ALTHOUGH shopper traffic seems higher at a mall on the weekends, the actual sales of a retailer may not correspond with the footfall. This was the finding by Trakomatic Ltd for one of its clients. After following Trakomatic's recommendation of increasing internal manpower allocation on the weekends, the client's sales revenue rose 5 per cent in the following month.
Trakomatic is a company which provides data analysis in a user- friendly manner to its clients, who are mostly brick-and-mortar retailers. Using video analytics technology, it is able to extract information from video footage with the goal of achieving better business outcomes - whether it is optimising operational efficiency, benchmarking marketing campaigns, automating crowd management, or improving cost savings.
Streams of video footage from store cameras are analysed in real time and converted into data, which is immediately visualised on a dashboard that is assessed by the client. Sensors may also be installed on store shelves to measure the number of people who engage and interact with the products on the shelves. These help to examine if the business could be conducted more efficiently through product placement, manpower allocation or a change in location of the shop front altogether.
"Although the company's main target audience is retailers, the technology has other applications," says Trakomatic CEO and co-founder Allen Lin.
Trakomatic has secured a "Smart Campus" tender to roll out its analytics solution to several institutions, such as National University of Singapore (NUS). This equips students with the ability to check the extent of congestion in libraries or cafeterias across the campus. This also enables the school management to decide if they should open more facilities to better cater to students' needs.
Trakomatic also provided real- time data on the crowd build-up during the SG50 National Day Celebrations, allowing organisers to make informed decisions to ensure crowd safety.
The idea for making such information accessible is rooted in Mr Lin's personal experience from his university days. He recounted the days when he would climb up seven floors to the highest level in the NUS Central Library, but still could not find a spot. He yearned for a simple technology that could inform him of the availability of study spaces around campus, which could save him precious time for his revision.
Networking is very important even before starting up a business, says Mr Lin. After speaking to some contacts in the retail sector, he found that retailers have difficulty measuring the effectiveness of their business strategies, and strove to redress this issue.
However, the journey was not without difficulties. One example is the trial-and-error nature of a startup business. Given the small scale of his company at its inception in early 2013, Mr Lin found it difficult to launch a product that he was 100 per cent satisfied with - because of the lack of resources to conduct multiple tests on the prototype, unlike bigger corporations. This was exacerbated by his lack of experience, as Mr Lin co-founded the company right out of college.
He also felt challenged to change the perception of his clients, as he saw that they may be concerned about the credibility of his company and the reliability of his solutions. He mused: "Even if our technology is better, most clients prefer to engage the services of larger companies because they are seen to be more credible, and refuse to give us a chance."
Despite these challenges, Trakomatic has grown tremendously in size and influence. From a small startup with just two staff (including himself), Trakomatic now has 16 employees. It has deployed in eight countries including Thailand, Australia and Russia, and is looking to set up a local representative office in Malaysia this year.
Mr Lin hopes that Trakomatic can eventually help store owners to the extent that a scene from the movie Minority Report will be a familiar sight: where retail assistants will be able to make product recommendations to customers from a digital screen, based on their past visits or by analysing purchasing habits of people of a similar demographic.
"When Tom Cruise walks into the store in Minority Report, the retail store is able to pull out the data and make recommendations. This is the future," says Mr Lin.