Smart video is a solution to a multitude of often disparate problems. There’s the traditional use for video in premises – loss prevention – and then there are the uses the ‘smart’ element benefits – like measurement, analytics, and recognition algorithms for many more business functions.
This presents a conundrum. Who controls the technology – and who pays for it – when the benefits are clear and immediate across multiple departments? How can, and how should, teams work together to use new technologies when there may be very different use cases?
Take for example the case of one well known high street clothing, footwear and home products retailer. This business uses smart video for several reasons across several departments, and as a consequence has brought costs down, increased efficiency, and brought formally siloed groups truly into one true team, working together.
Visual merchandising and marketing use 360-degree smart video cameras which incorporate analytical processes on the device in order to count customers, create ‘heat maps’ of their journeys through the store, measure dwell time, and analyse engagement with store displays. The solution can also be linked to the POS to give an accurate real-time understanding of sales within a particular store.
More cutting-edge analytics can be used to measure sentiment via facial recognition and understanding, allowing marketing to see how different window displays, dressed mannequins, or shelf edge signage makes customers feel, and how they respond. It can also give an indication of whether a particular marketing campaign has been effective or whether digital signage can influence a customer’s buying behaviour.
Loss prevention and safety use the technology to monitor crowd behaviour and ‘virtually’ follow suspicious activity using the wide field of view from the 360-degree cameras. With the right analytical processes, it can also track use of hard hats, hi-vis vests, or the right use of equipment in hazardous areas. Simple rules can be set to trigger an alert for the right teams, such as when a door is opened outside of expected times, or when a boundary line is crossed. In that way a majority of tedious and passive watching can be avoided, allowing teams to be doing what they do best – proactively dealing with people in the real world.
Operations should be involved too. Those customer journeys marketing can map to see how flows of customers move through a store can be used to make those changes. Retail Ops will need to understand how to better place site safety equipment, reposition mirrors, and even heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, as well as the shelving and physical assets throughout a store.
Factor in use in warehouses, and insights may be gained to redeploy shelving and storage use, to reposition the go/no-go zones for vehicle traffic, and even to see if speed limits should be introduced for forklifts, if deployed, when monitored against the foot traffic they compete with.
In the corporate areas of a business, from food preparation to monitoring the status of IT assets and even ensuring that office space is utilised effectively, smart video can do the analysis that grants better understanding of how space, assets and processes are used over time.
Of course, all IP connected technology would traditionally sit with the IT team, and in the days of analogue, the ‘dumb’ video cameras were in the realm of security or loss prevention. Now IT may want to manage the network side of the technology as it will use considerable bandwidth. IT may be the function in many businesses that assists in the preparation of reports from large data sets and they may have expertise in mange analytics.
Yet this expertise may also sit in marketing where business analysts are often concentrated…
Factor in how the outputs are consumed. At a tactical level all the functions referenced above use the data in their own ways. Yet at a senior management level the outputs can be combined into an integrated set of reporting on the use and effectiveness of the physical assets of the organisation. That means management can make better informed strategic decisions about the whole business, or the whole site, with an understanding that will not have been possible before.
That’s a bold statement, but the only alternative to smart video are staff intensive time and motion studies, with a huge variety of variables that may or may not be properly taken into account by the fallible observations and interpretations of ‘people with clipboards’. Without the automation smart technologies provides, it’s hard to credit that many business outside of specialised fields like manufacturing will have really considered this level of high performance observation, analysis, and action taking.
So who should control smart video solutions when the uses may be so varied, with different outputs in the form of live feed, reports, or heads-up displays showing metrics on top of live views? There may not be a glib answer to the question.
In the real world what often happens is that one visionary leads the way, and evangelises the benefits they experience to their peers. Other departments gain understanding, look into the solutions available, and put in a business case – and then the use begins to expand and ‘snowball’. The leaders in the most sophisticated use cases may want to take the decision to convert their business, earning a reputation as technology and business-improvement leaders with their senior management.
Typically this may come from marketing and merchandising where the insights gained can result in rapid changes to profits. Where the bottom line is involved, change often happens quickly! What then results is a simple transference of understanding how similar uses can be applied in different departments either to increase profits, or to decrease shrinkage through theft and inefficiencies.
So, perhaps the answer to the question is, who feels they want smart video most right now? Who can gain the most insights, apply them, and make a difference? Who is hungry for a data-led approach to making impactful decisions in the real world? Who wants to make change?