NRF Showed 2018 Will Be the Year of Data, Analytics and Intelligence for Retailers

Last month, our own VP of Retail Solutions, Matt Worley predicted some emerging retail technologies he expected to see at NRF 2018 Retail’s Big Show in New York City. He described five technologies that, when combined effectively, will let in-store retailers create a frictionless, more personalized experience for their customers, all while making their operations more efficient and cost-effective.

Now that the show is over, I can confirm Matt’s prediction of where in-store retail is headed this year, namely that retailers will apply these technologies to make the entire store more customer-aware.

Store and Customer Analytics
When a shopper visits an online store, the retailer knows where they clicked, what they looked at, what they read, how long they stayed on each page—and that’s just for starters. The site collects data on the items you put in your “cart,” the ones you removed, and what you replaced them with. All this data is analyzed to reveal the customer’s behaviors and underlying preferences, allowing the experience to be customized on future encounters.

So, why shouldn’t brick-and-mortar retailers gain the same type of insights? It’s all about analyzing and applying the data collected in the store.. Retailers can use it to optimize inventory management and store personnel scheduling—traditional back office functions—but also to elevate the customer’s shopping experience to levels they are only accustomed to finding online.

Shelf Analytics and Order Optimization
Show attendees were very excited about potential applications of shelf analytics. For example, a fresh foods store can keep track of how long items have been on the shelf or in the cooler, to better maintain freshness levels of the inventory. Today, many retailers use RFID tags—to better manage inventory levels and loss prevention. Using RFID tags isn’t practical. Not only are they expensive from an investment standpoint they are wasteful, as tags typically get thrown in the trash when the customer discards the packaging at home.

A less expensive and more environment-friendly alternative is NEC’s machine-learning order optimization application that helps retailers predict sales numbers to reduce inventory or overstock shelves. Shelf inventory and digital signage solutions can identify an item as the customer removes it from the shelf, then determine whether the customer puts the item is the basket or returns it to the shelf. Once in the cart, nearby displays can offer helpful tips, related videos, coupons or other shopping assistance, all based on the item selected.

By tracking all the items in the basket, the solution helps manage inventory control, ordering and stocking, not to mention preparing the customer for the checkout counter.

Such solutions can be adapted to a wide range of retail verticals and applications, to promote additional purchases, reduce waste, automate and optimize inventory orders, and more. All the while, they promote a healthier bottom line, make operations more efficient, and improve the customer experience—just like an online experience does or better.

It’s All About Data, Analytics and Intelligence
This year the focus of the show was less about hardware and more about artificial intelligence, data gathering and mining and analytics. Yes, you need hardware devices to perform all these things. Interactive kiosks, IP cameras, smart tags and displays and so on, not to mention the enterprise software and storage. What it really comes down too, is the ability to connect all that data to the back office, taking and using it to make data-driven decisions based on actionable insights in the store.

Here retailers can see actual, functioning AR and AI retail solutions like CaliBurger. If NRF 2018 was any indication, this year’s retailers will be focused on data, analytics, and intelligence. From the customer perspective, it’s all about the store experience and convenience these solutions bring. From the retailer’s perspective, it’s about bringing customers back from online and into the store. But what it’s really about, is making the entire store smarter and more efficient.

What’s does retail intelligence run on? A robust foundation on which to gather, store, analyze and act upon the resulting insights. Watch this space for articles about the NEC Smart Enterprise solutions that provides a secure foundation for retailers and other industries.

NEC Corporation of America

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Keeping Your Cool When Severe Weather Hits

Extreme weather events have caused massive destruction across North America in recent months. In early 2018, the eastern part of the U.S. experienced a “bomb cyclone” consisting of severe cold temperatures, massive amounts of snow and lots of misery. Last summer and early fall, the Gulf Coast and Caribbean were hard hit by hurricanes during one of the most severe tropical storm seasons in years. Parts of Puerto Rico still are struggling to even get the power back on and other services.

Weather wreaks havoc not only on daily life, but disrupts businesses as well. Lack of power, paralyzed transportation and infrastructure damage have a definite impact on “business as usual.” Over the past several years, the Ponemon Institute (https://www.ponemon.org/), which conducts independent research on privacy, data protection and information security policy, has launched three studies since 2010 on the cost of data center downtime. In its latest study (2016), the research shows that the average cost of a data center outage was $740,000, an increase of 38% since the first study in 2010.

