How to leverage data and unlock meaningful insight
We know collaboration improves outcomes. In a business context, working collaboratively promotes innovation and agility while improving stakeholder participation and employee engagement. It is not always easy, but collaboration works. And, of course, the benefits of collaboration are not limited to the realm of people.
Getting data to collaborate can be vital for gaining previously unimagined understanding. When we bring datasets from disparate sources together into a single pool, we make it possible to pull insights from that data and discover educational relationships.
But what is data collaboration?
Data collaboration is the process of analyzing isolated datasets to gain accumulated insight. Although we talk in terms of ‘sharing’ information, the reality is, in order for multiple groups to participate in data collaboration, we must create environments where disparate parties can contribute data securely without releasing ownership. In such cases, each collaborator always keeps control of their data.
How are retailers using data collaboration to add value?
Using a retail store example, we know that combining access control, heat maps, and point of sale (POS) data can provide a glimpse into customer activity in relation to a location’s conversion rates. This can be incredibly meaningful for a brick and mortar store as it tries to keep pace with online giants, which can be a big challenge for today’s retailers.
After all, online retailers like Amazon are able to tailor the shopping experience based on a consumer’s previous actions. Because they can track page lingering, browsing, and the amount of time an item stays in a shopping cart before being purchased, it might seem impossible for brick and mortar stores to keep up. But, of course, it’s not. When brick and mortar stores gather as much of their own data as they can and use it to improve customer experience, they can absolutely stay competitive. Increased data analysis, we’re seeing, is part of the equation for shifting the focus in retail from buying to shopping.
Brick and mortar retailers used to rely heavily on purpose-driven customers who had a clear goal that led them in and out of stores quickly. Now, these retailers are paying greater attention to shoppers who are more careful with their choices and take more time to decide. These shoppers respond positively to improved experiences that include better movement through spaces and service personnel who appear just when you need their input.
This paradigm shift is so powerful that we’re seeing retailers, particularly in shopping malls and other concentrated areas, work with their competition towards a common goal by sharing information. In addition to generating more impactful insights for individual businesses, the significant depth of understanding that can now be achieved through data analysis is also helping break down traditional silos of competition. This depth of data can help to drive collaboration by allowing brick and mortar competitors to work together to promote the benefits of in-store shopping over the online experience. As with collaboration between stakeholders, data collaboration in retail is helping create value and improve business.
Extending benefits through innovative partnerships: bike-sharing and urban planning
It’s not just retailers that are sharing information with previously unheard-of-partners. If your city is lucky enough to have a public bike-sharing system, even non-cyclists may benefit from it. Bike-sharing programs are now starting to share the geolocation data they’re collecting with municipalities. Local governments can then use this data to develop action plans to benefit the areas that cyclists frequent. These can range from more lighting and pavement repair to improved experiences in neighborhoods that see a lot of bike traffic.
These benefits are not without their challenges. From my perspective, there are two. The first is how to get the data to come together, and the second is how to make data controllers comfortable with the idea of sharing their valuable information. Interestingly, the solution to both of these is having the right technology for the job. And the security sector is helping to pave the way.
Unifying data in a physical security context
By its very nature, the security industry has been resistant to the idea of collaboration. For us, everything was about locking things down and reducing risk through containment or restricted silos of access. Sharing information goes against our training. But data collaboration has yielded tremendous opportunity and has allowed us to actually increase security.
The key is to work with unified platforms that allow for true collaboration. At Genetec, we have unified our video management, access control, and automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) systems with 3rd party applications and outside datasets. But what does this mean in the real world?
Right now, Genetec Mission Control™, our collaborative decision management (CDM) system, is helping organizations efficiently manage their security resources by determining and qualifying dispatchable incidents for operators. This means that Mission Control works in real-time to automatically analyze data being received from different security systems, including their devices and sensors, to determine whether security personnel should be sent to investigate.
Working with a platform that does not unify data input means that you have no choice but to send personnel to investigate every single alarm. At best, this can be incredibly expensive. At worst, the frustration of many false alarms can cause security personnel to turn sensors off or ignore alarms when they come in.
If, however, you are working with a unified platform like Genetec Security Center that combines access control with video surveillance, motion detection, and ALPR and includes a CDM, the system synthesizes the data to a decision point and determines whether to issue a request for security personnel. When the system detects a forced door that was preceded by an unauthorized vehicle in the lot and can confirm the activity with live video, Mission Control automatically correlates data and qualifies the incident as dispatchable. This optimizes your use of resources because, instead of operators spending their time interpreting incoming data and making decisions about possible incidents, your system does it for you. This frees operators to focus their attention on other tasks.
Mission Control correlates data from Security Center and other sensors, processing that data through pre-defined business logic, to provide actionable information. When your physical security system supports decision making, it allows personnel to focus on safety rather than extrapolative understanding. In other words, it helps keep your personnel from wasting cycles on things that can be done by your system.
The next part of the equation is how to collaborate securely.
Secure data collaboration is the future
Given how organizations feel about their data—they almost never say the data—it is no surprise that they want to deploy solutions that keep their data secure. For data collaboration to take place, both within the security sector and elsewhere, we must be able to provide data privacy as well as system security.
Because Mission Control is unified with Security Center, data that comes in is stripped of its personally identifiable information. Through our privacy protector, the video management software (VMS) in Security Center automatically anonymizes video streams. This allows you to share video without putting private information at risk.
But anonymizing video is just one step when sharing data with other organizations or stakeholders. You don’t want to be in a situation where sharing your data makes your systems vulnerable or gives others a larger view of your operations than you want.
Our experience developing solutions that allow disparate agencies and other entities to allocate access to information is vital. We know firsthand the profound impact this can have not only on the ability to share data, but also on the willingness to do so. The future of data collaboration through Mission Control will likewise benefit from this experience and our expertise.
This will be especially important as we continue to evolve the capabilities offered through Mission Control via 3rd party applications. By working with outside applications safely and securely, our solutions will be able to provide a more holistic view of environments in the service of creating an ever-increasing level of context for operators and analysts across security and operational departments.
After all, when we put information from disparate sources together, we can achieve a stronger, more defined results. Mission Control is already helping us bring data together effectively. Our vision is that it will allow for deeper collaboration that will provide greater cost-benefits to our customers and their communities.