How video content analytics can help retailers during the COVID-19 Pandemic

For brick-and-mortar retailers are finding themselves in unprecedented times during the coronavirus pandemic, video content analytics technology can instantly become a critical solution for reasons you might not expect.

Traditionally thought of as a solution for security, safety and loss prevention, today’s video surveillance networks with analytics solutions go far beyond these common uses and include features that allow retailers to improve situational awareness, which has become paramount during the public health crisis.

How intelligent video analytics software works

By detecting all the objects in a scene and then extracting, identifying, classifying and indexing them, video intelligence software enables a variety of analytical capabilities — including object and face recognition — that ultimately empowers users to leverage video for driving investigations, improving situational awareness, and deriving critical intelligence for countless applications.

What are people counting?

People counting is an important video analytics capability that provides the ability to detect the increase or, decrease of people in a pre-defined area or view. Intelligent video surveillance allows retailers to configure rule-based alerts to trigger notifications when certain predetermined threshold quantities of people have been exceeded. This is especially helpful for retail scenarios where checkout lines need to be monitored to prevent checkout abandonment, and for monitoring waiting areas that can be susceptible to traffic bottlenecks.

Additionally, people counting is effective for any situation where preventing crowding and, optimizing traffic flows is connected to customer satisfaction and/or safety. Having real-time, relevant situational awareness enables employees to use the data more effectively, and ultimately predictively.

Why now?

Awareness of growing crowds has always been important for brick-and-mortar retailers, but with the global coronavirus outbreak, having timely occupancy information has become immediately critical for maintaining public health. As individuals are being asked to commit to social distancing, it has become a new operating challenge for retailers such as grocery stores and pharmacies that provide the food, medicine, and supplies needed during this time. In short, the ability for retailers to quantify the number of people in their physical locations is both a matter of urgent priority and significant challenge.

How to use video analytics for people counting

One piece of good news for retailers is that they can utilize their existing investments in intelligent video surveillance in new ways, to solve some of the new challenges. Here are three tips for leveraging video analytics-driven people counting to protect the public, and prevent the illness’ spread:

  1. Complying with public health regulations
    Public health agencies and local governments are issuing frequent best practices and operating protocols, including social distancing guidelines, travel advisories, stay-at-home orders and more. Retail organizations can support the relevant practices by using real-time video content analytics people counting, to seamlessly and continually monitor their occupancy statistics, as well as to facilitate compliance and protect visitors and staff regardless of the venue. Using alerts can help maximize in-store staff for much-needed cleaning, restocking and checkout support.
  2. Redirecting store traffic to prevent crowds
    One way to avoid unwanted crowding is by detecting mounting groups of people as they form. By configuring people counting alerts for tight hallways and spaces, operators can monitor and identify potential crowding and react preventatively and proactively to avoid this. This is done by sending personnel to redirect customers to other walkways or access points, or by implementing signage that achieves the same effect. In today’s environment, it can also help retailers ensure physical distancing, helping to keep customers six feet apart.
  3. Ensuring regular building maintenance and cleaning
    With store cleaning and sanitising taking place more often during the pandemic, retailers also can take a more dynamic, quantitative approach to building maintenance by configuring count–based alerts for area entryways, and triggering notifications for cleaning crews when more than a certain number of people have entered the space. In this way, operations managers can ensure that the property — especially sensitive areas such as public kitchens and restrooms — remain clean and disinfected.

While much remains uncertain nationally as the coronavirus situation develops, the importance of maintaining public safety is constant. Intelligent video surveillance helps retailers respond to dynamic scenarios, by utilizing and enhancing existing video surveillance infrastructure to increase situational awareness.