RETAILERS now have a wider range of technology to boost productivity and gain consumer insights with SingTel launching its Video-Analytics-as-a-Service (VAaaS) yesterday - a subscription service that uses analytics to extract information from video images.
Priced at $200 per month for two years, with a one-off set-up cost of $500 to $700, VAaaS includes four Internet Protocol cameras connected to a video analytics box, capturing video data to be stored in the cloud for aggregation and video analytics to take place.
On top of surveillance functions, the service derives information from video of the number of people entering the shop, customer movement in the store, crowd density indicating the more, or less, active areas and customer profiles.
This technology allows retailers to better understand customers' in-store behaviour and match operations to their needs, said Lee Han Kheng, SingTel's vice-president for global products, group enterprise.
Businesses can drive sales of popular products, and have better store layout and staffing, easing high upfront costs and manpower shortages, Mr Lee added.
Commercial functions aside, VAaaS also meets retailers' security needs. Accessible on mobile devices for constant monitoring, it can detect loitering activity and send alerts if camera views are blocked.
VAaaS is developed by KAI Square, a home-grown video analytics start-up and an investee company of Innov8, SingTel's corporate venture capital arm.
The basis of VAaaS is KAI's flagship product, Unified Platform, which consolidates and processes large amounts of information.
Founded in 2006, KAI used to offer more security- related products but expanded into the retail space two years ago.
The market is bigger and more willing to spend, said KAI's chief executive officer Neo Shi Yong. "Business intelligence is potentially a tool to generate more income," he said.
But unlike projects in the area of security which are usually for governments or large corporations, retail projects cannot afford to have a dedicated project manager for one store. Cutting costs in terms of implementation thus becomes important, said Dr Neo.
SingTel's partnership adds value here, as it provides a support team.
"Most of the effort and money are often to support the maintenance fees rather than the technology," said Dr Neo. With support from SingTel, he said, the price of VAaaS is about half that of other existing technologies.
SingTel Innov8's chief executive Edgar Hardless believes the affordability will appeal to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). "This will allow them to get additional customer insights which previously probably (would) have been difficult for them to obtain," he said.
In addition, SingTel is applying to have VAaaS under the Innovation & Capability Voucher and the Productivity and Innovation Credit scheme to help SMEs adopt the service.
Businesses have increasingly incorporated technology into their operations. Fish & Co started using iPads and iPods in 2012 for faster ordering while Jurong Point Shopping Centre will install a "virtual mirror" next month. Customers can see how clothes fit through an interactive digital display without actually having to wear them.