As we move beyond initial responses to the coronavirus and towards recovery, the focus must fall on adapting to the new reality. Our cities, workplaces, schools, homes, social spaces and shops will never be the same again.
The video industry, in particular, found itself well placed to support the immediate aftermath of the global lockdown by providing tools to ensure public safety, secure buildings remotely, and check adherence to social distancing rules. As organisations begin to reassure people that they are safe in their cities, video technology comes to the fore again. It is helping to manage overcrowding, monitor public health measures, promote touch-free access and keep people informed as they move around.
Looking back over the last months, three industries in particular bore the brunt of COVID-19, in several different ways – and used video to overcome this.
Logistics Under Pressure
The increased demand on supply chains such as healthcare and food needed immediate response, especially with panic buying in many regions. Sales of hand sanitiser in the UK, for example, rose by 255% in February as the COVID outbreak (and concerns about it) grew.
Innovative uses of video technology kept shipments running smoothly and mitigated the risk of theft or missing deliveries. Many companies turned to ACCR (Automatic Container Code Recognition) and RFID (Radio-frequency identification) to accurately track shipments in near real-time. This helped logistics companies remain on top of deliveries, especially as the supply chain grew more complex when supermarkets began sharing resources and delivery routes.
As these critical supply issues have largely been resolved, the technology employed during the crisis can be put to new uses. ACCR can proactively monitor supply chains to provide ample forewarning of delays. Likewise, video surveillance on-site can ensure only authorised personnel enter a warehouse and leave with shipments.
Challenges in Transport
Transport also found itself at the sharp end of the crisis. Non-essential travel was banned, with local police forces using ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) to identify out-of-town vehicles and issue fines. Over just one bank holiday weekend, the ANPR system used by Sussex Police (that oversees popular tourist spot Brighton) picked up more than 100 infringements.
Monitoring road traffic conditions as lockdown restrictions eased was also important, to maintain social distancing and forewarn of potential bottlenecks. Transport areas such as railway stations had to monitor for high footfall and potential overcrowding. With overseas travel limited, the UK experienced a ‘staycation’ boom with almost a quarter (24.9%) of adults stating that they prefer to holiday in the country until a vaccine is developed.
The silver lining, however, is that the technologies used during this time hold benefits long after the pandemic passes.
Using video to monitor footfall, driving and traffic from a central control room keeps staff at a safe distance, but not removed from on-site happenings. Video analytics that monitor for overcrowding can be repurposed to ensure an optimal passenger experience or to reduce traffic jams. It can automatically open and close traffic lanes in response to volume or to let an emergency vehicle through.
Retailers faced a mixed bag of COVID impact. Some experienced sharp rises in demand (in terms of products and online); others faced falling sales and the shutdown of physical stores.
For retailers with huge upswings in demand, safety in-store was a priority. Video analytics helped retailers to reduce the likelihood of unsafe crowding or bottlenecks. Body-worn video used by personnel managing outdoor queueing reduced the likelihood of difficult situations when customers were prompted to wait outside, adhere to social distancing or wear a face mask.
Meanwhile, stores that were forced to close their physical locations required remote security to secure unattended properties. Advances in video surveillance technology and video management systems (VMS) meant that most tasks, such as monitoring a site or carrying out maintenance and upgrades, could be done remotely during the crisis. This also kept security teams safe by keeping them off-site in a socially distanced, central control room.
Post-crisis, having a VMS to remotely monitor and automatically flag issues will make security teams more efficient and connected across multiple sites. Automation can complete tasks such as redirecting customers to a new checkout based on queue levels or alerting security of trespassing, theft and fire.
Keeping Cities Safe
Governments faced a significant challenge in controlling the virus’ spread. The concept of ‘safe cities’ took on a whole new context, encompassing not just public law, order and safety, but also health measures and infection control. Social distancing breaches had to be handled quickly to reduce the risk of local flare-ups and shutdowns, while keeping staff safe.
Video analytics help with crowd control and redirecting traffic into less busy areas. Integrated with digital signage, using such systems can reduce the need for frontline traffic control and automatically change redirections based on real-time video data.
The same technology can be used in the future, to provide clear oversight of vehicle and pedestrian traffic within public spaces. Video surveillance and analytics can help with ongoing public safety such as reducing crowding, anti-social behaviour and crime.
Integral to Operations
Video technology has shown its vital role in keeping businesses, premises and people safe. Today’s video solutions help leaders to become more responsive and agile with future challenges. Video data can keep them up-to-date with everything happening on-the-ground in their cities, stations, roads, supply chains and stores.
As we realise our new reality, we must move forward with the technology that will aid recovery. Video is part of this, underpinning operations, improving experiences, and supporting security.