Why AI boxes for video surveillance are increasingly popular
Why AI boxes for video surveillance are increasingly popular
AI boxes are becoming popular across verticals as customers realize the value of deep learning in video surveillance.

Why AI boxes for video surveillance are increasingly popular

Date: 2022/06/07
Source: Prasanth Aby Thomas, Consultant Editor
Increased awareness of artificial intelligence and its benefits have prompted many video surveillance customers to look for AI-enabled cameras and devices. While this is not something new to most integrators, some of you may not know the growing interest in AI boxes from across sectors and applications.

The traditional security-focused applications for cameras – safety, risk management, and loss prevention – are now just one driver for video upgrades. More significant are the broader applications that we are seeing emerge, using the same cameras and getting extra value from them.

Driven by business needs

According to Jamie Barnfield, Senior Sales Director at IDIS Europe, economic pressures from multiple directions – increasing costs, supply chain disruption, tighter labor markets, a squeeze on consumer spending – prompt users in many sectors to look at ways to adapt. To this end, they are eyeing the benefits of automation, information gathering, and easier intelligence analysis.

“Video analytics can now tap into all these wider applications and do so in a way that’s affordable and easy, thanks to the emergence of AI boxes,” Barnfield said. “For organizations looking for ways to work smarter, automate and digitize processes, these low-cost, high-yield developments in AI appliance have come at just the right time.”

For example, analytics-driven metrics of activity on-site are now a practical option for even small businesses. Its benefits range from better resource targeting – effective deployment of staff, reducing the operational burden on managers overseeing front-line teams, and a better understanding of facilities and workspace usage – to building customer loyalty and experiences through a smoother, more impressive service.

To offer a better customer experience

While the current economic stress will drive growth, other factors are coming into play that will continue to increase demand. These include the need for enhanced customer experiences following the last two years of using highly personalized online services that transformed expectations of physical shopping, increased competitive pressure, and the growing familiarity with new AI technology.

The companies and organizations which survive and prosper during downturns will include many that adapt and use video analytics in new ways. This will raise the bar for the future use of AI video analytics and establish new norms.

“For those working in the security sector, increased demand for AI-boxes will offer useful opportunities,” Barnfield continued. “Taking advantage of increased understanding of AI, security managers will be well-placed to deliver wider business benefits to their organizations and to gain influence with other departments and functions, from IT to marketing, which also gives them access to increased budgets. In turn, systems integrators can broaden their service offerings beyond traditional security applications.”

Demand particularly strong in the retail sector

Brick-and-mortar retail, including grocery stores, the eating out sector, consumer banking, and hotels and leisure destinations, are key verticals for AI-box technology. During the pandemic, many adopted AI appliance solutions and used automated face mask detection, occupancy, social distancing monitoring, and people counting.

“Understandably, these sectors are now seeking increased business intelligence to help them reduce costs, improve customer experiences, and increase sales, and they are looking to take advantage of the simple plug-and-play approach that AI boxes with highly accurate deep-learning algorithms can offer,” Barnfieldsaid. “Retail is at the forefront of adopting AI boxes, including mid-sized malls, supermarkets, boutiques, and particularly retailers that need to manage multiple chains, such as groceries, fashion, coffee shops, casual dining, pet supplies, and accessories.”

In addition to the impact of COVID-19, the retail sector has been adapting to a period of unprecedented change with the rise of ever more convenient online shopping and increased competitive pressures from e-commerce giants. Stores have been looking for technologies that can support them more effectively as they integrate their online and logistics operations with brick-and-mortar stores to offer consumers a hybrid model.

“That means upskilling staff while driving down operating costs by finding new efficiencies,” Barnfieldcontinued. “Using actionable intelligence to streamline operations from stock delivery and tracking to point of sale, focusing on building loyalty in-store through improved customer experience (CX), tackling shrinkage, and focusing on other costs such as staff retention and employee performance.”

Video analytics in the form of AI boxes are helping to tackle those challenges and reduce costs across entire operations, allowing businesses to remain relevant to consumers and stay competitive.

Better performance on the floor

Smart retailers also know that to thrive, they need accurate, actionable intelligence which can be targeted locally to improve performance on the shop floor. For years software that analyzed point of sale and inventory data, helping to understand customer buying behavior, was the domain of centralized and headquartered marketing and sales departments.

“But typically, this did little to inform, empower or incentivize in-store staff,” Barnfieldpointed out. “Very often there have been gaps between top-down promotions and merchandising, and store managers have been left to act on intuition dependent on familiarity with their local customer bases.”

AI boxes can empower those branch and in-store managers with easy-to-use, at-a-glance dashboards and reporting tools, giving them accurate real-time and longer-term insights that they can share with their broader teams, encouraging them to work cohesively to meet sales and performance targets.

“For example, store managers can now use accurate, actionable intelligence to develop more positive customer experiences,” Barnfield added. “Heat mapping tools reveal customer dwell times and show how shoppers move around stores, allowing displays to be improved and ‘dead zones’ to be made better use of.”

The data allows a better understanding of how customers interact with floor layouts, displays, and merchandising. Analytics allow automated real-time queue monitoring, so that staff can be more quickly deployed to where they are most needed.

And occupancy monitoring can highlight where areas frequently become overcrowded in a way that might detract from the shopping experience. With health and safety still top of mind post-pandemic, particularly with older and vulnerable shoppers, it can also help stores to retain social distancing measures with layouts that don’t cause pinch points.

Security and safety

It’s also important that, despite increased demand for AI solutions for business intelligence, systems integrators remember that fraud, crime, and shrinkage also remain priority concerns.

Making up the largest proportion of losses, internal and external shrinkage, including organized crime such as shoplifting, employee theft, and returns fraud, costs retailers globally over $100 billion every year. These challenges have been exacerbated while retailers are rebounding from the pandemic through the increased use of touchless payments, online returns, and the proliferation of self-service scanning. And as populations become more financially squeezed, the threats are likely to increase.

“Where AI boxes can leverage cameras positioned for perspective view, without needing additional dedicated top view cameras to deliver vital business intelligence, they become even more attractive,” Barnfieldsaid. “This new flexibility means that cameras can be mounted to tackle a wide range of shrink challenges while also delivering vital business intelligence.”

And as the cost-of-living crisis bites, brick-and-mortar retailers know that traditional shopping will offer plenty of value versus e-commerce. When consumers part with their hard-earning money, they will want to enjoy going out and doing tactile shopping. To keep customers coming back, it’s now more essential than ever to empower store managers with the best tools.
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