that rely on continuous People Tracking is a multi-faceted process, encompassing not one but two technological generations.

From transportation hubs such as airports and train stations, to quick service restaurants and retail stores, the most advanced companies are increasingly switching from 2nd to 3rd generation solutions based on LiDAR.

If you want to explore how can we help you with this transition, just let us know.


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