By Scott Brothers, Vice President of Corporate Development at Oncam

The big data revolution is here – now every business, regardless of size, can gather vast quantities of anonymised data. This can then be used to gain valuable insight on shopper habits and in-store preferences, which in turn helps the business improve the in-store experience. Faced with an ocean of big data, businesses not only need a way to prep and organise it, but a tool that can visualise the information clearly and concisely. While analysis software such as Tableau or Qlik or is proving popular, I’ve been wondering if virtual and augmented reality could be combined with smart video to do this even more effectively.

New and emerging tech is helping businesses draw useful information from the shop floor. Analytic tools can track popular customer pathways throughout the shop, revealing which areas attract the most attention and which are frequently missed. The latest smart sensors can even detect customer reactions to different stimulus – how does the music being played affect customer mood? What lighting is most effective to draw the eye? How does the temperature of a shop affect the amount of time people spend inside?

Traditionally, security solutions have been separated from marketing and customer experience technology. Basic cameras would be installed and left to the security team, without their owners realising the potential value such surveillance footage could offer to other departments. And that’s understandable, reviewing hours of terrible quality footage to see small behavioural cues and reactions to displays and merchandise would be too labour intensive in times past. In today’s age of smart video technology however, those cameras can use AR overlays to provide a real-time map that shows off all your invaluable data with AI doing the analysing and presenting the results back for users to begin testing and implementing.

The benefits of smart video are still being researched and realised by many businesses. Through emerging cameras and sensors connected through the Internet of Things (IoT), customers’ journeys can be analysed through advanced software analysing data. This offers valuable information on how the average customer moves and reacts to different displays throughout a store.

By utilising security footage alongside all this data, retail businesses can lay important information over their live feed through augmented reality. This gives a tangible way of viewing your data, which can be updated and acted upon in real-time. Any built-up queues can be flagged so that extra cashiers can be notified. Shelves may flash up whenever they need restocking, while the most popular aisles can be highlighted to make it clear where future promotions should go. What in times past might have merely been thought of as ’security footage’ is now a canvas for your data, with AR overlays providing your paint and paintbrush. These solutions position the store manager, and heads of departments as the new artists.

If businesses wanted to take this one step further, including machine learning in such a solution would allow for results previously only imagined in science fiction. The longer such technology is in place the more it can learn about a customer base or even individual customers, and the more information it can employ to customise every client’s experience. For one example, hotels would be able to recognise and identify regular guests as they walked into the building, allowing any concierge to offer hyper-personalised greetings to the guest before even meeting him.

What’s more, the advantages of visualising data on the shop floor aren’t just limited to retail – with a little creative thought, AR on smart video can offer wide-ranging solutions throughout the corporate world. Warehouse stock levels can be shown digitally on the view taken of each aisle, or health and safety managers can be alerted onscreen if there’s an accident anywhere in the building if speed limits are breached, dangerous zones entered, or unusual behaviour takes place on stairs. Utilising AR with smart video offers businesses an easy way of viewing the data they’ve always had, but haven’t been able to take advantage of.

Using shop data effectively and in real-time has always been a goal for businesses intent on working smarter rather than harder. As the potential uses of AR continue to be explored, it’s increasingly looking like this dream is ready to become a reality. Layering useful information over live smart video footage offers live digital and physical information together, in a visual, engaging manner that blends the real and virtual worlds. It brings the promise of a kind of unified business intelligence system that covers all the enterprises’ data from accounting and stock management and then brings in the real world too.

As businesses continue to play with the potential or using AR to visualise the shop floor, who knows what other solutions will be discovered as AR technology develops.

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