Artificial Intelligence (AI) is currently a hot topic, and its influence is apparent everywhere from manufacturing to retail. It is defined as ‘intelligence demonstrated by machines’, in comparison to natural intelligence which is displayed by humans or other animals. This means it is now possible for machines to learn from experience, analyse a variety of different data inputs, and perform human tasks with increased speed and efficiency.
Once purely the realm of science fiction, AI underpins many of the most exciting innovations, and represents an incredible opportunity whichever industry you are in. And despite being in its relative infancy, it is already beginning to deliver great benefits to those forward-thinking organisations who have taken their first steps in implementing AI strategies.
One example of this can be seen in industrial and manufacturing environments, where AI is helping to predict when machinery requires maintenance, thereby reducing costly system downtime. In e-commerce, it is helping to deliver increased personalisation and product recommendations to consumers based on purchasing and browsing trends, as well as enhanced fraud detection and prevention for online transactions.
Connecting the data – realising the benefits of AI
Machine learning is the vehicle that is driving developments in AI. Machine learning utilises statistical techniques to give computers the ability to “learn” from the huge amounts of data that modern businesses can generate, using scale to discover the patterns that differentiate between customer behaviours, or to process the differences between a picture of a cat and dog.
A large amount of the data which makes machine learning possible has come from the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT). As more technologies are being connected to the internet and can communicate with each other, a greater amount of data is being generated. While it is important businesses address where to store this data in a secure manner, the question on everybody’s lips is: how can we use that data to generate intelligence?
This is where AI comes into play. If a business has data from a range of sources, when analysed in silos the data may not be particularly useful beyond its original purpose. The key is connecting those data sources together to create insights, or business intelligence. This is one of the promises of AI.
Utilising security systems to create business intelligence in retail
In the physical security world, devices such as IP-enabled CCTV cameras, access control and audio solutions are known to create copious amounts of data. This is for specific security purposes, such as monitoring a retail store for shoplifters; ensuring only employees with the correct permissions can access certain areas of a store; or providing live in-store announcements.
Connecting these data sources, and utilising AI technologies to analyse and learn from this data held, will not only enhance the security of a retail store, but also increase business intelligence. To enhance security, integrating sound and video analytics, for example, means that an AI can learn to identify instances of aggression towards staff, automatically generating an alert so security teams can intervene.
Beyond security, AI can help to measure the effectiveness of in-store marketing campaigns in real-time. A CCTV camera may be pointing towards a store’s entrance, with a product advertising display in view. Utilising an AI platform, the camera can analyse the success of that display by identifying how many customers stopped to look at it, and for how long. This, alongside Point of Sale data, can help store managers analyse the success of their advertising efforts, and therefore optimise them for greater effectiveness.
The future of AI
AI algorithms are of course getting smarter and there is much more to come, but this is not just a technology for the future; it is here and already in use today, and opportunities are being overlooked. In retail, for example, almost every outlet will already have physical security technology installed, such as CCTV and access control, to reduce incidents of theft and shrinkage. These are important pain-points that must be addressed by retailers. But AI deployed onto these systems can already do more than improve the ability to tackle security problems, it can use the same systems to offer firms business intelligence.
It’s time to educate end-users on how to maximise their effectiveness by connecting these systems with other technologies to generate intelligent insights. These are the conversations that installers and integrators must begin having with their customers.