Asia’s AI vision and what we really “see” with video analytics 

By Bill Hendricks

Singapore’s COVID-19 exit strategy has faced recent hurdles - surges in the past weeks have resulted in yet another tightening of measures as the government ramps up its vaccination programme to hit August 9th targets. But how can leaders prepare a blended reopening for a population with different levels of protection, and comfort? One answer might be to take the humans out of the equation and let the data do the work.

When data became the new oil, there was a rush to drill as much as possible. Now, Southeast Asian businesses are data rich - but information poor. How can they extract value from these different sources? Artificial Intelligence (AI) is analysing images, automating intelligence, and generating better insights - even with video.

In 2021, APAC is the fastest-growing video analytics region in the world. But there isn’t yet a single agreed industry standard for benchmarking or performance. Businesses are at risk of being left behind if they back the wrong technological horse. So how can an organisation predict if AI is the tool for them? And how can they tell if their solution is the right one?

Keeping People Safe and Assets Secure

One of the greatest blocks to developing effective smart solutions is the lack of interoperability. Different devices that cannot “speak” to each other cannot work together. Any good analytics solution must be hardware-agnostic, so a business can try a software solution without having to overhaul their existing system - including human capital.

As data has grown exponentially in both complexity and volume, human-machine interaction transcends traditional ergonomics. A good video analytics system uses sophisticated algorithms to automate mundane checking and tracking tasks, making it easier for employees to react to a situation. Not only do you want software that can speak the same language as your hardware, but you also want your people to be able to understand it as well. A user-friendly dashboard enables efficient human-machine interaction and augmentation. 

For decision-makers selecting which AI tool to implement, the difficulty lies in finding a technology solution that works well for their specific case. What’s key to unpack is not just what algorithms lie in the tech stack, but what the algorithms can do in a given environment. Ultimately, it’s imperative that the right parameters and conditions have been set so that they're allowed to survive but thrive in the long run. 

When employees understand data, they are better equipped to keep people safe. As Southeast Asia returns to a new-new normal, video analytics can assist and maintain safety standards by identifying situations before they even pose a problem. Video analytics can assess whether the people entering a building are wearing their masks, or have a fever. Systems can intelligently assess when the building is nearing capacity, or if something is preventing physical distancing. 

This enables human employees to take proactive action, like open additional checkout lanes or redirect crowds. A well-deployed video analytics system automates mundane tasks, allowing employees more time to do what is uniquely human.

Opening Up To Smarter Cities

Progress isn’t always about building new tools and systems. Often, it involves using what we already have, in a better way. With historical or live data, video analytics can help governments or businesses understand how people use services, and optimise proactively. The key is to work smart, not hard: keeping data easy to access and analyse enables good decision-making. 

Instead of needing a new device for every metric or measurement, a smart video analytics system uses multi-purpose algorithms to assess different data points simultaneously. While scanning for signs of crime, your cameras could also be assessing the size of the crowd or any potential hazards. 

For one leading fast-food company, video analytics helped them assess the performance of their drive-thru. They could track repeat customers, analyse data around peak hours (even accounting for vehicles that exited the line) and ultimately optimise the system. With this knowledge, they were able to shave off an average of 30 seconds wait time, increasing profitability. This optimization resulted in an increase in profitability. 

Making predictions to increase customer satisfaction is one thing, but video analytics could save lives. When humans face situations, they describe time slowing down as adrenaline floods their veins. But an AI with a faster “thinking speed” can constantly monitor for early warning signals. A good solution not only identifies the slightest warning signal (like a wisp of smoke) but can share the live video to responders, enabling them to assess the situation ahead of arrival. 

Reconnecting the Region with Seamless Travel

As the world reopens, AI systems can manage the automatable elements of transportation. This frees up human workers to focus on the dynamic elements of a busy transit station. Together, humans and machines can make the journey from A to B stress-free; reconnecting Southeast Asia. 

For example, a simple liquid spillage can pose a potential injury in a high-traffic area such as a supermarket, airport or train station, etc. A video camera can capture this happening, a video analytics solution can assess and notify a human about the threat - but an AI solution? It’ll assess the likelihood of a fall, and alert a worker to clean the spill before any passenger or customer slips, preventing injury - and a potential lawsuit.

The best video analytics provider is invisible: an unseen influence that is optimising traveller experience while passengers remain blissfully unaware. Unknown to most of us, many transport providers on land, sea and air are already using technology to better manage crowds, or even identify lost children. But it’s never the averted crisis that you remember.

People analytics is a means to detect threats and manage crowds intelligently to ensure the smooth and safe operation of spaces. But it has the potential to surprise and delight. Automation can bring the human touch back to travel loyalty. Video analytics can unlock a whole new dimension of information about your customers, enabling you to welcome them back with a new level of personalisation - all while helping the hard-hit travel industry recover.

If your data isn’t smart - what is it?

Ultimately, video analytics maximises the value of data. It can help business recovery by supporting employees to work more effectively, keep buildings, people, and assets safe, and predict situations before they even occur.

Analytics isn’t simply an add-on: it ensures you get maximum value from your data. Without analytics, you’re effectively operating a computer without a screen - unable to see what’s really going on. 

Southeast Asia is arguably the growth engine of the world, and video analytics will assist to accelerate that rise. If Asian businesses were to adopt video intelligence more widely, we could see unprecedented improvements in safety, personalisation, and friction-free experiences in our businesses, cities, and transport hubs.

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