Shopping used to be many things to many people: a casual in-and-out; a chance for discovery, or just part of a daily routine. But during this pandemic, shopping can now be an anxiety-filled mission. To put shoppers at ease, companies are trying to create safer, more comfortable environments by automating store occupancy and monitoring social distancing compliance. Sensormatic Solutions is working with Intel to bring artificial intelligence enhancements to in-store cameras and sensors to help stores operate safely, while also laying the foundation for further innovation beyond the pandemic.
A Track Record in Tracking Technologies
Beginning in the mid-1990s, ShopperTrak installed sensors in thousands of stores, introducing shopper traffic monitoring and conversion rate analysis. It led to new insights about the customer journey as well as permanent changes in how businesses designed and staffed their stores. Decades later, Sensormatic Solutions considered the challenge of how to help stores navigate the new, rapidly changing rules of operating during COVID-19. Given the cost and risk of using staff to monitor social distancing and occupancy rules, they realized automating these processes could help save lives, reduce anxiety, and protect margins during a vulnerable time.
How AI Enables a Safer Store Experience
Sensormatic Solutions worked quickly alongside Intel to help stores leverage existing sensor and camera platforms to accomplish more complex tasks. Using complex analysis, stores could track social distance by recognizing the difference between family groups in proximity and close interactions between strangers.
While Intel and Sensormatic Solutions had been working on a video AI solution for 18 months, they accelerated the deployment time in light of the pandemic. They leveraged Intel® Vision Technology and Intel® processors designed to aggregate, analyze and run AI models in stores. These power Sensormatic Solutions software provides a dashboard with real-time store insights, staffing suggestions and predictions for customer behavior.
Once set up, this technology can send employees important notices when stores reach maximum occupancy. The dashboard can enable specific staffing insights to inform recommendations based on occupancy trends, such as indicating when employees should be stationed at doors for crowd control. It can also support digital signage at entrances, alerting customers about how full the store is at any given moment, or even providing a traffic light system to indicate when it’s okay to enter. This solution has already shipped to a select group of retailers for testing. Soon it will even provide face mask compliance technology, notifying staff when customers are violating store rules or local guidelines.
Shoppers Are Setting New Expectations
In a world more wary of human contact, where convenience and safety are always top of mind, a “New Normal” has emerged. Retailers have embraced emerging technologies like transparent in-store safety, contactless payments, responsive staffing and convenient fulfillment. Cautious customers expect stores to do everything at their disposal to maintain order and safety. Consumer surveys have found that 68% of respondents say it will take a long time (if ever) for life to return to normal. That means it falls to stores to accommodate anxious shoppers over the long term; hence, real-time occupancy and social distancing solutions are a must.
“As retailers face their new reality as a result of COVID-19, we believe that the industry needs to begin to restore consumer confidence, and that starts with helping to create a safer store environment.”
Moving from Crisis to Recovery
The technology is already seeing a rush of enthusiastic adopters including retailers such as department stores, home goods and furnishings, and even telecommunications providers. While the initial focus was on essential stores, Sensormatic Solutions is now working to help enable a broader set of businesses that are currently hoping to reopen and recover. The demand for public safety monitoring goes beyond retail as Sensormatic Solutions has received inquiries from everyone from sports complexes to casinos, libraries, and schools. Despite the broad interest, Sensormatic Solutions is focusing on how they can help loyal customers create smart, safe solutions.
“As retailers face their new reality as a result of COVID-19, we believe that the industry needs to begin to restore consumer confidence, and that starts with helping to create a safer store environment,” said Subramanian Kunchithapatham, vice president of engineering at Sensormatic Solutions. “With Intel® Vision Portfolio, from Intel® Movidius™ Vision Processing Units to Intel® Core™ processors and Intel® Xeon® processors, and the Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO™ toolkit development tools, we have been able to tailor solutions that help equip retailers with the right technology along with real-time insights to make business-critical decisions and ensure customers’ confidence in safety.”
A Promising Future with In-Store AI
Counting people and social distancing is just the beginning. With an Intel®-based, AI-ready smart hub in each location, businesses over time can take advantage of emerging applications for shopper engagement, shelf replenishment, quick service restaurants, exterior curbside wait time, and more. The retail landscape continues to shift and evolve and with AI inside stores, we’ll find a safer, smarter way to shop.
Creating safer, smarter ways to shop is wonderful — and Intel, with partners like Sensormatic, is how wonderful gets done.
For more information on Sensormatic Solution’s COVID-19 retail technology, click here.