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January 25, 2024


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The future of cargo is visible: Driving digital transformation with video insights

Axis Communications’ Graham Swallow explains the evolving role of today’s network cameras including a safer workforce, more efficient package processing, and, critically, business intelligence like never before.

Graham Swallow, Business Development Manager at Axis Communications

The road back from the Covid-19 pandemic has been a rocky one for the cargo and logistics sectors. Whether relieving pressures to become more sustainable as global economies eye recovery, seeking solutions to labour scarcity, or evolving business models to adapt to changing customer expectations, the automation and efficiency of new technologies will be key. Digital transformation, therefore, should be right at the top of every company’s to-do list.

Successful digital transformation hinges on universal integration and lateral thinking. Individual digitisation projects may provide piecemeal improvements, but uniting systems into a single interconnected entity vastly increases the scale and quality of potential upgrades. Look beyond the prescribed use case of every component within those systems, and everything can be a sensor.

Network video cameras, for instance, are much more than just an essential part of a company’s security infrastructure. Digital video is an extraordinary source of data, and today’s cameras are blessed with incredible on-board processing power and connectivity. When wedded to an open IT architecture built to facilitate ease of integration, a world of smarter possibilities awaits.

If a camera can see it, systems can act upon it

The cargo industry must serve many masters, all of which are experiencing their own turmoil. The public’s continued shift away from the high street, for example, sees it placing higher pace and accuracy demands on door-to-door provision. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers are still dealing with the slow regeneration of the supply chain, a problem they often turn to cargo companies to solve. Big or small, every customer’s choice of distribution solution will be directly influenced by the level of data and detail they’re offered.

There may be no stronger source of data than a camera. While network cameras are synonymous with security, their potential application goes far beyond surveillance. Cameras do not have to take a security role at all – integrate a camera into production systems, and it can be used to quickly and efficiently analyse operational data to optimise processes, detect serial numbers of products as they pass in order to trigger downstream label printing or warehousing systems, or constantly monitor for potential failures in automated systems.

Or, attach the right camera to a crane hook, and operators will benefit from greater accuracy and efficiency when loading and unloading containers, even in low-light conditions – enabling additional productivity even when environmental conditions would previously have prevented a crane’s use.

Network cameras allow cargo and logistics businesses to push further. Cargo is, after all, a puzzle to be solved through advanced business intelligence, and the business which can solve that puzzle in the most creative and intelligent way stands to benefit from the kind of proactive logistics and greater operational efficiency which customers up and down the chain demand.

System integration to benefit logistics

As convenience and speed make online shopping an increasingly attractive option for consumers, logistics operators are under increasing pressure to process orders and dispatch goods quickly and efficiently. Complaints about missing items can effectively derail the logistics process, forcing staff and managers to spend time on investigations, and cutting into profits if not enough hard evidence is available to prevent a refund.

Building state-of-the-art business intelligence around cameras, linking video of picking and packing processes to specific data, creates a chain of evidence that proves the accuracy of order fulfilment and distribution. Businesses which have employed such systems have seen time spent on order-related questions drop by 70% and, due to improved visual insights and evidence from AI and video analytics, their error KPIs have been improved by 50%. The solution ensures full transparency of processes, including the tracking of all orders, resulting in a higher level of customer satisfaction.

Protecting the workforce with video technology

Security, is, of course, the obvious application, and today’s cameras can provide a greater level of control and sensitivity than ever before. As package processing moves away from manual monitoring and data entry to automated systems, high-resolution cameras help to maintain that security edge by highlighting issues in real time.

Automated image analysis enables wider coverage to be employed while placing narrower demands on security personnel. Low-bandwidth video protocols and on-board processing lead to reduced load on cloud or local servers, and today’s IP cameras have also greatly reduced their power draw.

Cameras acting as sensors with onboard analytics can intelligently monitor workforce credentials, for example, whether qualified workers are wearing safety headgear from the moment they enter a hazardous location, or identifying unauthorised (and therefore non-inducted) personnel seeking entry into a controlled zone using the entry credentials of a colluding employee to share the hours.

People-counting analytics can also record the workers present and determine the number, if any, that are not wearing appropriate PPE. All these scenarios pose very real threats not only to the individuals concerned but also others operating in the area. In response, an announcement could be triggered through an IP speaker to remind operatives of the correct protocols, with an alert sent to management for non-compliance.

While it might sound far-fetched, this technology is here today. Cameras with onboard object-analytics capabilities can be trained on data depicting a wide range of business-relevant scenarios so that information from any given scene can be compared against learned rules. A camera that detects an object coming into the field of view will be able to firstly tell that it is an object, and secondly, differentiate between, for example, a person or a vehicle by comparing the scene against thousands of stored images. And the more data that is available, the smarter the analytics will become.

Discovering new efficiencies through advanced data

PhotoStock-VideoSurveillanceCameras-CCTV-23The potential for improvements is not limited to the human space. A camera might, for instance, monitor critical systems and processing lines to highlight temperature changes, allowing faults to be predicted before they happen, eliminating costly downtime, ensuring lines are running efficiently, and even detecting the early signs of an outbreak of fire.

Ease of deployment and integration means cameras can also be employed on a more granular scale, keeping a digital eye on otherwise difficult-to-access equipment. Video data can help identify situational trends, build predictive models, and improve business-wide efficiency.

Cameras can be deployed quickly in place of potentially complex networks of discrete sensors – or work in tandem with granular sensor data, adding context overlaid on video streams to supply immediate insight. Video can also help the introduction of novel functions, allowing one’s security package to add immediate value to digital transformation efforts without incurring further installation costs.

Creating a data edge over the competition

Digital transformation offers the cargo and logistics sectors a bright future, and every major player should be paving the path to that future right now. The digital integration of siloed systems reveals many opportunities to reduce costs and increase precision. Manual processes can be replaced with slick, automated systems which reduce errors and save considerable processing time.

Moreover, integration with stakeholders is, within fully digital systems, both simpler to achieve and far more efficient. The transparency and end-to-end visibility provided by an integrated system offers customers the experience they have come to expect – and also provides an audit trail which ensures the physical processes of one’s distribution network run as cleanly as possible.

Video analytics have become a crucial part of knowing one’s business. Use them cleverly and they lead to a smarter, safer workforce, more efficient processing, faster deliveries and distribution, and the ability to build an edge for your business that others simply do not have.

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Discover the latest developments in the rapidly-evolving video surveillance sector by downloading the 2023 Video Surveillance Report. Over 500 responses to our survey, which come from integrators to consultants and heads of security, inform our analysis of the latest trends including AI, the state of the video surveillance market, uptake of the cloud, and the wider economic and geopolitical events impacting the sector!

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