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Three business cases for video analytics

Cameras that 'understand' what they see can deliver significant benefits to small businesses.

If you're running a retail store (or several), or if your business is housed in an office building, chances are you have security cameras in place. "These premises under video surveillance," is a straightforward deterrent against mischief, but those cameras could be doing a lot more to support your operations.

Back in the day, surveillance video was stored on tapes, and unless you pulled a tape out of the recording system, it was overwritten the next day or week. 

Digital video changed the game, with footage stored on hard drives for a month, 90 days, even 6 months or more, depending on the industry and how much storage the business could afford. 

Cloud computing changed the game again, with long-term storage for multiple terabytes of data available to businesses at affordable price points. 

But now that you've got the ability to store all this video, what can you do with it? The answer is, quite a bit. 

Video analytics yield insight

Extracting data from video footage that you're collecting anyway provides a practical and powerful tool that enhances business decision-making. 

It's a natural step-up from trend analysis – the art of spotting patterns and predicting outcomes. The product recommendations that pop up on ecommerce sites are based, generally, on an analysis of your shopping history, correlated with the buying behaviors of others in your demographic. Healthcare analytics serve the same function by surfacing treatment options that have the highest likelihood of success for specific subgroups of patients.

In more recent years, this correlation has been applied to video footage. In smart cities, traffic cameras count the number of vehicles in a given area and note how long it takes them to get from point A to point B. Analyzed over time and correlated with weather and construction records, for example, this data can help municipal authorities improve traffic flow and focus investments. 

Now that cameras are smaller and smarter – and analytics technology is more affordable – this kind of analysis can be used on surveillance footage to discover trends like foot traffic over time, customer engagement, and even queue tracking. 

A 24/7 business partner

Let's start with security and safety. Smart cameras can not only record, but they can recognize when someone or something is out of place and send you an alert. They can serve the same function as motion detectors, but with more intelligence. A cat in the alley doesn't need your attention; a car that's idling there after hours just might.

People-counting is another key use case. Many video analytics apps let you 'draw lines' to designate key areas of an image. 

  • If you draw a line at the door, the software can 'count' how many people cross the line (entering and leaving). 

  • If you designate a given area of the video frame, computer vision software can count how many people are congregated in that area. This is supremely helpful in cases where you have to track occupancy for COVID or any other reason. 

  • You can also set up 'restricted' areas in the video frame, so if anyone enters a dangerous or 'authorized personnel only' zone, you'll know.

  • People-counting can also let you know whether there's a long line building up, so you can ensure timely service and happier customers.

Looking at footage over time, analytics software can perform journey mapping, telling you how many customers visit a location on a given day, week, or month, what path they take as they move through the location, and how long they spend wherever they stop. This data helps with inventory management, staff scheduling, and placement of stock.

Dell as your computer vision provider

Dell is working with other hardware and software partners to bring purpose-built computer vision solutions to market for specific verticals (like retail) and more-general use cases

Even though these solutions start out targeted at larger operations, there are many solutions that leverage Internet-connected cameras and cloud processing to deliver these benefits at lower cost for smaller organizations. We recommend exploring some of Dell's many analytics solutions and reaching out to a business advisor to talk about your specific needs.

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