Prism Skylabs: Enhanced Video Tracking Of Retail In-Store Traffic

Prism Skylabs is a company dedicated to tracing, in great detail, the Customer Journey, primarily within retail establishments. The company offers video capture and analysis services to enhance clients’ marketing; however, it does not provide customer engagement and, in fact, eliminates even the video images of live customers.

We spoke with Cliff Crosbie, SVP of Global Retail, who emphasized that, while cameras are, for example in Europe, everywhere, there is an overwhelming interest in protecting individuals’ privacy. Therefore the company developed proprietary software for blocking out the images of people that are in any given scene.

It can provide a count of how many people were in each area of the store and which merchandise they examined. It can show “pathmaps” illustrating how many people went in which directions through the store, as well as “heatmaps” that illustrate the number of people that were in a given area and the number that examined specific merchandise.

The company delivers extensive analytics, which can compare customer movement and activity data within different locations within a chain, or for given stores or an entire chain over specified time periods. Analytics are updated and deliver in near-realtime.

Managers can view the activity in their stores in real time. As Crosbie puts it, they can “see the merchandising, not the individuals; we remove the moving pixels.”

Crosbie explains that the networking needs are satisfied in most cases by a simple Internet connection. Each camera transmits 1 frame per second – it is not streaming video. If the Internet connection is patchy, they can buffer and backup the transmission. In some cases, the retailer may have their own transmission network with higher speed capability. The company also claims proprietary video compression technology that can reduce bandwidth requirements to 1/100th the size of HD video.

The company is using Amazon for its server requirements. It also claims to have “a stunning mobile interface” with fast access and the ability to monitor multiple locations instantly.

Crosbie states that they are operating in 72 countries and see very substantial growth opportunities ahead.

What about product and service innovations? They have released their own camera which comes loaded with their software. The camera can transmit direct to WiFi or the Internet, enabling the store to eliminate the need for a server. Their growth for the foreseeable future, Crosbie reports is likely to be focused on the merchandising issues for the retailers. They do consider fast food chains and restaurants to be within their business scope, but don’t expect to have direct sales expansion beyond their core interests. However, some of their distributors may sell into other verticals, hospitality being one that he mentioned.

They are resisting, however, steps towards more identification or engagement with actual shoppers. For example, when we mentioned that stores might want information on number of male versus female shoppers, Crosbie questioned whether that might impinge on European privacy codes.

He did point out that the same level of restrictions does not exist in the U.S. However, he said that their standard level of U.S. service comes with the privacy restrictions and it is up to the retailer if they want to request being able to view the shoppers. Crosbie stated, “The data is not ours, it belongs to the retailer.”

There are some other areas of added services that he mentioned that Prism could provide, such as APIs that could help a store match the levels of traffic to their staffing needs at various times. He also mentioned a service that they offer to retailers with franchise chains. Prism supplies auditors who review the video footage to see if franchisee stores are complying with franchise rules.

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Photo by YL Tan via Flickr