5 Reasons You Can’t Ignore the Private Cloud Anymore - Read the Free EbookThe cost of one outage can be measured in many ways—loss of revenue and productivity, damage to an organization’s reputation in the market, customer churn and loss of future opportunities. Depending on the timing and duration of an outage, some industries may be more adversely affected than others. Think about a resort hotel that is unable to book rooms online during the height of the tourist season. Potential customers quickly lose patience and head to the competition or give up entirely. Or consider a transportation organization—outages cause inconvenience for passengers and loss of revenue for carriers, but might be a safety concern as well.

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

Two elements of business planning, business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR), are especially critical during a disaster or outage. Continued business operations depend on an organization’s ability to replicate its systems and data quickly. The ability to plan ahead and adapt during a crisis to restore business operations — without long-term or permanent negative effects — are crucial to an organization’s success. Business continuity goes beyond staying up and running during a disaster. It also means keeping all parts of the business running effectively and efficiently, not just the technology systems.

It’s important to keep a BCDR plan updated as IT changes occur, such as when new applications are added, new technologies become available, or when moving applications to the cloud, for example. By keeping the BCDR plan aligned with the business plans, the IT team won’t be caught off guard when an outage occurs.

Fortunately, technology provides solutions that help mitigate the effects of a disaster, natural or otherwise, and keep businesses online.

Keeping Data Center Operations Humming

For years it’s been a common practice for companies to maintain backup copies of data at an off-site location, usually within a short driving distance of the primary data center. While this practice works for many outage situations, a natural disaster such as a snowstorm, earthquake or mud slide could have a widespread geographic impact that affects not only the location of the main data center, but the backup location as well.

Deploying a cloud solution mitigates that disaster scenario. Cloud-based services support an organization’s ability to plan for disaster recovery and benefit ongoing business continuity. Cloud solutions come in three major deployments—public, private and hybrid. All have pros and cons, depending on the organization’s needs. For instance, private cloud solutions such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provide the elasticity, flexibility and scalability of a public cloud, but can be dedicated to one account, thus providing a more personalized and secure solution.

IaaS solutions offer advantages over a public cloud, including seamless technology upgrades and more control. Advanced compute, storage and network technology can combine in a private cloud offering such as IaaS, but no solution is “one-size-fits-all.” It’s important to work with a service provider who can create a solution that fits the organization. IaaS lends itself to customization that caters to the unique needs of an organization.

The advantages of a private cloud are numerous:

  • Lower costs than maintaining a private data center
  • Maintain standards of regulatory compliance
  • Access to the latest technologies making it easier to stay current
  • More control than a public cloud, including a more secure solution
  • Standard billing so there are no “surprises”
  • Less burden on internal IT teams and staff

During a natural disaster, IaaS can be the ideal solution for BCDR. By providing an off-premises, hosted environment, the data center continues to operate from a location far removed from the disaster.  Data is secured and transactions with customers and partners continue without interruption. Fault-tolerant servers  offer five 9s of uptime and scalability.  A grid storage system  helps ensure redundancies to protect a company’s mission-critical data. Using grid storage, a company can replicate its data at an off-site location. During an outage or natural disaster, the master site can be recovered by using the data at the remote site, by means of an Optimized Copy, without having to import backup images.

NEC partner Iron Mountain maintains its National Data Center, located 220 feet below ground in Western Pennsylvania and considered one of the most secure, compliant and energy-efficient data center complexes in the world. As a technology infrastructure provider and part of Iron Mountain’s Data Center Marketplace, NEC is able to provide additional value-added services such as Disaster Recovery as a Service from this secure location.

Learn how NEC teams up with its partner Iron Mountain to provide an IaaS solution housed in one of the most secure locations in the world, the Iron Mountain National Data Center.

Location of the ‘Office’ No Longer Matters

When a weather event or other natural disaster strikes, the ability to enable employees to work from anywhere becomes critical. Working remotely means staff can perform their jobs as seamlessly as if they were in the office, supporting business operations, serving customers, suppliers and partners, and getting their work done.

Cloud-based applications enable employees to keep things running from remote locations. With unified communications and collaboration tools such as softphones, instant messaging, and audio and video conferencing, dispersed teams collaborate and work on projects even when the weather outside slows transportation to a crawl. Enabling employees to do their jobs even when they can’t get to the office keeps them safe during dangerous travel conditions as well.

Virtual desktops can be linked through a private network connection to a secure, remote data center far from the bad weather or natural disaster. Best of all, desktops in the cloud look and behave as if they are part of a corporate IT environment. Customers and employees won’t notice a difference in the quality of service.

