Just when you thought Minority Report was only a scary movie, real life imitates reel life again.
Now, cameras can track a customer as he enters a store, keeping tabs on him as he moves from display to display, so that a store can find out what most interests its customers.
In the 2002 sci-fi film Minority Report, there were cameras all over the place recording and tracking people's movements. Now there's SingTel Video-Analytics-as-a-Service (VAaaS), a cloud-based video analysis service which monitors how people move and what they do inside a mall or a shop.
It was developed by KAI Square, a local video analytics company, in which SingTel holds a 39.15 per cent stake via its corporate venture company Innov8.
Though the service monitors people's movements and actions, it does not use facial recognition.
SingTel's director of product marketing, Mr Chong Lee Fong, said the service is designed for small businesses to improve their daily operations. The software is designed to tell them more about customer behaviour, help them to track human traffic flow and analyse customer demographics.
Unlike current camera monitoring systems that are more for predicting and nabbing shoplifters, VAaaS is designed to improve store operations for businesses using several features.
The software is able to track individuals as they walk into a store, identify areas that customers frequent, and see how people move throughout the store. It can profile them by distinguishing their gender and age, and even tell the customers' mood.
Kai Square's CEO, Mr Neo Shi Yong, added that the software uses a large database of faces to detect facial features. including smiles, that show if a customer is happy, or otherwise.
The company said that although it can add the ability to recognise individual faces, the software provided to businesses does not have this feature in compliance with the Personal Data Protection Act.
The service follows how people who visit a store navigate the place and generates reports to show which areas get more traffic than others.
This information lets business owners better plan in-store displays to attract attention and manage staff deployment throughout the day.
Kai Square said that it can analyse sales performance by measuring the number of customers who enter a store, profiling customer demographics as well as the customer's time and movement pattern in the store.
It also improves manpower efficiency by providing security features such as loitering detection, which tracks how much time an individual spends in an area; and perimeter defence, which alerts business owners if people cross specific boundaries.
This allows businesses to be automatically alerted without having the need for anyone to constantly monitor the camera feeds.
SingTel says that VAaaS is already being used across the retail, health-care and entertainment industries here, including hospitals, dance clubs and luxury good stores. But it declined to name businesses that have deployed this service.
VAaaS charges a standard $200 monthly subscription per store for a 24-month contract. The subscription includes hardware and comes with four cameras.
This article was published on May 7 in Digital Life, The Straits Times.
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