Will Video Analytics Save the Retail Market?


Computer vision has continued to evolve in recent years, and in many cases, the technology has surpassed the accuracy of human vision. It has enabled many applications that were considered science fiction just a short time ago. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has been instrumental in getting computer vision to the level of accuracy that the market demands. Meanwhile, a new application for computer vision called video analytics has emerged. Video analytics basically extracts data from incoming video and generates results that are meaningful to humans.

Over the years, many businesses have been fitted with security infrastructure consisting of networked cameras and network video recorders. Historically, that data was discarded or stored for further analysis. A security guard had to watch the screen to detect any security threats. Video analytics has shaken up that landscape by not only eliminating the need for guards, but also providing users with alerts for security threats. Security has been the primary driver of video analytics solutions, and several companies offer products for the security needs of businesses.

Improving Business Intelligence

Many users and vendors quickly realized that the output of such systems can also be used for business intelligence purposes. Output data generated by video analytics has been utilized for marketing, operations analysis, and other business intelligence purposes. The retail industry, which has been struggling to keep up with the changing user buying habits, was one of the first to jump on the opportunity to enable business intelligence using video analytics.

There are multitudes of use cases for video analytics in retail business intelligence, and usage has been increasing steadily in recent years. For example, by analyzing the same camera feed used for security, users can count the number of people, their interactions with different merchandise within store, their traffic patterns, and so on. This feature of video analytics systems has enabled retailers to improve many aspects of their business, including marketing (e.g., analyzing whether signs and merchandise got enough attention), operations optimization (e.g., if the line is long, send additional counter clerks), and merchandise placement (e.g., place items where there is most traffic). Many video analytics vendors such as Avigilon and BriefCam have benefited from demand for business intelligence.

Improving the Shopping Experience

In addition to the analytics, new companies are emerging that are trying to improve the retail shopping experience. Amazon has led the innovation by introducing Amazon Go, which eliminates the need for a checkout counter. This application makes the overall shopping experience as easy as taking a stroll in a grocery store for consumers. Since then, many companies have emerged in the space, and they are all trying to enhance the shopping experience. Standard Cognition, for example, is a San Francisco-based company that has raised over $86 million. Another startup called AiFi has raised $15 million in capital.

The retail industry has also helped fuel the first unicorn ($1 billion valuation) in video analytics. Trax Retail, a company headquartered in Singapore, achieved that status by reaching a $1.1 billion valuation with its latest round of funding. Trax focuses solely on retail and provides shelf optimization solutions. The company started out providing services and solutions to retail merchandise brands such as Coca-Cola. Its original solutions provided clients with a mobile application that their field agents used to take pictures in a retail outlet that were then uploaded to Trax servers. Trax then ran AI algorithms to come up with pertinent analytics for shelf optimization to generate visibility and optimize sales. The company has since diversified and has a large portfolio of products and solutions for retail.

Improving Retail Growth

Over the last 5 years, the video analytics industry has provided benefits to many verticals, and retail is yet another example of that. A new generation of video analytics products that are being targeted toward specific verticals is starting to hit the market. The retail vertical is making the best use of the analytics offered by the rich data sources provided by video. Proper usage of video analytics technology can potentially help put retail back on a growth path that has been missing for the past few years.

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