Can People-Counting Devices be GDPR-Compliant?

People counting devices frequently raise concerns regarding privacy. To determine if accurate data on room occupancy can be obtained in a way that is respectful of individual privacy and compliant with GDPR, deeper insight into how people counters work is required.

Can People-Counting Devices be GDPR-compliant?

Image Credit: Terabee

The Importance of Privacy

The level of privacy afforded by a people counting system is important both to the people using the data and those that are being counted.

Be it employees or members of the public, people counting devices can raise questions about surveillance and invasion of personal privacy.

Surveillance in the workplace is on the rise, with practices ranging from email monitoring to facial recognition and eye-tracking being used by employers in order to analyze employee behavior.1 Sometimes, people counters are assumed to be another means for businesses to monitor employees and the public.

The building managers and employers who implement such systems also have to keep in mind the flipside of people counting: capturing personal data is a financial and legal burden.

Whilst filming employees or the public on commercial premises is not generally illegal, CCTV use must be used in compliance with strict regulations, including paying a data protection fee. If a people counting system captures personal identifiable information (PII), the handling of the data captured must comply with GDPR, expending money and resources.

Thus, the benefits of people counting can be realized without capturing personal identifiable information (PII), but it is entirely dependent on the specific people-counting technology used.

Can People-Counting Devices be GDPR-compliant?

Image Credit: Terabee

Low Resolution Time-of-Flight Technology Ensures 100% GDPR Compliance and Privacy Protection

This is achieved through Time-of-Flight (ToF) technology. Terabee’s people counters work by measuring the time taken for a pulse of near infrared light to reach a sensor after being reflected off the environment. This is then used to calculate depth information about their surroundings. This results in a low resolution “depth map” where each pixel corresponds to a distance measurement.

Installed above a door or entry/exit, Terabee’s software can interpret the depth map to determine what data corresponds to the approximation of a human form and what does not. Using exclusively onboard processing and the interpretation of these depth matrices, Terabee devices can filter out static objects and count people within the field of view.

Can People-Counting Devices be GDPR-compliant?

Image Credit: Terabee

Intrinsic Anonymity Means Images Can't be Captured

Our goal is to bridge the physical world with the digital (and web) by adding the layer of understanding of what happens in a specific scene. To accomplish this, we need to capture shapes and movements. This is achieved primarily using the Time-of-Flight principle to perceive what is going on in the environment around us without using traditional cameras and expensive machine vision technology,3 said Max Ruffo, Chief Executive Officer, Terabee.

The result is highly accurate people counting data (typically 95% to 98%, or more) that does not capture any distinguishing features or personal information.4,5 Terabee people counters are intrinsically anonymous in that it’s physically impossible for them to capture true images.

Max Ruffo, Chief Executive Officer, Terabee

 

When installed above entrances and exits of a room, space or building – even in crowded doorways within bi-directional traffic – Terabee people counters accurately count people going in and out. This, without monitoring behavior, provides reliable room occupancy data.

Terabee people counters are GDPR compliant by design, meaning no privacy worries and no data-handling headaches.

Can People-Counting Devices be GDPR-compliant?

Image Credit: Terabee

Do Camera-Based People Counting Technologies Offer True Privacy?

It is often the case that developers of camera-based people counting systems (including RGB and stereovision systems) claim to protect personal privacy. However, while it may be the case that the only data these systems output is anonymous, they do capture high resolution images of people, which are subsequently processed by software to identify humans.

It is common for the images captured by camera-based people counters to be post-processed to anonymize or pseudonymize them. However, given that this information is initially captured means that if such a system was hacked, the personal identifiable information could still be accessed.

When choosing a people counting system, it’s important to consider whether the information is intrinsically anonymous or simply anonymized to protect people’s identities after the fact,” said Max Ruffo.

If you had to explain to your employees that the RGB camera will not output personal data, how do you assure them that this will be the case forever? Actually, are you sure that the device will not take some images now and then, with the images being shipped over the internet for “whatever” purpose?

Max Ruffo, Chief Executive Officer, Terabee

Terabee people counters are not capable of gathering normal RGB images; therefore, privacy is protected even in the event of misuse or hacking.

Advantages of Terabee People Counters

Terabee’s people counters are designed to be as user-friendly as possible: they can be installed indoors above any doorway and can be configured in minutes.

From the moment of installation, Terabee people counters give immediate access to valuable time-series room occupancy data, which can be used by businesses to inform decisions regarding the allocation of resources and space.

From identifying over- or under-utilized space to automating HVAC and lighting in response to room occupancy, the data that people counters provide is useful in various ways to improve productivity and reduce business running costs.6

With efficient sensors and without the need for external data processing, Terabee people counters make it possible to acquire accurate room occupancy data at a significantly lower cost than that of other systems.

Data from Terabee’s people counters can be transmitted via LoRaWAN or Power-over-Ethernet, to enable easy integration into any network. Terabee provides two different people counting systems.

The People Counting L-XL features a wide field of view (1.50 x 1.10 m when installed at a height of 2.40 m). Multiple units may be connected together with ease to provide coverage of extra-wide entranceways with widths of up to 15 m.

The smaller People Counting M squeezes ToF sensing technology into an even more compact design to deliver a versatile solution suitable for small single doorways. The two devices can be combined to work together as they have the same output format. When equipping a large installation, the possibility of mixing the products creates an opportunity to reduce the total cost of installation.

For a cost-effective and accurate people counting solution that guarantees privacy, contact Terabee today to find out more about our people counting solutions.

Can People-Counting Devices be GDPR-compliant?

Image Credit: Terabee

References and Further Reading 

  1. TUC. I’ll be watching you – What is workplace monitoring? [online] Available at: https://www.tuc.org.uk/i%E2%80%99ll-be-watching-you-what-workplace-monitoring
  2. Terabee (2022) Types of people traffic counters: Characteristics and applications [online] Available at: https://www.terabee.com/types-of-people-traffic-counters-characteristics-and-applications/
  3. Startup.info (2021) Terabee Speeding Up New Product And Application Developments [online] Available at: https://startup.info/dr-max-ruffo-terabee/
  4. Terabee (2019) Depth Sensors: Precision & Personal Privacy [online] Available at: https://www.terabee.com/depth-sensors-precision-personal-privacy/
  5. Terabee. People Counting Device (GDPR Compliant) | 98% Counting Accuracy [online] Available at: https://www.terabee.com/shop/people-counting/terabee-people-counting-l/
  6. Terabee (2022) Occupancy monitoring: what it is & why it’s essential [online] Available at: https://www.terabee.com/occupancy-monitoring-101-what-it-is-why-its-essential/

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Terabee.

For more information on this source, please visit Terabee.

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