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INSIGHTS

Here’s where the benefits of AI box outweigh others

Here’s where the benefits of AI box outweigh others
The three big benefits of AI boxes are ease of adoption, affordability, and ease of use. But these are not all.
The three big benefits of AI boxes are ease of adoption, affordability, and ease of use. But these are not all. Other advantages include interoperability and an important element of organizational future-proofing - by providing an easy way into business intelligence analytics, AI boxes help smaller users take the first step onto the ladder.

This is the case for retailers with small, local, often geographically spread branches, such as banks, fashion, and beauty stores. They want to benefit from essential analytics features without the cost, waste, and complexity of rip-and-replacing cameras or investing in expensive software.

Long-term reliability

According to Jamie Barnfield, Senior Sales Director, IDIS Europe, these users would find it reassuring to know that the AI box technology they adopt will continue to be developed by the manufacturer, and functionality will grow in line with the latest advancements in the sector – this means that even where users are early adopters, they avoid the risk of buying into a technology dead-end.

“An AI appliance that is NDAA-compliant should be designed to target all these benefits,” Barnfield said. “For example, a 4-channel add-on appliance that gives users additional functionality from either their existing cameras and recorders or new systems will provide highly accurate analysis from more angles than ever before. And aesthetics is an important consideration for retailers, so there’s an advantage if stores don’t have to be cluttered with additional electronic hardware.”

Simpler set up

AI box appliances also give important benefits above other modes of AI and analytics, including rapid plug-and-play installation, no complex configuration, and crucially no upfront or ongoing license fees. This makes it easy for smaller retail stores to tap into essential, actionable intelligence, including queue monitoring, heat mapping, occupancy monitoring, and real-time activity data from specified locations.

“The ability to deliver highly accurate analytics such as heatmapping and people counting using cameras positioned for perspective view, without needing additional dedicated ‘top of head’ cameras, minimizes costs and makes it possible to analyze a wide range of metrics from even small-scale camera systems,” Barnfield continued. “Users don’t need additional expensive or complicated analytics software or edge camera upgrades, making AI boxes uniquely affordable.”

Easy integration

AI boxes can also be integrated to add more channels and cover multiple stores. Data and reporting tools are accessed via client software, giving head office and branch managers the intelligence they need, while busy store staff benefit from staff at-a-glance dashboards.

“This makes it easy for both local and senior teams to generate reports on day-to-day activity and longer-term or seasonal trends and to gain store and customer insights,” Barnfield pointed out.

Also read: why AI boxes are increasingly popular

Benefits AI boxes offer systems integrators

Systems integrators with customers in retail and hospitality may be facing tougher trading conditions as standard security installations and upgrades might be put on hold. AI boxes now offer them useful additional opportunities and can support further sales. With AI boxes, integrators can offer simple, affordable, yet highly beneficial upgrades to existing systems.

“Business cases can be built on not just loss prevention and increased security but around enhanced customer loyalty, improved and personalized customer service, increased operational efficiency, and ultimately increased sales,” Barnfield said. “This will open doors to other departments beyond security, including sales and marketing, giving integrators access to larger budgets.”

And by helping organizations overcome a broader range of challenges beyond safety and security, integrators can add value and make themselves an intrinsic service partner.

“Surveillance cameras are now widely recognized as more than devices that just record video footage, but as drivers for much wider benefits – including business intelligence, operational efficiency, and improved customer service, in stores and associated logistics operations,” Barnfield added. “As retailers improve their e-commerce offerings and shift to hybrid models, we see brick-and-mortar projects extended to encompass new or improved logistics and warehouse facilities, giving integrators bigger opportunities.”

Post-pandemic, as retailers and hospitality businesses need to adapt to harsh trading conditions again, they need affordable tools and technology to help them drive efficiency across their operations. Video analytics has a vital role to play, and where integrators can offer AI boxes that are designed as practical, affordable solutions, this will deliver immediate advantages without the associated deep-learning price tag.

How AI boxes compare with other options in cost

AI appliances for business intelligence tend to be targeted at smaller stores, hospitality, and leisure venues, so scalability is often limited compared to alternative AI-functionality found in on-prem VMS or cloud offerings.

Many retail customers don’t have the budget or readiness to upgrade their cameras, particularly if they have well-functioning high-definition models that are proving to work well at reducing shrink. In many cases, retailers are looking to extend the lifecycle of their surveillance investments with add-ons such as AI box appliances.

Options to scale up

Barnfield suggests that you can still overcome scalability concerns by connecting multiple AI appliances to encompass the right number of cameras to meet the intelligence requirements at each store.

“Leveraging cameras at strategic locations - for example, entry and exit points, checkouts and returns desks, promotional displays, and new merchandising aisles - gives mid-sized stores the business intelligence they need at an affordable price point,” Barnfield said. “Users can access data through client software giving head office and branch managers the ability to analyze and compare store and branch performance remotely.”

Benefits over cloud

IT departments are often the first to consider cloud offerings, but the current economic climate makes cloud prohibitive for many retailers due to bandwidth constraints, upfront, ongoing license fees, and cloud storage costs. This is especially true where the future of some stores is uncertain, as retailers could find themselves tied to software maintenance agreements and device connection costs they no longer need.

“VSaaS offerings with AI functionality not only come with high licensing fees but can also be prohibitive for security purposes due to limited camera ranges,” Barnfield said. “They often fail to meet internal and external security and safety operational requirements. Image quality also poses a challenge. Depending on the environment and light conditions, cameras may not be able to provide the evidential quality footage needed to clearly identify faces at a time when retailers are looking to take legal action against those responsible for physical and verbal abuse of staff and tackle the common problem of repeat offenders of theft.”

Privacy compliance concerns and costs

The VSaaS edge storage model can also be problematic, especially for Europe in environments that need over 30 days’ retention to meet GDPR requirements. In addition, where there are common occurrences of fraud, retailers may come under pressure from banks and credit card companies to retain footage for up to 90 days.

Storing a clear visual record of financial transactions at checkouts and returns counters gives both parties the time to detect and investigate incidents. That means retailers will need to absorb additional cloud storage costs on top of licensing costs, which can soon see OPEX costs spiralling.

“That’s why AI box appliances are becoming a popular and affordable choice for multi-site and small retailers,” said Barnfield. “They provide the intelligence stores need to boost sales while tackling shrink – both functions that will help retailers thrive in what is set to be another challenging couple of years.”
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