Irisys is celebrating 25 years

7 min read
May 17, 2021

We’re a quarter of a century old –– and that’s big news in the tech industry! In twenty-five years, we’ve become the largest global provider in people counting solutions, and we’re thrilled to have so many outstanding achievements, partnerships, and experiences to reflect on.  

Our passion for designing and developing people counting technologies has firmly established our brand as the go-to solution for retail and smart building management, where accurate data and analytics are imperative for creating safe, productive, efficient, and truly useful spaces for customers, staff, and occupants. 

In 2012, Irisys became part of the Fluke Corporation, a world-leading organization in test and measurement tools. This opportunity provided investment for even more development and gave us the stability and backing of a globally recognized organization. These positive steps in our continuous evolution have allowed us to attract the brightest minds across all areas of our business, enabling us to grow and innovate. 

As one of the newest additions to the Irisys team, I am constantly amazed at our legacy, our large customer base of well-known, global businesses, and our team’s vast experience and knowledge. On an almost weekly basis, I learn about a successful or innovative project from our past, and it is just casually mentioned in conversation – no fanfare or big build-up, just a statement of facts.

And this is what I like about Irisys.

The team is made up of true experts, quietly delivering valuable results for our customers.

Tom Bell, Product Marketing

There are so many milestones worth celebrating, but there are some highlights that we’re incredibly proud of, these include:

  • The launch of the world’s first intelligent people counting sensors in 2001
  • The development and launch of Vector 4D, the world's most accurate people counting sensor
  • The deployment of our 500,000th sensor in 2019
  • Our rapid development of SafeCount, a COVID-19 social distancing solution that has helped protect safety in hundreds of retail stores, supermarkets, offices, and buildings.
  • Bringing our people counting expertise to the world of smart buildings and corporate real estate with the launch of our True Occupancy solution. 

Here are 5 things I bet you didn’t know about Irisys

A history of exploration, research, and the lightbulb moment that started it all... 

Like many tech-based companies, much of our early days were spent experimenting, testing, and pushing the boundaries of what was possible. We knew we wanted to create something impactful. 

Irisys was established around an exciting, novel, low-cost thermal sensor technology that marked a significant departure from traditional, extremely expensive thermal imaging devices.  In those early days, we built a team of mainly post-doctoral scientists and engineers to develop the technology. Coming from R&D backgrounds, the atmosphere was akin to a university research lab, and potential applications were explored at great speed.

I'll never forget days at the Transport Research Laboratory, driving cars at a test dummy to investigate predictive deployment of a pedestrian impact protection system. Trips to The Fire Service College to capture data of simulated industrial fires for flame detector development, and wondering whether our laptops would withstand the immense heat, and running headlong at sliding doors in the lab evaluating a predictive door opener system.

Dr. Neil Johnson, Chief Scientist

Leveraging the research skills and experience of the team, we were able to take cutting-edge machine vision and AI technologies and adapt them to our sensor, becoming experts in crafting efficient bespoke algorithms which delivered class-leading performance on affordable platforms. 

One of the first fruits of this capability was the development of our first people tracking sensor – initially designed as a development platform but destined to transform the world of people counting. Surprisingly, people counting wasn’t the obvious direction for us. In fact, the inspiration behind the Irisys people counters came from a somewhat serendipitous event. 

When we started Irisys, the key markets we imagined mainly involved specialty detectors for application in security and flame sensing. We built a demonstrator unit and mounted it on our office ceiling to show to prospective customers.

It showed an image of the detection and tracking of people as they moved under the detector. It worked really well, and we were convinced about its application as a security detector.

One day a customer came in to see the sensor, and we were talking about its applications. Out of nowhere, he said, ‘Do you know what you’ve got here?’, and went on to say ‘… a People Counter, take it from me it’s the coming thing in retail, and I’ve not seen a People Counting sensor that works anything like as well as this one – you’ve got a potential world-leading product here!’.

Nick Stogdale, Customer Success Director

Not long after this discovery, another fortunate coincidence accelerated our journey into the world of people counting and retail analytics. Located relatively close by were some of the most innovative start-ups in retail people counting. Both were leaders in the emerging science of retail analytics, and both had identified the need for better data and better sensing technology (the existing technology just wasn’t good enough). This was when we came along. 

We had a technology that was looking for a solution, and they had an application that was looking for an innovation. We had arrived at the perfect time.

