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Computer Vision: Three compelling use cases for protecting your workforce, customers and citizens

Caroline Morris, 5G IoT Product Manager at Virgin Media O2 Business, considers how video analytics is evolving and the intelligence it can provide right now and in the future

Only a few years ago experts predicted use cases for Artificial Intelligence (AI) that sounded more like science fiction than anything that might genuinely make an impact on our lives. However, we have witnessed a substantial acceleration in digital investment over the last two years, which has triggered rapid advances in the deployment of AI technology.

For me, Computer Vision is one of the most exciting and compelling branches of AI, enabling computers and systems to derive meaningful information from digital images, videos and other visual inputs —and take action or make decisions based on it.
My particular interest is in video analytics, and how it can benefit, or even transform, specific business processes and sectors. There are tremendous opportunities ahead. After all, we collect vast quantities of data, yet make effective use of only a tiny percentage of it. Why is it important? And how could it benefit you?

We are all aware of the pressure on retailers right now. Competition has never been greater. Securing more customers at a time when footfall has fallen demands a clearer understanding of consumer behaviour and movement. More granular information is required to plan staffing levels and serve customers more efficiently and effectively. Meanwhile, there is a consensus that the future of retail rests on focusing on the customer experience.

In this short series of three posts, I am going to highlight what I think are the most exciting and valuable advances in video analytics, with an emphasis on three specific use cases:

  1. Health & safety for your workforce
  2. The customer experience (Retail and Events)
  3. The citizen’s experience

In this first post, I will show you how the combination of video analytics and AI can address a substantial number of health and safety challenges within a workplace or public environment.

The need to protect your workforce and keep your employees safe is nothing new. However, with increasing employee expectations, as well as a much greater focus on attracting and retaining effective employees, it is more important than ever.

Video analytics is capable of playing a transformative role in protecting your workforce, and in most cases exploits technology that you already have in place. You may already have invested heavily in CCTV technology in a warehouse, plant or workspace, and these same cameras can be enhanced using video analytics and AI.

The video analytics application is relatively straightforward to describe:

  1. A small plug and play, image processing device which connects to most existing CCTV cameras.
  2. This in turn enables an AI application to detect events and incidents via a series of triggers or visual cues.
  3. An incident is logged and its data stored, with all personal identifiable data removed.
  4. Real time alerts are delivered via a mobile device or as audio-visual alerts, whilst historical insights are delivered on a web or mobile dashboard.
  5. The application can be trained to take any action –or prompt any trigger –based upon anything that a cameras sees.

Real time alerts of risks and hazards enable an immediate response or intervention, reducing the possibility of further incidents. However, it’s the historical trend analysis that can provide powerful, actionable insights that help:

  • Take preventative measures against workplace incidents
  • Ensure staff are adhering to safety protocols, including PPE compliance, access control and social distancing
  • Inform training requirements
  • Improve workforce efficiencies: workflow and resource optimisation

Health & safety is about more than concern about compliance, it’s about looking after and caring for the people you rely on. Regardless of your industry – whether it’s construction, manufacturing, distribution & logistics, transport, retail & hospitality – video analytics can identify risk to safety in a wide range of familiar scenarios:

  • Slips, Trips and Falls
  • Trespass and boundary security
  • Fire and hazard detection
  • Machine Guarding/ Drop Zone Guarding etc
The potential uses for video analytics are virtually limitless, but here are three use cases you could implement right now:

1. Machine guarding

In any plant, employee safety is a primary concern. Once safety areas and permitted walkways have been designated, video analytics can identify whenever these have been breached, or when unauthorised access to machinery has occurred. This can trigger any number of desired outcomes, including:
  • Incident logged
  • Supervisor informed
  • Worker notified/warned
  • Machinery disabled

2. Moving vehicles

If you have responsibility for any factory, plant or warehouse where people and moving machinery co-exist, you will understand the risks involved. Although I talk about environments involving moving vehicles as a single use case, there are dozens of specific applications:

  • Issuing alerts when a vehicle approaches or gets too close to a pedestrian
  • Monitoring vehicle speeds and logging when these are breached
  • Monitoring vehicle usage and tracking resources available
  • Tracking specific activities, using heat maps to optimise processes

3. PPE checks

PPE saves lives and keeps employees safe. Video analytics will monitor and ensure PPE compliance, but will also inform trend analysis to identify and understand the circumstances in which breaches occur. This analysis enables processes to be updated and then effectiveness to be validated.

These three use cases paint a picture of what video analytics and AI are capable of when working in tandem. But it’s just the beginning. I believe that this technology will soon be essential for any employer wanting to demonstrate a commitment to the safety of their employees. If you’d like to find out more about how video analytics can support your business, call us on 0800 955 5590. If I have stoked your interest, then do connect with me via LinkedIn.

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