AI technology is redefining surveillance

Surveillance today is narrowly defined as “continuous observation of a place, person, group, or ongoing activity in order to gather information,” especially when the subject is a suspect or criminal. Under this definition, surveillance systems tend to get a bad reputation, only benefitting the observer and not those being observed.

AI surveillance

However, with the incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools into surveillance technologies, the definition of surveillance is changing to encompass tools that are more beneficial to the average person. That’s because these AI-based tools, such as facial recognition technology, not only result in more accurate results but also in newfound applications within previously unexplored sectors.

Surveillance is no longer only a watchful eye, but a predictive one as well. Its new definition not only includes using technology to keep bad actors out, but also to let the right staff in and enhance customer experiences. Under this expanded definition, surveillance technology has far-ranging positive applications across business and retail sectors that will create safer and more enjoyable environments that benefit everyone — not just those behind the camera.

Protecting and enhancing the post-pandemic workplace environment

With new AI-based surveillance tools like facial recognition, businesses can go beyond security to provide their employees with an enhanced workplace experience.

With 98% of IT leaders concerned about security challenges related to a hybrid workforce, AI-based surveillance can help better manage staggered and irregular work schedules by seamlessly identifying which employees are supposed to be in specific areas at certain times. This tiered access control can be taken a step further, as an operator can link facial recognition security software to systems that control automated doors or pair it with baseline authentication solutions for an added layer of protection.

By the same token, these AI surveillance tools can also be used to directly benefit the workers they observe. Now, a video management system (VMS) can be trained to identify VIPs, authorized personnel, and guests of the company, creating a frictionless entry experience for those security would wish to treat with utmost care. Imagine if every time the CEO walked into the company building, he could stream through security without having to sign in. Or picture a distinguished guest, having been input into the system’s database beforehand, walking into the lobby and immediately being presented with a customized message and directions on how to get to the meeting location within the building.

Where masks are still required, facial recognition technology (FRT) can create safer workspaces by identifying employees who are not wearing their masks correctly and alerting them to fix their face coverings. Through this observation, AI tools can aggregate data on how many employees are wearing masks upon first sign in, which can help operators make better decisions about company health protocols. All these solutions can be integrated into almost any VMS, empowering operators to quicky implement them. Surveillance technology can not only secure the workplace as employees return but expand to encompass tools that streamline workplace processes to improve the employee experience.

Finding new opportunities to keep the right customers in

Surveillance technologies, such as security cameras and property management systems, are usually reserved to track shoplifters and threats to customers in the retail industry. However, with the explosion of online shopping over the past two years, and with 90% of US shoppers saying they’d likely return to a store if their in-store experience is positive and unique, retailers are looking to technology to create the best on-site experiences.

Today, AI-based surveillance technology can provide greater benefits to store patrons, helping personalize the in-store experience and identify and cater to VIPs, no matter which branch they enter. For example, say a patron opts into a loyalty program that has an AI-based surveillance system in place. An in-store kiosk can identify them immediately, open to a screen that asks if they’d like to place their preferred order, and then streamline the payment process by allowing the customer to pay with their face.

Taking it a step further, since facial recognition technologies can observe certain emotions in a subject, an annoyed or frustrated customer can be identified and helped more quickly by staff. Additionally, taken in aggregate, anonymized emotion readings can help paint a clearer picture of how customers experience a journey throughout a store and can help operators optimize the in-store experience for maximum enjoyment at every step. Or say a VIP enters a branch of a store they’ve never been in before – with FRT installed, that branch can immediately alert staff and provide them with the guest’s name and service preferences.

In this way, the definition of surveillance is expanded in the retail context to become more about looking for opportunities to enhance valued customer experiences and making the in-store experience even more inviting, rather than simply keeping bad actors out. And since AI-based technologies can be installed into almost any camera, the power to meet customers heightened in-store expectations is now more accessible to the average business with a lower budget.

A more inclusive definition of surveillance

We are entering a new era of surveillance, with AI and ML-based tech helping operators move beyond human-powered monitoring to entirely new use cases that provide more tangible benefits to business employees and retail patrons alike.

This new technology is redefining surveillance to be more inclusive – welcoming in customers with more tailored experiences, providing employees with more seamless access control and sign-in processes, and giving operators in both sectors deeper data to enhance their procedures. With the integration of AI-based technology into what is typically used for surveillance, businesses can now leap into this next phase better able to successfully connect with their employees and customers.

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