When a store reopened after the first Covid-19 lockdown, retailers had a problem: counting exactly how many customers were inside to ensure shopping was safe.
From an article in WIRED by Hitachi.
“Counting accurately was a nightmare – you can’t really count people, it’s so boring,” says Joe Morris, director of innovation at retailer TJ Morris, owner of Home Bargains. And it’s expensive: tasking a single member of staff to watch the door at 500+ stores for one hour a day would cost two million pounds annually. “Having someone outside for ten hours a day would be a massive cost,” says Morris.
Instead, for its Home Bargains stores, the company turned to LiDAR – a technology more frequently associated with driverless cars or digital 3D modelling – and has installed Hitachi’s 3D LiDAR Motion Sensor in 70 stores, with plans to roll it out across all 550 locations.
The technology is simple: a Hitachi sensor mounted on the ceiling beams out rays of light, tracking the time it takes for the laser’s light to bounce back, painting a rough picture of objects and people in the area. “By calculating the time of flight, you automatically know the distance and the shape of the body, which our software can recognise,” says Hideki Hayashi, product manager, Digital Media Group at Hitachi Europe. Paired with machine learning analysis, the system can accurately count how many people step over a virtual line or pass a specific point.
Accuracy was key for TJ Morris, not only for safety but for enabling more advanced use cases, such as business analytics. But while cameras have long been used to count foot traffic, Morris found after testing several that they failed too often – so until now the company hasn’t bothered to implement such systems. “LiDAR is quite a reliable technology,” says Morris. “It’s less susceptible to the Sun coming in and out of the windows, which causes low contrast on images.”
For the complete article on store monitoring CLICK HERE.
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