New technology from a Kanata-based software firm literally gives managers of banks, retail outlets, restaurants and other businesses the “green light” to let in more customers without exceeding capacity limits imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
March Networks launched the new system – which combines the company’s existing video surveillance technology with sensors that detect when people enter and leave a designated area – earlier this month.
The software automatically keeps track of the number of people in a given space in real time, displaying the data on a colour-coded monitor that’s green when there’s room for customers and turns red when a room is over capacity and sends a text alert to in-store officials. Data from multiple sites, including the associated surveillance video, can be viewed from a central location.
March CEO Peter Strom said his R&D staff came up with the idea after figuring there had to be an easier way to measure capacity than having someone stand at the front door and do a manual count.
“We figured very quickly that using some of our video analytics and some other IoT sensors, we can actually automate a lot of that,” Strom said.
Thermal cameras can also be integrated into the system that will automatically take each customer’s temperature and alert employees when someone who might have a fever is approaching the store, sending an email with a video snapshot of the person who triggered the warning. The company is already working on adding new features such as artificial intelligence technology that can detect whether a person is wearing a mask.
Strom said the product quickly captured the attention of March’s clients. A major supermarket chain in Italy is rolling out the product in more than 150 stores, and the system is also being tested at a number of banks in the United States.
“The phones have been ringing quite a bit,” the CEO said.
Founded in 2000, March Networks started out providing video surveillance for large banks and retailers such as Walmart. Today, the 285-person firm uses big-data analytics to extract deeper insights into the information captured on those surveillance systems, such as tracking in-store customer flow and detecting potential fraud at financial institutions.
The company recently expanded into the burgeoning cannabis market, launching a solution to help pot producers track the growth and sale of their plants. The groundbreaking technology earned March Networks a 2019 Best Ottawa Business Award.
After posting record sales in 2019, March Networks was on pace for another big year in 2020 before the pandemic hit. Strom said growth stalled in April and May as many of the firm’s clients were forced to close their doors and installers of its technology were furloughed.
But he said June’s results have been promising, adding he expects sales to bounce back quickly as the new system gains more market traction. March has continued to hire new employees through the pandemic as it works on adding new technology to its pipeline, Strom added.
“We came out of (the lockdown) in pretty good shape and now we’re starting to see an uptick in business again,” he said. “We think that … we’re going to come out of this probably much stronger than a lot of our competitors will.”