3D LiDAR platform pivots to enforce social distancing

Social distancing sign with two feet standing on it
LiDAR sensors, with their ability to create a very precise and accurate 3D image of the surrounding environment, are extending beyond just counting people, to measuring the distance between them as well. (Credit: GeorgeCleary/iStock Photo/Getty Images Plus)

With its technology already in use by over 20 airports around the world for people counting and by industry for access control and security applications, Quanergy has expanded its 3D LiDAR-based flow management platform for use in the enforcement of social distancing.

The Silicon Valley-based company is a provider of time-of-flight LiDAR sensors and perception software for real-time capture and processing of 3D spatial data and object detection.

3D LiDAR sensors work by emitting pulsed light waves, which bounce off surrounding objects and reflect back to the sensor. The distance between the sensor and object is calculated by the time it takes for the pulse to return, hence the descriptor “time of flight.”

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Quanergy’s high-performance M series LiDAR sensor has a 360-degree horizontal field of view and generates 1.3 million pulses per second in the point cloud, creating a very precise and accurate 3D image. The company’s QORTEX Flow Management platform couples the device with its proprietary machine learning software and 3D perception algorithms, providing anonymized data of people detected in real time under any lighting conditions.

The benefit over camera-based systems, said Enzo Signore, CMO at Quanergy,  is the range: With a single beam, a LiDAR sensor can detect objects up to about 600 ft. For social distancing, though, the practical range in the field is between 150 and 200 ft. “The longer the range of the sensor, the fewer sensors you will need. From a cost perspective that is significant, especially in large venues like airports, train stations, and stadiums where you are tracking and analyzing the flow of people,” said Signore,

Signore added that the technology’s accuracy to within about 1 foot outperforms competitive technologies that rely on GPS or Wi-Fi.

With only a change in parameters of the software, Quanergy’s Flow Management Platform, can now support social distancing applications, effectively preventing overcrowding in public places and to enforce building occupancy limits. In essence, it can measure the distance between people in addition to calculating the location of people in a way that preserves anonymity.

Because of the technology’s real time capabilities, the user has the immediate visibility necessary for monitoring social distancing.

“Users can establish rules based on how they want to respond to an abnormal event,” explained Signore. “For example, you can come up with a business rule that states when two or more people are lingering together at a distance of less than six feet for more than x seconds, a security person is notified via an audio alert or text message.”

CrowdVision, a provider of indoor motion analytics for airports and other venues, uses LiDAR sensors and 3D perception software from Quanergy in its iQueue technology. The company recently announced the release of SafeDistance, a free upgrade to iQueue, provided at no cost to four airports (Miami, Charlotte, Indianapolis and BWI) to help existing customers maintain safe distancing within their venues.

The list includes Charlotte Douglas International Airport and Indianapolis International Airport, among others.

“We recognize that the world will be a very different place once shelter-at-home mandates are lifted and public venues re-open,” said Sam Kamel, President, CrowdVision Americas in a press release. “We wanted to do our part to help restore the public’s confidence in going to the airport, a sports arena, or any other venue.

Quanergy’s system can also be integrated with thermal cameras in order to identify and track individuals with elevated body temperatures, as opposed to a one-off reading from a thermal camera. “A person who just jumped out of a cab and ran into the airport might have a momentary elevated temperature, and what you really want to know is that a sustained temperature,” said Signore.  

Signore sees application for the technology in office spaces as well, for example to count people to ensure the right density of people in locations such as break and conference rooms.   

RELATED: COVID-19: A wearable warns when you’re less than six feet

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