By Malou Toft, Vice President EMEA, Milestone Systems
The adoption and adaptation of new technologies have increased dramatically to facilitate new ways of working and socialising. In many ways, Covid-19 has been the wake-up call for businesses to prioritise technology like artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Some experts estimate that digital transformation sped up by two years in just the first two months of the global lockdown alone. Internet of Things (IoT) and video devices are facilitating many newly remote processes, and 84% of businesses have credited IoT technology as essential to their survival.
Of these, 73% state that the pandemic has permanently changed their IoT adoption plans and 84% now see its adoption and integration into their work processes as a higher priority.
Supporting the pandemic response
Not least the healthcare sector has had to adapt fast. Here, IoT devices have ensured vaccines remain at the optimum conditions for their performance, while remote patient monitoring coupled with video consultations have ensured many medical treatments can continue.
Also, video technology has helped businesses ensure social distancing in buildings, provided forewarnings of potential bottlenecks and crowds, counted the number of occupants in an area, and provided touchless access to areas through facial recognition.
And, as businesses, shops and restaurants start to reopen, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) sensors allow building managers to provide a healthy and safe environment, while video analytics inform cleaning teams of areas that require sanitisation.
All of this has significantly increased the demand and importance of video and the IoT throughout workplaces. Many of the features implemented today will continue long into the future to improve building efficiency and optimise processes.
For instance, occupancy monitoring and people-counting technologies can improve the customer experience moving through a store or transport hub. Bottlenecks and long queues can be proactively avoided, by redirecting people through digital signage or sending more customer service staff to the shop floor. Automation enables much of this to happen without human intervention – a system can detect a crowd forming in a specific area and then automatically send redirection notices to digital screens or ask people to disperse through a tannoy system.
Facilities management can also be improved. When people enter and leave rooms or buildings, lighting and HVAC systems can automatically switch on and off to conserve energy.
Access control systems can integrate with video feeds so business leaders understand how people are moving through a building. They can use this to inform future building development, such as increasing corridor width to aid traffic flow or changing room layouts to improve collaboration. Video data can be used to identify unused spaces in a building, which can be repurposed for storage or additional workspaces.
Spearheading smart cities
On a wider scale, IoT and video technology will play a vital role in smart city development. Gartner predicts that there will be an increased focus on using the IoT to improve building security and connected buildings as well as city operation use cases, such as city asset tracking, road toll and traffic management, outdoor surveillance, smart metering and assisted living.
Automatic license plate recognition (ANPR) for instance, can be combined with road sensors to collect real-time traffic information. This can automatically update road users and pedestrians on traffic conditions.
Local governments can take this a step further, augmenting these insights with air quality sensor data and residential and school data, to plan roads and redirect traffic to reduce air pollution in specific areas. Research shows that this type of intelligent transport system is more effective at reducing traffic congestion than building more roads.
Video at the center of 5G and the IoT
The roll out of 5G is the key enabler for the acceleration of the IoT era. The speed and bandwidth gains that will be achieved through 5G technology will support many IoT use cases, delivering huge amounts of data for analysis, powering autonomous vehicles, and enabling sensor to sensor (machine to machine) communication and responses.
Video technology will be at the epicentre of all this. More than 50% of the human brain is devoted to processing visual information. With human oversight needed over AI, automation and the IoT, this places a high value on good quality visual data. Someone cannot effectively decide a new road layout, for instance, without visually seeing how vehicles and people use the existing infrastructure. Coupled with the right video analytics tools, cameras will not only monitor what’s happening but also facilitate the automation of many complex processes; like redirecting vehicles away from an accident or preventing entry to a store that’s overcrowded.
How businesses can benefit
The businesses set to benefit most from this new era are the ones that understand and prepare for emerging technologies and trends. They understand the close alignment needed between digital transformation and the business strategy and invest in technology that will have the biggest business impact. Businesses that work to build trust in the technology that they are using, through communicating its benefits and using data ethically, will also leap ahead.
The real differentiator for many organisations will come from stitching everything together seamlessly — IoT and video data, automation and AI, and advanced analytics. By seeing how everything works together and how one system influences another, business leaders will better understand the long-term impact of their decisions and where improvements can be made.
Trust is a need to have
In the video tech industry, we are already seeing this change. Where in the past video analytics solutions were purchased as part of the surveillance camera set-up, European users are increasingly seeing video management and analytics as part of the core IT department assets. With this the video analytics solutions are rapidly changing status from a stand-alone edge technology, to a core, intelligent IT asset.
As a true technology fan, I am excited to see this development and how technology has come to the fore as a major support for businesses, governments, and citizens.
That said, technology, as it stands today, is not fully trusted and accepted yet and being part of the industry, we must acknowledge our role in building trust and developing new technologies responsibly.
As we look ahead, the adoption of new technologies is set to accelerate further as the wireless infrastructure will continue to expand. Therefore, building long-term trust must be a key focus for all developers and buyers of new technology. If people don’t have confidence in your new processes and technology, they will not engage fully with it, they will find ways to avoid using it, and your strategy will fail.