Thanks to new security camera technology, small businesses can tap into big data.
Big national retailers have long had access to sophisticated analytics. That means they’ve been able to tap into big data to better understand customer behaviour and maximize profits. Now, advances in technology are bringing these advantages to small businesses too, driven by the combination of a new generation of video cameras and low-cost processing power to drive analytics.
“When they were first launched, megapixel cameras were incredible – you could put one at the top of a 10-storey building and read a licence plate in the parking lot – but they were very expensive,” says Neil Jones, National Director of Operations for ADT Canada. “Now all our cameras are megapixel and they are affordable.”
Muhammad Alam, an ADT business sales representative based in Calgary, says the company has a wide array of cameras available and can tailor coverage to the needs of individual customers. “We have bullet cameras if you want to look at trucks parked outside, dome cameras for inside, cameras that move – there are tons of options,”he says. Alam says the company will even design and build custom mounts to work in tricky spaces where standard mounts don’t offer effective coverage.
“We had a client with a 10,000-square-foot area including a loading zone, eight or 10 garage doors and a lot of traffic,” Alam says. “There were shelves, a lot of inventory, trucks loading – it was complicated. We designed a camera solution for them and that included a new kind of mount to support cameras, and the clients were very happy.”
Of course, these cameras help provide enhanced security, but they can also give business owners the kind of valuable information that would have once taken hours of observation. For instance, analytics systems can quickly crunch numbers not just on the number of people in a store, but on their movements as well.
Jones says, “With proper coverage, you can have a camera count the number of people coming into the store, and then use cameras and motion sensors to identify hot spots. What are the high-traffic areas in your business? If motion is detected 30 times an hour in one particular area, retailers can use that information to put products they want to move there, because it’s a high-traffic spot.”
Small-business analytics systems can do more than move product though. They can also help identify changes that may be a sign of trouble. For instance, Jones says, “a gallery could have a camera looking at a wall with six pictures on it. It learns that there are always six things in this image – and if one day there are five, it notices the change and can alert you.”
Cameras can also be focused on one part of their field of view, if business owners want to isolate and analyze a particular area of activity. “You can create motion windows. Let’s say you’re looking at a room: you can create a square around a door and set it up so the camera will just record if someone goes through that door, or if they go through that door at certain times,” Jones says.
Jones adds, “Big national accounts – big box chains, they have all use these systems, but they pay a lot of money for them. The fact that we are going to be able to bring them down to a reasonable cost is great, because that’s always been one of the barriers for entry for small business.”
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