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INSIGHTS

Why lidar can be a viable option for retailers

Why lidar can be a viable option for retailers
Lidar is an emerging technology with applications in autonomous vehicles, security and even in retail. In this note, we discuss why lidar can be a viable option for retailers and its advantages over other sensors, for example IP cameras.
Lidar is an emerging technology that’s gaining popularity. It has applications in autonomous vehicles, security and even in retail. In this first of a two-part series, we discuss why lidar can be a viable option for retailers and its advantages over other sensors, for example IP cameras.
 
As a detection technology, lidar or light detection and ranging is picking up momentum. According to MarketsandMarkets, the lidar market size is projected to reach US$2.8 billion by 2025 from $1.1 billion in 2020, at a CAGR of 20.7 percent. A lidar sensor emits laser pulses into the environment and calculates the distance of an object based on the time it takes for the pulses to travel back. Overall it’s a more private and accurate technology compared to other sensors.
 
Applications of lidar vary. In autonomous vehicles, for example, lidar helps a vehicle “see” objects and determine how far it is from those objects. In security, as asmag.com previously reported, lidar helps detect intruders or suspicious individuals regardless of weather or lighting conditions.
 
Now, lidar has applications in retail as well. In particular, facing stiff competition from online retailers, physical retail stores are doing their utmost to increase efficiency and improve customer experience. In this regard, lidar can play a role.

“Using lidar’s intelligent perception technology can enable improvements that are crucial to the safety, sustainability, and efficiency of our world – including in retail stores ranging from small shops to department stores, as well as for backend applications, such as supply chain, logistics and expansion. This includes applications where lidar sensors are used to measure, monitor, and improve shopping conditions,” said Jon Barad, VP of Business Development at Velodyne.
 
“We believe that lidar is the new frontier to provide continuous, anonymous tracking of foot traffic inside of retail establishments. We see that lidar is increasingly being used for applications to count shelf stock and transporting goods from point A to B in warehouses and distribution centers,” said Gerald Becker, VP of Market Development and Alliance at Quanergy. “The next evolution of in-store business intelligence will be with the use of lidar. Lidar can augment existing infrastructure and provide a whole new level of 3D sensing that has never been seen before.”
 

Advantages over other sensors

 
Lidar offers certain advantages over other sensors typically deployed at retail stores. For the most part, retailers rely on video surveillance for security as well as business intelligence. In this regard, lidar combined with retail analytics can be a good alternative to IP cameras due to the following benefits.
 
Privacy: Unlike video, lidar does not collect retail customers’ faces or other biometrics. “Lidar relies on complete anonymous sensor data. It does not see like a camera does. Lidar only sees in points similar to silhouettes of objects in the view of the sensor,” Becker said.

“Unlike 2D and stereo cameras, lidar also protects customer privacy since lidar does not encompass facial recognition. Lidar sensors enable stores to track foot traffic patterns, without compromising their customers' privacy - a feature that is becoming increasingly important to consumers,” Barad said.
 
Coverage: Lidar provides better coverage than IP cameras whose visibility and field of view can be limited. Citing Quanergy’s own example, Becker says its lidar sensor provides 360-degree coverage with a high angular field of view with continuous tracking of 140 meters in diameter. This makes monitoring large-space retail areas more effective.
 
Total cost of ownership: Better coverage means lower total cost of ownership. While some lidar sensors can be expensive, they allow retailers to save more down the road. “In terms of TCO, one of the biggest LiDAR advantages is that better coverage translates to fewer devices installed. Since the cost of installing a device often equals or exceeds the cost of the hardware, that makes a significant difference in total cost of ownership,” said Gary Angel, CEO of Digital Mortar.
 
“Because lidar provides so much coverage it directly impacts the number of sensors required to deploy. For example, a 25K square foot retail space that would require 24 cameras to get full coverage, only 5 LiDAR sensors would be required for the same coverage. This means less infrastructure required, less labor, less maintenance and less compute with saving ranging from 30-40 percent less than existing technology offerings,” Becker said.
 
Environment: Finally, lidar provides tracking in almost any environment. “It doesn’t require a ceiling mount, it can cover atrium like spaces, it can be deployed in variable lighting conditions and it can cover both indoor and outdoor. This makes it appropriate for spaces like malls, airports and casinos,” Angel said.
 
This however is not to say lidar and IP cameras can’t complement one another. “If additional resolution is needed to provide facial recognition, then a lidar and camera system can be combined to add additional value,” Barad said. “An example of this is a camera and sensor can be synched, meaning when a lidar sensor detects motion, the camera is then prompted to move to the motion. This can be especially helpful after hours in helping track break-ins.”


Product Adopted:
Retail
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