Kroger, eInfochips showcase 'Retail Site Intelligence' solution at ISC West

While many retailers look to the security industry to provide them with the latest cutting-edge technology, one grocery chain has decided to take an active role in actually helping to develop a new solution that spans both security and store operations. This week at ISC West, global product engineering company eInfochips and The Kroger Co. launched a new enterprise IT architecture dubbed “Retail Site Intelligence” or RSI for short. The introduction of the RSI architecture, which also features its own tailor-made video management system called Vigil360, is the culmination of two years of collaboration between the companies.

According to Dhaval Shah, a security and surveillance product manager at eInfochips, RSI is a unified system that not only looks at store security and surveillance, but also things such as operational efficiency, workforce management and customer experience.

“If you look at the products that we have, we have a video management software which is the core of surveillance at the stores and this is (intellectual property) that is owned by eInfochips and that is a customizable, white label product,” said Shah. “When we give it to our customers, we add features based on their specific environment requirements. It’s not just a standard, off-the-shelf VMS; it is something that has been customized, in this case, for retail deployments.”

 Although eInfochips isn’t necessarily a household name when it comes video management, Shah said the company has extensive experience building VMS solutions for some of the largest companies in the world.

“The joke that goes around in the company is that we are the best kept secret in town,” added Shah. “If you look at our history in security and surveillance products, we have done a lot of projects for Fortune 100 companies. Often, because of our arrangements (with companies) we’re not able to showcase what we do.”

Dion Perkins, engineering manager for Kroger, said that the RSI platform is already in hundreds of Kroger stores and that they are continuing to install it in more locations each week. Perkins said that management has had a “positive outlook” on the technology based on the results they’ve seen from the roll out thus far.

“There was a technology need in our stores that only had single point solutions available.  Kroger started looking for partners that could help us build a system that would solve many problems Retailers face today,” said Perkins. “There were many difficult challenges along the way. Developing the solution wasn’t easy, but we are excited about the results.”

Among the benefits that Kroger has seen as a result of deploying the RSI solution is a reduction in the purchase and installation of copper wire in their stores. “The cabling for installing this type of infrastructure is more expensive than the equipment itself,” Perkins explained. “Having a multi-function IP camera/AP includes many possible projects all using the same infrastructure investments.”

Shah said that Kroger has always been a leader in bringing new technology into the retail vertical and that they wanted a partner on this project who could turn their idea into a real product. “They really wanted a solution that would not only be a security or loss prevention tool, but would generate a lot of big data for analytics with Internet-of-Things technologies and that is how we got involved with them,” Shah continued.

“The VMS and camera system was designed by retailers for retailers. Loss Prevention and operations are both actively helping fine tune the systems and we feel our LP and operations departments are the top of their professions.  Their active participation with the continued development of the RSI product suite will keep the system on the cutting edge for years to come,” added Perkins. “The customer experience is the main driver for Kroger and, therefore, RSI.  The reduction in cost of old school license fees and with the abilities of this multi-function device gives our departments several advantages in giving the best customer experience possible when it comes to customer service.”

At ISC West, the companies will be demonstrating RSI products and applications including a new handheld barcode scanner used by shoppers and a loss prevention application using the world’s first video camera, which serves as both a camera and ZigBee access point. The camera is easily integrated into a store’s IP backbone for better network scalability and support.

According to Shah, the ZigBee wireless communications protocol acts as an “information medium” for everything on the store floor that generates data.

Commercial versions of the RSI solutions being piloted by Kroger will be available later in 2014 with support and customization services delivered globally. Shah said that the RSI architecture will be taken to market by Wincor Nixdorf, a provider of IT solutions and services to the retail industry.

“Retail Site Intelligence in an exciting new frontier for retail business solutions,” Brian Baker, vice president, professional services at Wincor Nixdorf said in a statement. “As always, our solutions will represent world-class customization, integration, deployment and support services.”

The companies will be demonstrating the RSI video management solution in booth #6141 at this week’s show. Retailers who want to conduct a pilot run of an RSI solution can register at www.retail-site-intelligence.com.

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