Lidar and People Measurement Platforms

Lidar and People Measurement Platforms

By Gary Angel


July 12, 2023

Lidar is becoming the go to technology for people measurement applications, combining accuracy, precision, privacy and excellent real-time performance.


Yet if you buy a lidar sensor, you get a mechanical device. Every 10th of a second, it will produce and send a point cloud (a binary mapping of the space with millions of data points). The point-cloud is then processed by perception software that identifies and classifies the objects in the location. The perception software produces a real-time object feed with a random identifier, spatial position, and timestamp. That’s all you get. And that data needs significant processing before it can be used effectively in ANY business application. Hence the last part of the lidar software stack – the people measurement platform.


This “last-mile” of the lidar stack may fulfill many different functions – from providing full support for specific use-cases like queue management to serving as an effective distribution point for people-measurement data to the rest of your IT stack.


Since we (Digital Mortar) provide a people-measurement platform, I tend to think this is richest and most interesting area to talk about (it is). But no matter how robust your people-measurement platform, it sits on top of the lidar sensors you deploy and the perception software you use. If those components don’t work well, your people-measurement platform won’t succeed no matter how capable it is. The lidar software stack is an integrated system in which every component works together.



The Core Functions of a People Measurement Platform

There are countless people-measurement use-cases. I recently wrote an article on people-measurement applications for transit that catalogued five major types of functional use cases and more than thirty specific applications. And that’s transit – which isn’t as rich in use-cases as retail. A people-measurement platform need not and will not provide full-baked applications for every one of these use-cases. It may not provide a queue management application or perimeter monitoring, but it will provide the essential capabilities to deliver those things.

A people-measurement platform is, at the very least, the foundation for all of your people-measurement applications. It may be much more than a foundation, as a robust people-measurement platform can provide most or all of the functionality you require.

At the foundational level, though, here are the things a people-measurement platform really must do:

1.      Data Cleaning

2.      Mapping / Location Contextualization

3.      Integration of Relevant Feeds (Weather, PoS, Schedule Data, etc.)

4.      Real-time Feeds

5.      Historical Data Store for Event Level Data

6.      API/Feeds

7.      Alerting


If your plan is to rely mostly on your existing data and analytics stack, this may be all that is required. However, a people-measurement platform will usually provide significant, bespoke reporting and analytics capabilities as well. Those bespoke capabilities matter. While it’s very hard to beat (or even match) tools like Tableau for general purpose analytics and reporting, general-purpose tools are clumsy or insufficient for location specific analyses.


Common reporting and analytics capabilities include:

1.      Extended heat-mapping

2.      Real-time display

3.      Queue Management and Reporting Capabilities

4.      Journey analytics tools including path/funnel

5.      OLAP reporting tools

6.      Dashboarding


There’s no one answer to which of these capabilities is most important. If you have a robust data analytics and reporting stack, you probably won’t care very much about OLAP and Dashboarding in your people-measurement platform – those are table stakes for data analytics stacks and few enterprises want to use application specific tools for these functions. On the other hand, if you don’t have those tools, then getting reporting and dashboarding from your people-measurement platform is essential – probably more important than any of the other reporting and analytics capabilities because so basic.


The Four-Layer Model

The thirteen different capabilities above are a bit of a handful, so I think its useful to distill this down into a 4-layer model: Data Processing, Distribution, Real-time, and bespoke Reporting & Analytics.

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The Functions of a People-Measurement Platform


These big buckets give you a way to think about what’s important to you and help encapsulate what a people-measurement platform does and why you need it.


In my next few posts, I’m going to drill down into each area and look at the underlying capabilities, starting with the Data Processing Layer. It’s the least glamourous but by FAR the most important part of what a good people-measurement platform will do.

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