Software-defined networking (SDN) simplifies network management, proactively addresses network performance and quickly re-routes network traffic as needed—all critical functions during a severe weather occurrence or natural disaster.  An SDN solution centralizes control of the network and automatically monitors and prioritizes network traffic, distributing it according to pre-defined policies and constantly updates network resources and traffic conditions.

When the blizzard, mud slide, earthquake, wildfire or hurricane strikes your location, the right solutions and technology enable business as usual. Consider private cloud solutions when developing your business continuity and disaster recovery plans to help create a safe and secure environment that protects data and applications, and keeps your business running.

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5 Reasons You Can’t Ignore the Private Cloud Anymore

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As Seen on TV: NEC Provides Powerful Crime Solving Face Recognition Software to Law Enforcement

If you’re a fan of any of the detective shows available on television and streaming services, you’ve probably seen an episode or two where a crucial part of solving the fictional crime is using face-recognition software to identify potential suspects. It’s the digital version of an old-fashioned police lineup. The scenario usually involves detectives finding an old photo or obtaining some grainy security camera footage of a suspect. They turn it over to a colleague in a crime lab, where the photograph or video is quickly processed to identify the subject.

While it may not work exactly as seen in the movies or on a television crime drama, this type of digital matching technology is very real and in use today. With more people having camera equipped cell phones and individuals and business installing surveillance cameras, the amount of available video evidence that can be used to solve crimes has greatly increased. Not having the ability to leverage security video footage and photo evidence can be costly and time consuming for law enforcement departments with limited resources and heavy case loads.

NEC’s Advanced Recognition Systems (ARS) group has a long history of providing the latest biometrics technology to government customers like our NeoFace® Reveal software, NEC’s high-speed matching facial recognition system. When it was independently evaluated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, NEC’s NeoFace® algorithm achieved the highest performance evaluation as the most accurate face recognition solution on the market for “one-to-many” video searching.

Watch the video to see how NEC’s ARS group worked with the City of Irving Police Department on a deployment of NEC’s NeoFace® Reveal facial recognition software, which has resulted in high success rates in providing fast, accurate suspect identification intelligence. It has led to increased public safety and decreases in departmental costs by saving detective man hours and reducing the need for added personnel.

Want to learn more about Advanced Recognition Solutions from NEC? Let us know and we would be happy to provide you with an overview from one of our subject matter experts.

NEC Corporation of America

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Six huge take-aways from the Federal Identity Forum in Washington, DC

People who know me will tell you that I’m an enthusiastic and optimistic person. It’s hard to get me down. If you see me at an industry event or tradeshow, I’m usually pumped up about something.

But even for me, this year’s Federal Identity Forum & Exposition (FedID 17), held September 12-14 in Washington, D.C., genuinely got me more excited for our industry than I’ve been in several years.

Formerly known as the Biometric Consortium Conference (BCC) and the Global Identity Summit (GIS) , the newly branded FedID is the U.S. federal government’s primary outreach and collaboration-building event with the worldwide identity community. The event has evolved over the years through a post-9/11 biometric boom to a slowdown in deployments, and now to a time when our industry is once again seeing a greater push toward mass adoption of identity matching technology.

NEC showcased its world-class biometrics solutions for multiple federal audiences and departments. We spanned a wide range of biometric technology, including fingerprint, face recognition, video surveillance and analysis, multimodal biometric enrollment, mobile fingerprint and forensic analysis. Where biometric identification is concerned, we had something for everyone.

This brings me to a list of favorites I’m calling the “six huge take-aways from FedID 17.” Here we go.

  1. Face is the Future – Nearly everyone who came to our booth wanted to see NeoFace Express, which is our rapid-access face recognition system. Express is currently being tested at major airports by U.S. Customers and Border Protection for the Department of Homeland Security’s Biometric Exit pilot program. Biometric Exit is the federal government’s way of tracking outgoing international travelers so that U.S. officials can get a better picture of how many non-Americans are overstaying their travel visas.Conversations I had with people who saw the demo agreed that face recognition, when executed with a high degree of accuracy and precision, is the security technology of the immediate future. It’s fast and frictionless, it’s accurate, and it can help increase efficiency in airports where we all agree that faster queuing times are a good thing. That makes me excited.

  2. Apple’s Face ID is a Victory for the Identity Industry – Apple’s big fall product launch event coincided with the first day of FedID 17, and as I said in my panel talk that same day, I think the Apple iPhone X Face ID feature is going to be great for our industry. Assuming the technology typically works as well as it did the second time Apple’s Phil Schiller attempted to demo the feature, and I assume it will, people will ultimately adopt face recognition as a lawful and acceptable security form. As my friend Peter O’Neill at FindBiometrics pointed out, our industry saw a huge push in fingerprint ID acceptance when the Touch ID scanner was introduced on the iPhone 5S. Expect iPhone X to do the same for face.

