Surveillance Video – Big Data

At Oncam’s invitation, I recently had the opportunity to attend the first Retail Risk conference in Singapore. Dedicated to executives responsible for protecting their retail businesses against risk and loss, the conference saw various high profile speakers who touched on topics ranging from payment systems, credit card fraud, to technology that provides whistleblowers with anonymous reporting channels.

But I think what was most interesting and relevant for our industry would be the session delivered by Scott Brothers of Oncam and Nigel Ashman of Analysis Solutions, who presented their thoughts on how surveillance solutions can provide extra value to retailers.

More than just a deterrent to shop-theft, the pair shared how surveillance videos can be used to open streams of data that are relevant to other key business functions besides security, such as Marketing, Visual Merchandising and Retail Operations.

Some case studies shared during the session include a well- known chain in London who used surveillance video to devise strategic product placement by analysing customers’ footprints in the shop. Similarly, a high-end shoe retailer was also shown the practicality of its mirror placement where an analysis of its surveillance footage aided them in making changes to their store interior design.

In Malaysia, it was said that a dessert shop retailer had used information gathered by its surveillance camera to negotiate better lease with their landlord based on documented traffic flow.

With “Big Data” being the buzzword these recent years, retailers have explored different ways to obtain as much information as possible about their customers. Online retailers have it easy – as every click on the website meant something – but gathering data for brick-and-mortar stores wasn’t always so simple… Until now.

The retail realm is changing. As more and more stores and public spaces are replacing poster light boxes with Digital Signage, we are beginning to see how the technology has evolved from just displaying content to being able to track who is looking at it.

But if the same capabilities are incorporated into surveillance cameras, would that pose a challenge to Digital Signage? Of course, there are also issues like privacy and ethics, but the retail industry has come a long way and I believe businesses will find their way around it.

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*This commentary was first published in the Jun-Jul 2016 issue of Systems Integration Asia.

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Learning In A New World

I was at EmTech Asia conference recently in Singapore and two things caught my attention for the education industry: 3D classroom and avatar-based classroom. The first was an interactive 3D software solution developed by Swedish company Sensavis where teaching materials are made more engaging through 3D visualization methods. The latter, describes a shared digital platform where students personalize an avatar and use it to attend classes in the virtual space. Quoting Cyndi Chan of MIT Sloan School of Management on the popularity of their avatar- based classrooms, “ It’s crazy, people are really taken to it.”

With 3D and virtual technology set to revolutionize the education industry, various stakeholders have been looking at how can they incorporate it into their teaching curriculum. Simulating reality is not a new concept; some tested it by converting 2D materials to 3D while others created an entire virtual learning experience using role-playing techniques. Making teaching materials easier to digest is a never-ending chase for educators around the world – which brings us to rise of Virtual Reality (VR) & Augmented Reality (AR) technologies.

Said to be the next disruptive tech for education and training, it would be interesting to see how far and fast will VR and AR be adopted in education institutions. With evidence showing that students learn faster and understand better with 3D material¹ because of our natural ability to understand depth perception, VR and AR brings with them the ability to simulate life-like visuals and experiences that was not possible before.

With technology giants such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Sony, Intel etc., all announcing their desire to create something in the virtual/augmented space, there is no doubt that VR/AR will become one of the most exciting industries to keep your eye on. So in this SIA issue, don’t forget to check out our special feature on VR/ AR as we outline the similarities and difference between the two, discuss its business potential and possible commercial applications. Read on!

¹Project “ Learning in Future Education (LiFE)” . 2010-2011. A research by Professor Anne Bamford.

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*This commentary was first published in the Apr-May 2016 issue of Systems Integration Asia.

Is The World Ready For Li-Fi?

From what used to be analog systems, many proAV developments have steered towards the digital realm in recent years. With WiFi-based features leading the way, many are advocating that such solutions are easier to comprehend and operate. The benefits of “wireless” has brought upon so many new and improved products that we often look forward excitedly to major tech shows.

Enter Li-Fi (Light Fidelity) – a Visible Light Communication (VLC) system that transmits data using light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as a medium. Similar to Wi-Fi, Li-Fi also delivers data electromagnetically, however, while Wi-Fi uses radio waves, Li-Fi uses visible light.

Measured to be about 100 times faster than Wi-Fi, reaching speeds of 224 gigabits per second, Li-Fi depends on a photo- detector to receive light signals and a signal processing element to convert data.

An interesting commercial application would be location-based services for retail. Proposed by Philips in 2014, the company introduced a VLC system that can connect in-store LED lights with consumers’ smart phones. Using a downloadable app, users will be able to locate items on their shopping list or get coupons as they pass products on the aisles. Retailers can also send targeted information to consumers based on their precise location within stores.

The possibilities are aplenty, with intelligent traffic management system, indoor communication, in-flight entertainment and underwater communication leading as key potential applications. For the proAV industry, Digital Signage could also be an area to explore.

But of course, there is always a downside to everything. For Li-Fi, the range is shorter as light waves cannot penetrate walls. Being a new technology, low reliability, high installation costs and privacy concerns are also potential deterring factors.

Then again, with VLC/Li-Fi market projected to reach more than $6 million by 2018*, perhaps we should let time decide if light will be next big thing.

*Source: “Global Visible Light Communication(VLC)/Li-Fi Technology & Free Space Optics (FSO) Market (2013-2018) – By Component, Application (Intelligent Traffic Management Systems, Indoor Networking, In-flight Entertainment, Underwater Communication, Location Based Service) & Geography” by MarketsandMarkets.

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*This commentary was first published in the Feb-Mar 2016 issue of Systems Integration Asia.

Are you ready for IPv6?

Internet Protocol (IP) – I believe this word is no stranger to many of us. From IP-enabled cameras to HDMI over IP IR controllers, it is without a doubt that the AV industry is embracing the functionality of IP rather quickly.

In what is called the Internet of Things, sensors and actuators are embedded in physical objects, ranging anything from refrigerators, loudspeakers, media players to even water heaters.

Linked through wired or wireless networks using the Internet Protocol to connect to the Internet, the process to transfer data does not require human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. Basically, it’s to give an inanimate object the means of receiving feedback and information on its own without any interference from us.

An important factor in the development of the Internet of Things, the Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is the latest revision of the IP as the earlier version, IPv4, began to run out of allocated addresses worldwide.

With more and more devices connecting to the Internet, IPv6 ensures that we have a continuing pool of resource as we move over to the new protocol. As compared to IPv4 address space with only 3.7 billion theoretical unique addresses, IPv6 address space can support 340 undecillion (i.e. 340 trillion trillion trillion) addresses. Additionally, IPv6 is also considered the most suitable technology for the Internet of Things because of its scalability, flexibility and open end-to-end connectivity.

What does this means to the AV industry?

With this seemingly inexhaustible amount of IP addresses and enhanced features – what better time it is than now to start the concerted development of IP-enabled AV products and devices? In short, the current transition to IPv6 and focus on the Internet has created a platform for growing innovations and future business opportunities.

For manufacturers, it is time to revise some products to include more ‘Smart’ functions. In terms of product development and research, IP might be an area to start exploring intensively.

For system integrators, now is the time to brush up on IT knowledge as more and more devices go ‘online’. By understanding its application, it will definitely help in coming up with better, and more creative solutions for your clients, adding value to your service.

As IP-based technologies mature, the range of corporate deployments will increase. Now is the time for executives across all industries to structure their thoughts about the potential impact and opportunities likely to emerge from the Internet of Things and IPv6 Technology.

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*This commentary was first published in the Oct-Nov 2014 issue of Systems Integration Asia