Our entry into the people counting and queue management market 

Grocery stores and supermarkets were amongst the first to adopt people counting technology and retail analytics. Working on tight profit margins in a highly competitive sector, these stores were looking for solutions that could give them an advantage over the competition. And thus, our newly developed people counting technology was used to collect accurate and reliable data for what would become our industry-leading queue management solution. 

Prior to our queue management solution, supermarkets relied on manual counting methods to measure queue length and provided limited benefits. Within a few months of developing our autonomous, people counter powered solution, we were providing insights that the supermarkets had never had before. We enabled them to improve their customers’ queuing experience by reducing queue time and queue length and, and importantly, helping managers reduce and optimize their staffing costs.

Using data to impact real operational change in a store is critical to a business’s performance and is hugely satisfying, I remember the buzz I got from visiting Kroger’s HQ in the US, and front-and-center in their foyer is a display showing how Kroger are beating their queuing targets, in real-time, across 3000-odd stores: that’s our data that’s making it happen, and just shows how important our work is to them.

Dr. Neil Sumpter, Product and Programme Director

The journey in queue management over the years has been incredible, but our devices go beyond just counting people in a queue. Our people counting sensors provide around-the-clock accurate data across a range of different layouts and human behaviors. Top global retailers such as Kroger, Tesco, and Morrison’s rely on this information to impact real operational change in-store, creating better experiences for customers and a more efficient environment for staff. 

Fast forward to the present day, and the trend for retail analytics to understand and improve the customer’s experience is arguably more important than ever. Facing increasing competition from online retailers, physical stores are becoming destinations that are all about the customer experience. People counting has evolved over this period too. Yes, sensors are still used at the door to measure footfall, but they are now also utilized throughout the store to gain insight into the customer’s interactions and experience within the retail environment. Full store tracking, dwell time monitoring, display effectiveness, staff detection, and staff engagement are just some of the new behavioral retail intelligence metrics able to be collected by advanced people counting sensors such as the Irisys Vector 4D.

A smart focus on smart buildings 

Beyond retail, people counting data plays a key part in helping to understand how buildings are utilized. In the era of rapid AI adoption to improve our experiences in the built world, generating accurate occupancy data (through accurate people counting) is essential for the effective application of connected IoT technologies. Real-time occupancy data allows cost savings to be achieved by reducing energy consumption in underutilized areas and by identifying real estate footprint savings. 

Irisys has played a critical role in helping corporate organizations shift towards smart building operations and better leverage their resources by optimizing spaces such as meeting rooms, washrooms, and communal areas. We’re proud to call the National Grid, major financial institutions, and numerous universities our customers, having helped them improve the working environment for employees and reduce costs through enhanced space utilization. This continues to be a growing part of our business as organizations are increasingly prioritizing the necessity to create efficient, hygienic places that support workers, guests, and occupants. 

With the world-leading count accuracy and reliability of the Vector 4D people counter enabling highly accurate occupancy figures, Irisys is in an excellent position to serve this market. Combined with an open approach to interfacing to other systems ranging from BMS to Digital Twin platforms, Irisys can ensure that maximum benefit can be extracted from the measured data.

Tim Wheatley, CTO

Looking to the future

Every business strives for longevity, and in our experience, this can only be achieved with tonnes of dedication, hard work, and, of course, vision. 

Our focus continues to be the growth and development of our global people counting business, where we partner with industry specialists across various sectors to deliver exceptional results for our customers. As a versatile, forward-thinking brand, our goal is to remain flexible and responsive to predicted industry trends in the markets we serve and wherever the need arises for our technology. 

I am pleased to be part of such a very committed and smart group of people as we are navigating through this exciting future.

Janeann Bann, Global Sales Director

At the heart of our success, of course, are our people. Irisys is made up of an incredible collective of pioneers who bring enthusiasm, curiosity, and a genuine passion for technology to the design table. For over two decades, we have strived to deliver actionable insights that help businesses and organizations understand the behavior of customers and occupants within commercial, private, and public spaces. Our employees and partners have been an integral part of this journey, and we’re excited to see what the next generation of Irisys technologies will contribute to the People Counting industry. 

To our customers, partners and employees, thank you for trusting us and being part of this journey.

Yizhou Chen, General Manager

Occupancy Business Case

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