Computer Vision is Driving Huge ROI for Businesses

By Liz Oz • Mar 01, 2022

software engineer using computer vision platform alwaysAI

From facial recognition algorithms used in security software to product inspection tools used in quality assurance, computer vision is everywhere. Immersed in the applications that touch our daily lives, computer vision is a sub-discipline of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Undoubtedly, this technology is changing the way business is done.

The reason for the booming interest in computer vision is clear: it can directly grow businesses’ ROI. Whether it's improving productivity, enforcing compliance, reducing operating costs, enabling predictive maintenance, streamlining traffic flow, or keeping inventory shelves stocked, computer vision improves business efficiency. Proper implementation carries some startup costs, but computer vision integration is proving itself to be invaluable in the 21st century.

 
What is Computer Vision?

Before you can understand the benefits and costs of computer vision, it helps to know a bit about how the technology works. 

Simply put, computer vision is how a device, application, or platform can be programmed to recognize and process visual data. Just as humans learn to identify and make conclusions about images through real-world practice, computer vision requires data inputs to "teach" a program what objects are and how to respond accordingly. The patterns detected by computers and humans to identify an image may be different, but both require a large number of sample images. These images are then stored and processed so that accurate inferences on images can be made.

Computer Vision and ROI: Benefits

A study done by the McKinsey Company found that the primary benefit of AI was enhancing revenue generation, and the same holds true for CV. Not only does it help reduce costs, but computer vision also drives great productivity and process efficiency. It provides real-time data insights, helping businesses tailor their offerings to consumer preferences. These are just a few of the benefits developers and executives are leveraging when they integrate CV into their operations.

Working Smarter

AI and ML help computers work smarter, and computer vision is the sensory input that makes that possible. Computers have historically outperformed humans at repetitive, monotonous tasks requiring no creativity or critical thinking, but CV changes that dynamic. 

With image processing sensors and software, CV enables machines to make inferences about their environment based on past experiences they've been programmed to learn. The result is robots that are superior not only at performing repetitive tasks, but also at identifying flaws, processing repetitive visual metadata, and adapting to irregularities with precision and efficiency. 

For example, the agricultural industry used to rely solely on humans to inspect crops and weed out defective produce from their yield. Only a human could find faults like bruises, mold, or disease, and stop produce from passing through to the consumer — until now. Machines equipped with CV can identify such irregularities and make decisions on whether the product is suitable for selling — and they can do it faster than humans. 

How does that translate into ROI? After incurring initial startup costs, companies find that their CV machines are not only able to perform manual tasks, but also jobs that were once reserved for humans at a fraction of the cost. This frees up human talent for tasks requiring greater creativity and can lead to productivity increases like 24-hour production and fully automated manufacturing floors.

Data Collection

One of the primary revenue drivers of CV applications is collecting data in real time. A good portion of computer vision applications are run on the edge where data is processed and inferenced at the periphery of a network. This makes rapid data collection more achievable and removes the lag time between noticing customer trends and responding to them. 

For instance, a manufacturer or retailer may be required to have their inventory shelves stocked with different items based on seasonality, buying trends, and a host of other factors. CV-equipped devices can scan inventory shelves faster than humans, helping suppliers manage their inventory through real-time updates on when certain items should be ordered.

Computer vision also enables retailers to personalize a customer’s shopping experience the moment they walk through the door. By identifying purchasing trends across certain demographics, product recommendations and more relevant sales can be made. High-speed data collection also helps retailers reduce labor costs by scheduling employees at peak traffic time and helps them quickly adapt to emerging trends. 

CV rapid data collection boosts ROI by making companies more flexible, relevant, and anticipatory, offering the kind of experience that keeps consumers coming back for more. 

Compliance and Security

Compliance violations and security threats quickly erode profitability. Regulatory compliance violations can result in costly fines. Security breaches can result in stolen intellectual property, compromised sensitive data, a negative reputation, and worst-case scenario, even the loss of human life.

Computer vision can mitigate these threats. Here's how:

  • Regulatory compliance can be enforced with computer vision by ensuring that employees are following proper safety protocol. One example is the construction industry, where employees must abide by certain OSHA standards and wear PPE to avoid costly fines.
  • Preventative maintenance allows you to reduce waste, monitor assets in real-time, and take action before something breaks down or damage is made.
  • Sensitive data like personal health information (PHI) or trade secrets are often stored in physical locations like charts and files. Computer vision can oversee which employees handle these physical documents, keeping valuable knowledge secure. 
  • Of all the profitability risks, a negative reputation may be the most costly. From poor customer service to unsafe environments, customers won't give their business to companies they don't trust. CV provides the security to earn customer confidence.

