Interview with Hedgie Bartol, LPQ, LPC
Bartol serves as business development manager for the retail segment in North America at Axis Communications. In this role, he works closely with partners and retailers on strategic surveillance installations designed to maximize loss prevention and streamline business operations. Bartol is a well-known industry advisor on video solutions.
After a year of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers have had to change or enhance their use of technologies to meet evolving consumer needs. We asked one technology solution provider for his insights into the changes his company is seeing.
What’s different about the retail landscape today versus one year ago?
Retailers have had to reinvent themselves and likely accelerate plans regarding the omni‑channel and serving the market beyond the walls of brick and mortar. When you talk to some retailers that haven’t closed their doors, their sales are up, but profitability may not because of the additional processes that have had to happen to execute one sale. More employees have to be engaged to monitor mask compliance and occupancy management.
On top of this, retooling to serve e-commerce has certainly reshaped how they do business. Unlike other security disciplines, they cannot simply lock up their stores to protect an item or to stop the spread of COVID.
How can retailers utilize the technology to mitigate or solve the impact of these challenges?
Network surveillance solutions can help retailers service customers without face-to-face interaction. A retailer could use license plate recognition with network cameras and audio to capture a license plate, compare it to a predefined list, and generate an alert when the customer arrives for pickup. Retailers could also set up a similar low-touch process with a network door station. Maybe a trip-wire application activates the door station, alerts an employee, and a two-way communication ensues.
Certainly a network audio solution can be used to make live or prerecorded messages to remind folks to social distance, use hand sanitizers, and wear masks.
How has the pandemic changed the need or want for certain technologies?
There was a lot of excitement about technologies that would count people for occupancy management or identify those not wearing a mask. Companies quickly realized technology in and of itself was not the answer. Instead, they had to lean on what I call the three Ps—people, process, and procedures. Then how can technology augment those three Ps?
Retailers need to make sure that if technology identifies someone not complying, they have the procedures and people in place to enforce rules. Then they need to ask themselves how this technology can help them outside of pandemic-response situations.
How will tech be looked at differently to encompass the customer experience?
Today’s customers have a much greater expectation of technology being utilized to personalize their experience. That could be through audio announcements, digital signage that is based on their demographic, or announcements related to COVID. An example of how this can be done is with queue monitoring technology that provides real-time numbers of people queuing. Long checkout lines have been a problem for years because of the fear of abandonment, but are especially problematic with social distancing. A store can implement a system that alerts personnel that lines are getting long and assistance is needed. Or the solution can be to announce that self-checkout stands are available.
What is the future of integrated systems in retail?
What you’re likely to see is more intelligence and capability being put at the edge. This allows cameras or speakers to take advantage of analytics, conduct more analysis, make informed decisions, and perform different tasks onboard the camera instead of having to go to a server.
You’re also likely to see more utilization of the cloud to allow greater utilization of AI and machine learning. This will enable devices to do more for LP professionals by sending them more data more efficiently.