Digital dissection: The software figures out the background of a scene and subtracts that to find people passing by.
Video processing software is most often used for security purposes today, says Jon Cropley, who researches video surveillance technology at IMS Research. Such software, for example, can alert security staff if someone climbs over a wall. Other companies offer software that can count the length of a checkout line and summon staff if a new register needs to be opened. But Cropley says Prism’s technology stands apart. “The established way of doing video content analysis requires dedicated hardware and cameras, and Prism doesn’t,” he says. “Their technology is based on the premise that security cameras are already installed in so many places.”
Cropley adds that using surveillance footage to give customers a preview of what a store or restaurant looks like inside is also a promising, if untested, idea. “A lot of customers use still images to see what a place is like, but if you want a real impression, you really want to see live video.”
Prism’s technology could also help companies like Groupon and Google shake up advertising for brick-and-mortar businesses. Online, it is easy to track whether people who click on an ad buy anything or become regular customers. Offline, many small businesses have struggled to find if offering big discounts via Groupon, for example, leads to more than a temporary surge of customers who will never come back.
“We can help them understand how what’s happening in the store is related to online concepts like Yelp reviews or online deals,” says Russell. “It’s like Google Analytics for the real world,” he adds, referring to the most widely used software for tracking and logging how people use websites. Prism can also draw on online sources of data such as Facebook or Foursquare check-ins to correlate online promotions or deals with real-world activity. This could tell a company if an online coupon led to more visitors to a store.