A New Business Intelligence Tool for Retailers

By Michael Feldman

January 14, 2009

With retail sales in their biggest slump since record-keeping began in 1992, businesses are desperately looking for ways to boost the bottom line. Improving productivity in existing stores with technologies like video analytics may turn out to be one of the most effective ways to accomplish this.

Sophisticated video analytics can help businesses assess shopping behavior by tracking customer behavior in aggregate and building up a repository of historical data. The information retailers are interested in has to do with where people are spending their time in the store, the effectiveness of store advertising displays, the demographics of visitors, and just generally how customer traffic is flowing through the store. The idea is to help retailers increase revenue and store productivity by optimizing merchandise choices and placement.

In the past, retailers convinced random customers to carry around tracking devices, so their shopping activities could be monitored. But this only provided a qualitative view of shopper behavior. Video analytics promises a quantitative view. For the most part, these analytics systems use video feeds from existing security cameras. But whereas the security video is mostly being examined manually — either in real time or as a result of some past mischief — video analytics can repurpose that same data stream to provide business intelligence for improving store operations.

Canadian startup LightHaus Logic is one of the pioneers in this area, providing high-performance video analytics applications for a variety of commercial settings. This week the company introduced Equinox Visual Intelligence solutions for the retail industry, which are currently under trial by a number of top retailers.

The LightHaus system distills terabytes of digitized video data into graphics-based reports that encapsulate customer activity over some a period of time. It aggregates a variety of information, such as the number of people at certain locations in the store and if they are standing still or moving (and in what direction). The system can also gather more specific information like effectiveness of the coveted end-of-aisle displays — the so-called “end-cap” displays. More sophisticated analytics, like identifying a shopper’s age, gender and ethnicity, can also be obtained in order to determine demographic shopping preferences.

Being able to condense hundreds or thousands of hours of video into actionable intelligence is the goal. “You don’t want to look at a month of video from several cameras,” explains Mario Palumbo, chief technology officer at LightHaus Logic. “You’d like a snapshot that shows you the whole story.”

The LightHaus offering uses a proprietary video gateway appliance and compute-intensive image processing software to convert the digitized video data into “metadata” that encapsulates customer activity in the store. The trick is processing multiple video feeds in real time. Because of the nature of the application, the hardware’s pedigree is from the embedded world, where real-time signal processing is a common type of workload. The LightHaus gateway appliance is a 1U box and uses multiple processors (general purpose CPUs and/or FPGAs) connected via PCIe or Ethernet links. An external disk is used for local storage of video and metadata.

Depending upon the resolution of the video feeds and the different types of analysis being run (occupancy numbers, demographics, display effectiveness, etc.), a single appliance will typically handle between five to 20 video streams. For large setups, multiple appliances can be hooked together. In this case the software auto-detects the other LightHaus boxes and one of them gets arbitrarily assigned to be the head node.

A certain amount of configuration is needed to set up system parameters like store layout and types of analysis. Palumbo says they try to make the configuration setup as easy as possible, since retailers typically don’t have a great deal of IT expertise. A lot of the larger operations like Home Depot and Wal-Mart employ system integrators to manage computer and video infrastructure, and these subcontractors would end up doing the configuration.

The most user-friendly part of the system is the report and data mining tools. The analytics-derived metadata is presented to the retailer in graphs and tables, with additional functionality provided for examining real-time and historical data. The whole system can be accessed via a standard Web browser interface, either locally or remotely. This allows large retailers to slice and dice the data produced from multiple stores and access it from any location.

LightHaus’ focus on business intelligence may prove to be a good move. Palumbo notes that although video analytics is a hot technology right now, most of the company’s potential competitors are focused on applying the technology to surveillance and security applications, where discrete event detection is the name of the game. In the retail world, businesses are less interested in event detection than in overall trends and aggregate statistics, which require a very different approach.

The current technology being offered can’t provide all the answers, though. For example, the LightHaus system is not able to determine which way the customer is facing. So in a store with different products in a narrow aisle, the analysis probably wont be able to determine what item caught the customer’s attention. Also, the cause of “hot spots” — where people linger for long periods of time — can be ambiguous. Hot spots might be the result of shoppers’ interest in a nearby product or their confusion by the related display.

But the systems are likely to become more sophisticated over time as hardware becomes more powerful and as providers like LightHaus refine the technology. At a time when retail shopping behavior is undergoing some big changes, video analytics may become a technology that businesses can’t afford to be without.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

What’s Hot and What’s Not at ISC 2018?

