German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel, Forbes magazine’s “Most Powerful Woman in the World” eight years running and a driving force behind Europe’s alternative energy reform, visited NEC Corporation in Tokyo this month. Her purpose was to learn firsthand about NEC’s vision for the future in our newly established co-creation space called the “NEC Future Creation Hub.”
On February 5, NEC Chairman Dr. Nobuhiro Endo was honored, along with several other NEC executives and employees, to welcome Dr. Merkel as she was introduced the latest advanced technologies, including AI and biometric identification solutions.
The Chancellor exchanged dialogue with members of NEC about the balance of technological innovation with legal regulations, privacy protection, human rights and ethics as digitization and the use of data continue making advancements among society and people.
Click here to learn more about Dr. Merkel’s visit.
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.
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This week I am celebrating my sixth anniversary with NEC. I recall that my original trip to visit the Headquarters in Tokyo was postponed by the unfortunate events of the 2011 Tsunami and earthquake.
Since then, we have established our Center of Excellence in North America and extended our offering to U.S. Federal clients. We also introduced a number of products and services, including ground breaking cloud-based Identity as a Service (IDaas), and we solidified our position as the premier provider to Law Enforcement and public safety clients in the United States.
These days, rather than thinking about the past I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the future. A future where I see continued proliferation of biometrics use, increased emphasis on crime prevention and a convergence of “identity” with access management. Through advancements in data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), our biometrics technology can evolve from technology used to determine where people have been and what they may have done, to predict where people will go and what they will do.
In response to these emerging market trends, today I’m proud to announce that we have rebranded our former biometrics solutions division to NEC Advanced Recognition Systems. I believe that biometrics coupled with high-powered analytical engines can predict and positively alter our travel experiences providing easier access, shorter lines and improved utilization of resources; recognize patterns for real-time monitoring, threat assessment and escalation and through it all provide tools for improved planning and forecasting.
To underscore our mission and align our products and services the new Advanced Recognition Systems group will give emphasis to three key words: People, Patterns and Predictions.
People. Our primary mission is to serve citizens and the people who protect them. Whether keeping the public safe at home, supporting troops overseas, improving the experience of travelers, or providing the right identity at the right time, our advanced recognition systems supply trusted intelligence to help build safer and brighter communities.
Patterns. From fingerprint pattern recognition to arrangements of accessible data, sequences of critical information are everywhere—you just have to know where to look. Our cutting-edge advanced recognition systems can pinpoint valuable patterns for solving crime, strengthening national security, and identifying trends and efficiencies for tech-savvy businesses. All to help enable diverse missions and realize the possibilities.
Predictions. Our advanced recognition systems can transform the efficiency of your team. Instead of simply gathering and reporting data, our technologies analyze intelligence to predict public safety threats, alert agencies to emerging global concerns, pinpoint potential risks in high-traffic venues, and provide invaluable input to critical business decisions.
Our new name better aligns our extensive local and global capabilities in meeting the all-encompassing needs of our clients. Using our systems integration approach to the market we are committed to understanding our clients’ challenges first, and assist them with a full solution implementation in comparison to any specific biometric technology or tool.
While finding success in reaching these new markets, we remain committed to our roots and will continue to consistently provide high-quality, accurate solutions for government and public safety markets.
I’d like to thank everyone who has participated in NEC’s success in the past six years and who have also contributed to the study and launch of this new vision. I hope you’ll take a look around the new Web site and help us spread the word.