Clicks and links have added a wealth of hard data to online shoppers’ habits. Wouldn’t it be useful to have similar data for brick-and-mortar shoppers?

Heat sensors, or thermal imaging sensors, show people’s locations in your stores with a heat map style image.

Thermal Image

Thermal Image

They work by picking up heat, and bodies generate a lot of heat compared to most surroundings.

For example, they could indicate when a line has gotten too long, so you can send another cashier to the front. They could help track a child or pet that’s gotten lost in your store. They can measure how long the average person spends looking at a poster-sized ad.

Researchers at MIT recently developed a type of thermal imaging sensor that can even work through walls.

Of course, it’s up to businesses to use this technology in privacy-protecting ways; abusing tracking technology could make the public wary rather than pleased with the increased efficiency.

Thermal imagers are expected to drop in price as time goes on, bringing this type of technology into the reach of small and medium businesses.

By Sharon Campbell