June 22, 2018

As the calendar rolls around to late June we see the ISC conference, held in Frankfurt (June 24th-28th), heave into view. With some of the pre-show announcements already starting to roll out, what do we think some of the Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Servers in Orbit, HPE Apollos Make 4,500 Trips Around Earth

June 22, 2018

The International Space Station shines a little brighter in the night sky thanks to what amounts to an orbiting supercomputer lofted to the outpost last year as part of a year-long experiment to determine if high-end com Read more…

By George Leopold

HPCwire Readers’ and Editors’ Choice Awards Turns 15

June 22, 2018

A hallmark of sustainability is this: If you are not serving a need effectively and efficiently you do not last. The HPCwire Readers’ and Editors’ Choice awards program has stood the test of time. Each year, our read Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPC and AI Convergence is Accelerating New Levels of Intelligence

Data analytics is the most valuable tool in the digital marketplace – so much so that organizations are employing high performance computing (HPC) capabilities to rapidly collect, share, and analyze endless streams of data. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Taking the AI Training Wheels Off: From PoC to Production

Even though it seems simple now, there were a lot of skills to master in learning to ride a bike. From balancing on two wheels, and steering in a straight line, to going around corners and stopping before running over the dog, it took lots of practice to master these skills. Read more…

Tribute: Dr. Bob Borchers, 1936-2018

June 21, 2018

Dr. Bob Borchers, a leader in the high performance computing community for decades, passed away peacefully in Maui, Hawaii, on June 7th. His memorial service will be held on June 22nd in Reston, Virginia. Dr. Borchers Read more…

By Ann Redelfs

What’s Hot and What’s Not at ISC 2018?

June 22, 2018

As the calendar rolls around to late June we see the ISC conference, held in Frankfurt (June 24th-28th), heave into view. With some of the pre-show announcement Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Servers in Orbit, HPE Apollos Make 4,500 Trips Around Earth

June 22, 2018

The International Space Station shines a little brighter in the night sky thanks to what amounts to an orbiting supercomputer lofted to the outpost last year as Read more…

By George Leopold

HPCwire Readers’ and Editors’ Choice Awards Turns 15

June 22, 2018

A hallmark of sustainability is this: If you are not serving a need effectively and efficiently you do not last. The HPCwire Readers’ and Editors’ Choice aw Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ISC 2018 Preview from @hpcnotes

June 21, 2018

Prepare for your social media feed to be saturated with #HPC, #ISC18, #Top500, etc. Prepare for your mainstream media to talk about supercomputers (in between t Read more…

By Andrew Jones

AMD’s EPYC Road to Redemption in Six Slides

June 21, 2018

A year ago AMD returned to the server market with its EPYC processor line. The earth didn’t tremble but folks took notice. People remember the Opteron fondly Read more…

By John Russell

European HPC Summit Week and PRACEdays 2018: Slaying Dragons and SHAPEing Futures One SME at a Time

June 20, 2018

The University of Ljubljana in Slovenia hosted the third annual EHPCSW18 and fifth annual PRACEdays18 events which opened May 29, 2018. The conference was chair Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake (STEM-Trek for HPCwire)

Cray Introduces All Flash Lustre Storage Solution Targeting HPC

June 19, 2018

Citing the rise of IOPS-intensive workflows and more affordable flash technology, Cray today introduced the L300F, a scalable all-flash storage solution whose p Read more…

By John Russell

Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hennessy & Patterson: A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture

April 17, 2018

On Monday June 4, 2018, 2017 A.M. Turing Award Winners John L. Hennessy and David A. Patterson will deliver the Turing Lecture at the 45th International Sympo Read more…

By Staff

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

Google I/O 2018: AI Everywhere; TPU 3.0 Delivers 100+ Petaflops but Requires Liquid Cooling

May 9, 2018

All things AI dominated discussion at yesterday’s opening of Google’s I/O 2018 developers meeting covering much of Google's near-term product roadmap. The e Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Pattern Computer – Startup Claims Breakthrough in ‘Pattern Discovery’ Technology

May 23, 2018

If it weren’t for the heavy-hitter technology team behind start-up Pattern Computer, which emerged from stealth today in a live-streamed event from San Franci Read more…

By John Russell

Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Part One: Deep Dive into 2018 Trends in Life Sciences HPC

March 1, 2018

Life sciences is an interesting lens through which to see HPC. It is perhaps not an obvious choice, given life sciences’ relative newness as a heavy user of H Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Pledges First Commercial Nervana Product ‘Spring Crest’ in 2019

May 24, 2018

At its AI developer conference in San Francisco yesterday, Intel embraced a holistic approach to AI and showed off a broad AI portfolio that includes Xeon processors, Movidius technologies, FPGAs and Intel’s Nervana Neural Network Processors (NNPs), based on the technology it acquired in 2016. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Charts Two-Dimensional Quantum Course

April 26, 2018

Quantum error correction, essential for achieving universal fault-tolerant quantum computation, is one of the main challenges of the quantum computing field and it’s top of mind for Google’s John Martinis. At a presentation last week at the HPC User Forum in Tucson, Martinis, one of the world's foremost experts in quantum computing, emphasized... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’ Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This