  3. Robust Testing is Critical – In most of the conversations I had about face recognition at FedID, there typically came a time when someone said of face recognition, “Yes, I agree, but it’s got to work.” It seems like an obvious statement, but those of us in the industry can all agree that achieving a high degree of accuracy and performance for a face recognition algorithm takes a lot of hard work, investment, and patience. Federal officials require that any technology they use for biometric identity is accurate and responsive enough to return a match in less than 2 seconds, often times milliseconds. Lucky for NEC, our NeoFace algorithm is the consistent top performer in performance testing by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

  4. Humans Are Important – Perhaps this is another obvious statement, but there are actually two ways that human intervention is absolutely integral to the success of any identity matching technology. After all, we are talking about protecting people’s personal freedoms at multiple levels here.For starters, face recognition and today’s more advanced identity matching algorithms are actually a form of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and they must be taught how to identify people in a wide array of conditions. That means we (the humans) have to teach it (the technology) about adverse lighting conditions, a wide diversity in facial features, shades, anomalies and shapes, odd capture angles, and many other factors, in order to achieve a higher degree of matching accuracy. We know this from more than 40 years of experience in developing identity matching technology.

    Secondly, any biometric technology, whether it’s fingerprint, iris or face recognition, will never be 100 percent accurate all of the time. Having a living, breathing, well-trained human being present to handle exceptions and errors in any automated identity matching process is critical to the long-term success of biometric technology. Just as fingerprinting has been around for more than 100 years in law enforcement, responsible and ethical use by humans will be key for biometric identity matching to be around for the next 100.

  5. Federal Officials are Moving Ahead – Obviously the world is not yet fully on-board with using biometric identity matching at every major checkpoint or public event, but it’s clear to me that the federal government is headed toward mass adoption at multiple levels. From the CBP Biometric Exit pilots to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s use of handheld fingerprint scanners and beyond, we haven’t seen the last of biometrics being deployed in our daily lives.

  6. Privacy is Important – It’s hard to talk about identity without addressing privacy in the same breath, and that was certainly the case in most of my conversations at FedID. People generally have concerns about privacy, specifically how long the government can retain biometric data for U.S. citizens and who will have access to your biometric data. Those conversations are playing out at the federal policy level as we speak. Every indication I’m seeing is that the policy discussions will not change the fact that face recognition is an extremely secure and convenient way to verify a person’s identity. Every face is different, and with the latest advances it has become very hard to fool the technology. No security or authentication technology is 100-percent perfect, but with great technology and the hard work of diligent humans, our face recognition comes pretty darn close.

It’s an exciting time to be in our industry. I look forward to continuing the healthy dialog and debate as we get closer to mass adoption within the federal government.

 

NEC Corporation of America

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Biometrics Enhances LPGA Fan Experience

Ladies Pro Golf Association (LPGA) founded in 1950 is a premier professional women’s sports association that provides programs, instruction, tournament play, as well as charitable events through its foundation.

Recently, at the ANA Inspiration Tournament in Palm Springs, California, the LPGA and NEC worked together to pilot a program that provided facial recognition solutions for safety and security of its fans, players, and tournament staff. The pilot also provided a unique VIP experience for its media and other credentialed patrons to create frictionless entry into various secured environments around the golf course.

Player, fan safety and a pleasurable customer experience are of the utmost importance to the LPGA, which prides itself on providing a safe, fun, family friendly event. To help ensure this experience during the ANA Inspiration event the LPGA used NEC’s NeoFace Express rapid access solution to eliminate long wait times by accurately identifying media members, tournament staff all while keeping a watchful eye for known persons of interest to law enforcement by searching against state/local and national law enforcement databases to keep potential threats away by alerting the appropriate authorities.

.@LPGA eliminates long wait times by accurately identifying #VIP members and staff. #CX #Biometrics Click To Tweet

Take a moment to the watch the video below to learn more about how NEC’s facial recognition solution was leveraged at the tournament.


Want to learn more about Advanced Recognition Solutions from NEC? Let us know and we would be happy to provide you with an overview from one of our subject matter experts.

NEC Corporation of America

Learn more about NEC’s Advanced Recognition Solutions

Fill out the form, and we’ll have a solutions expert reach out to you.