How IoT video intelligence can drive retailers forward

Discover how video intelligence along with edge computing can drive safety initiatives and draw in customers

by AT&T Business Editorial Team

As we start to return to some form of normalcy and retail locations begin opening across the U.S., businesses still feel responsible for keeping their communities and customers safe in a post-COVID market. What’s more, customers need the reassurance that retailers are doing all they can to support appropriate safety and social distancing measures.

These measures can be an adjustment for both employees and business operations as a whole. Many retailers are investing in technology solutions to help them adapt to the “new normal.” One of the ways they can do this is through Internet of Things (IoT) video intelligence.

How video technology in retail supports new strategies while keeping customers and personnel safe

Retailers have long used video for security and theft prevention. But, as video technology evolves with artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT, new solutions are emerging that empower businesses to do more with video footage.

“Video intelligence” is the process of applying AI and machine learning to video footage to monitor, automate, and perform functions that help businesses drive efficiencies or otherwise carry out tasks that the human eye can’t handle. This minimizes the need for human intervention. These systems can be optimized to analyze large amounts of video data on a near-real-time basis.

This video technology, such as AT&T IoT Video Intelligence , is an end-to-end, integrated solution designed for monitoring and analyzing people, assets, and property. It provides situational awareness and reporting from new or existing video cameras and delivers alerts to help businesses make faster, more informed decisions. In a post-COVID environment, retailers are using this technology to enable new ways of servicing customers, implementing safety precautions, and more.

  • Enhanced curbside pick-up – The demand for curbside pick-up services has skyrocketed due to COVID-19, and it appears that the demand won’t be subsiding any time soon. An IoT video intelligence solution can help turn a location’s curbside pick-up operation into a well-oiled machine. Retailers can use their video system to gain near-real-time counts of parking space and drive-thru occupancy. Alerts can be automatically sent to personnel when a vehicle arrives or departs. Also, IoT video intelligence can be used to estimate and provide wait times to customers. These benefits can help retailers adapt their business operations to meet the new “to-go” market.
  • Alerts for in-store occupancy – Almost all locations must enforce occupancy restrictions. These restrictions help keep people safe and can make customers feel more comfortable when they know they’re adequately being implemented. IoT video intelligence can send personnel near-real-time alerts on occupancy so that they can better manage the number of people in the store.
  • Safety monitoring and temperature checks – In addition to social distancing, retailers also wish to take other measures to help create a safe working environment. IoT video intelligence can help retailers better enforce those precautions by monitoring and sending alerts when there are health practice violations, such as when employees are not washing hands frequently enough or are too close together. Also, an invaluable tool in these times, a video system equipped with thermal analytics will be able to check the body temperature of everyone who enters a location. This helps businesses detect people with an elevated body temperature and intervene before they enter the store.

Retail businesses in all fields, from grocers to clothes outlets, are discovering new ways to reach their digital transformation with IoT video intelligence while adapting to a new market. And while these solutions are exciting and usable by businesses of any size, there is a caveat. The amount of data processing needed for many video intelligence solutions is more than most standard retail network architectures can handle.

There is a solution to this problem, and it lies in edge computing.

Edge computing: the video intelligence enabler

Edge computing helps bring computing power closer to the edge of your wireless network (on location) to process data in near-real time. How does that help retailers with their IoT video intelligence solutions? Let’s explore how edge computing fits into one of the use cases we looked at above.

A wireless camera monitoring a curbside pick-up station captures high-resolution video that relays information on occupancy, delivery, and wait time estimations. On traditional networks, that data travels over a public network from the store to a provider’s core facility or a remote server location for processing. This traditional architecture often does not supply the bandwidth needed for the transmission of these video feeds.

But with an edge computing solution, such as AT&T Multi-Access Edge Computing (AT&T MEC), a new path is formed that effectively cuts the distance the video data has to travel while separating it from other traffic on the cellular network. AT&T MEC brings the AT&T core network directly to your facility’s premises. In the camera’s case, its data is directed to the on-location server for processing—rather than sent down the traditional path.

Now, the IoT video intelligence solution receives and acts on locally processed, low-latency data. Edge computing enables processing power closer to the location of the retailer’s network and shortens the path for mission-critical data. The solutions and devices that are crucial for curbside operations can now function with ultra-low latency.

Where to begin in building your video intelligence framework

Whether you are building a system from scratch or looking to augment your existing video and camera set up, the first step is aligning yourself with a technology provider. Ideally, you want a provider that can not only supply IoT video intelligence tools and applications but can also design and implement the network required to support those tools. Make sure you have access to professional resources and consultation services that can help address the specific needs of your business.

The world of IoT and video technology is rapidly developing and the post-COVID market is anything but certain. But, retailers of all sizes can find that with the right guidance and support, they can be at the forefront of innovation and ready to adapt to any situation.

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