Surveillance cameras have come a long way since their inception in 1940s Germany. Originally designed to observe ballistic missile launches, intelligent video surveillance can now drive tremendous value for organizations. When combined with video analytics, it offers use cases that go beyond security and safety to help optimize business processes and enhance customer experiences.
Small and medium-sized businesses in particular can attain outsized benefits from leveraging the technology. There are various types of deployment you can try, depending on your business goals and budget.
What is intelligent video?
The video surveillance market has gone through a number of evolutionary phases over the past 80 years. While the first cameras were designed so images could only be viewed live, the arrival of the video cassette tape in the 1950s enabled recording and playback. Digital video recording in the late 1980s made it much easier for users to browse through historic footage. A decade later, network-attached IP cameras brought with them new benefits such as interoperability, higher resolution and remote management.
Today's internet-based systems increasingly come with wireless connectivity and the crucial addition of video analytics powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and performed in the cloud or at the network edge. It is this combination that can really unlock value for your organization—by automatically detecting and tracking predetermined objects and behaviors.
What are the benefits of intelligent video surveillance?
Intelligent video surveillance performs tasks that human eyes aren't capable of and adds greater efficiency to those that could be done manually. In so doing, the technology ultimately helps businesses maximize profits, minimize losses and damage, and improve safety.
One of the main benefits is the ability to manage risk. For instance, intelligent video surveillance can help deter shoplifting and burglary. Theft, fraud and other losses from retail "shrink" surged 22% year on year to reach $61.7 billion in 2019, according to the National Retail Federation. Keeping in mind that 86% of fraud reported by organizations last year was due to employees, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, it can also prevent employee theft. Similarly, it can reduce vandalism risks, tackle fraud and head off legal costs from claims—for example, by providing video evidence in case a customer falls in your store.
When it comes to employee safety, intelligent video surveillance can help monitor staff to ensure they're following safety compliance procedures. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, smart video surveillance can even support public health, for instance through remote temperature checks or with analytics that can monitor customer flows and link to in-store digital signage to remind shoppers to stay socially distanced.
Of course, intelligent video surveillance can also benefit your bottom line. Beyond increasing sales by tracking customers in-store and highlighting "high-traffic" areas where certain merchandise could be placed, it can improve the customer experience, for instance by alerting store managers when checkout lines are too long. It can also reduce the need for hiring more security personnel thanks to automated alerts.
Approaches to implementing smart video surveillance
The next step is working out what kind of approach you want to take with intelligent video surveillance. Is it primarily for safety and security? Or do you want to use it to drive business and customer experience benefits? Do you want to leverage the power of automation and analytics or operate a pared down solution?
Minimizing theft through manual monitoring
With this approach, you're using the basics of cloud-connected video cameras, which stream footage to any device. Security personnel then watch live in order to detect any potentially illegal behavior. There may be extra costs involved if long-term storage is required, and there's also the chance that human eyes might miss some incidents.
Automated analytics and alerts for video security
With this option, you're investing in intelligent video surveillance systems featuring AI-powered video analytics. This is performed at the network edge, with alerts issued to relevant employees only when malicious activity is detected. Because footage is only sent to the cloud if relevant, you can save on server storage costs. AI algorithms are likely to have a higher detection rate than manual observation and can reduce the costs associated with video security personnel.
Smart camera surveillance for warehouse management
With intelligent video surveillance, you can also manage warehouses, factories and other facilities. The video analytics software you use can be programmed to detect a set of predetermined activities that may indicate non-compliant (dangerous) employee behavior. They can also be set up to automatically track production lines for faulty products or even provide actionable data to optimize processes going forward.
Once again, the best technology combination for this is a system featuring edge monitoring and analytics, with long-term storage sent to the cloud. Remote facilities will require mobile broadband connectivity for edge devices.
Studying real-time customer behavior
Edge-based video analytics can also be a fantastic way to improve your business and enhance the customer experience. By analyzing customer traffic patterns and high-occupancy zones in-store, alerts can be sent in real time to managers to alleviate lines and congestion. With their permission, facial recognition could even be deployed so that high-spending customers are greeted on entry by a member of the sales team.
In the longer term, managers can study these patterns to adjust staffing levels and save costs. Or they could place display advertising and high-value products in busier sections of the store. The technology system required to support these efforts will again include edge video analytics (supported by a reliable low latency, high bandwidth 5G network), cloud storage, automated alerting and high-quality video cameras.