The heightened security CV brings to the table is a key ROI driver. Applications ranging from biometric security to weapon spotting to automating vehicles for safer rides are some of the many ways computer vision keeps customers, employees, and assets safe and secure.

Which Industries Have Seen Computer Vision Drive ROI the Most?

Now that the foundation has been laid for how computer vision boosts ROI, here's a more specific look at the industries profiting from CV.

Manufacturing

The rise of Industry 4.0 and IoT have led to more connectivity and efficiency than ever before. CV applications contribute to device communication by monitoring equipment to make sure it's operational. This makes predictive maintenance and quality assurance easier to achieve. 

Transportation

Future cities will need to renovate their infrastructure with innovative transportation solutions. CV apps make ride-sharing possible by monitoring in-cabin behaviors and eliminating distractions. Micromobility options like scooters and e-rides can be governed by cameras watching the road. 

Alternative Vehicles

Micromobility typically covers the first and last mile of urban commute, but CV bridges the gap in between. A number of automated vehicles powered by CV already exist  — and defective parts can be removed upstream to build better rides.

Retail

From grocery stores to quick-service restaurants (QSR) to brick-and-mortar retail stores, the collection and analytics enabled by CV let physical stores stock their shelves faster and with the most desirable products. This is a necessary advantage as brick-and-mortar retailers face increasing pressure from online sites.

Other industries seeing a paradigm shift from CV integration are aerospace, construction, and commercial real estate. The benefits have been the same: higher productivity, greater intelligence, reduced waste, and a larger ROI.

Computer Vision and ROI: Costs

Increased productivity, faster data collection, and greater security are a few of the benefits of computer vision. But these benefits don’t come without a cost. 

CV algorithms are highly advanced, and they require a great deal of technical expertise to implement effectively. They also involve cloud or edge computing to store the images they see. Oftentimes, CV solutions are more applicable to certain industries than others. That doesn't mean that CV implementation is out of reach for smaller businesses; it just means that companies must be careful when they decide how to deploy their CV tech. 

The cost of implementing CV depends on a number of key factors:

  • What is the application you want to create? (ie. manufacturing, retail, security)
  • How many edge devices do you plan to deploy the application to? 
  • How often is the application going to run?
  • Are you going to run the application on the edge or cloud, or hybrid?
  • How often do you plan to make changes to the application?

Consultant, In-house, or Platform? 

The costs that must be considered during CV implementation vary according to the mode of development. There are three basic modes that companies can choose from in-house, consultant, or platform. In-house development requires greater equipment and staffing costs but can be a good way to get the custom solution you need. Hiring a consultant takes the burden of development off companies' shoulders, but solutions may be more standardized and customer serviceability may vary. 

The third option is to use a platform like alwaysAI that specializes in delivering custom computer vision solutions. Platforms like alwaysAI offer industry-specific CV solutions without the complexities of in-house maintenance. They reduce overhead costs and speed up implementation, helping companies quickly gain higher ROI from CV integration. Here's a table to help you compare the differences.

Costs to Implement CV: Example use case of a retailer with five stores and two cameras per location

costs to implement computer vision comparison between in-house, consultant, and alwaysAI

In-house CV implementation means high resource and labor costs but allows for a high degree of customization. On the opposite end, hiring a consultant removes the burden of in-house development, but can tie customers' hands by offering inflexible solutions. alwaysAI brings the best of both worlds by creating CV solutions that are easy to implement - offering quality technical support, and delivering solutions on low-code platforms built for the edge.

Boost ROI with alwaysAI

Retail and micromobility businesses relying heavily on customer interaction can expect a 10% rise in revenue after adding computer vision to their stack. Other sectors like manufacturing and construction are witnessing a 10–15% cost reduction when they implement CV tech. A McKinsey study reports that some industry leaders have derived more than 20% of their revenue generation from computer vision. With such clear ROI benefits, can companies afford to not take advantage of CV? 

alwaysAI helps companies leverage computer vision for these ROI benefits. Our comprehensive CV platform offers an efficient solution composed of 4 simple parts: models, APIs, edge deployment, and analytics. Contact us today for a free demo to get started!

By Liz Oz • Mar 01, 2022

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