When Pathr.ai needed to deliver data annotation and camera calibration at scale, the team brought in CloudFactory. This partnership provided the necessary scalable annotation solution without sacrificing vital product development time.
Pathr.ai™ is the industry’s first and only AI-powered spatial intelligence platform. It uses feeds from a company’s existing infrastructure—think surveillance cameras and sensors—to anonymously capture human behavior and interactions. Pathr.ai’s spatial intelligence turns that data into actionable insight that gives leaders an invaluable view into the way people and objects move and interact within physical spaces.
The insights help retailers improve sales and operations, reinvent customer experiences, prevent theft, manage the flow of people, and answer questions like these:
“Our tagline is, ‘You can learn a lot from a dot,’” says Pathr.ai’s Product Marketing Manager Nicole O’Keefe. “To simplify, we turn the people on camera feeds into dots. From the behavior and movement of those dots, you gain insights that connect to business decisions and solve operational problems.” As one small example of learning a lot from a dot, Pathr.ai is integrating real-time notifications to help employees quickly get to waiting customers so stores can capture sales rather than risk those customers walking away. “We’re inventing a whole new category in machine learning,” she says.
Head of Data Science Jason Sadowski, Ph.D., agrees. “We’re bringing the kinds of insights, analysis, and experimentation people are doing in online environments into the physical world,” he says. “As an example, take those long, snaking lines at the register. Where you put different products along that queue has an impact on the sales of those products. Our customers use the data we provide to benchmark and experiment in their spaces at scale across multiple locations and regions—something they can do without installing more equipment or constantly repositioning cameras.”
At its inception, Pathr.ai aspired to stand out in the computer vision, spatial intelligence, and retail AI fields by being flexible and delivering insights from existing cameras to customers in a matter of weeks while offering cost-effective pricing. But as the business grew, it became hard for the small team to manage annotation while also scaling and delivering high customer ROI.
“For one customer, for example, we have to build a dataset across, say, five cameras, making sure we have the correct annotations,” says Sadowski. “That time investment across many cameras and many locations and customers meant we wouldn’t have been able to spend time scaling, or developing and improving the product.”
At the top of its list of priorities, the Pathr.ai team was after three improvements:
To deliver high-quality analytics, the team needed help categorizing and labeling data captured by customer cameras. To offer quick calibration and data analytics, the team had to avoid extending deployment time beyond a few weeks—something Pathr.ai’s Head of Product Zoë Cayetano says would be a dealbreaker for most customers. “One of our differentiators is time to market,” she says. “We couldn’t take the time to do all of the annotations and camera calibrations in-house because it would have taken us months instead of weeks.” And that’s why the team turned to CloudFactory.
We’re able to service large, multi-location enterprises because of our partnership with CloudFactory. We wouldn’t have been able to scale the company and deploy spatial intelligence without that help, and we wouldn’t be where we are now.
Our relationship began in June 2020, with CloudFactory performing entrance counts and simple annotations for entrance analytics. As Pathr.ai continued to grow, the services CloudFactory provides expanded accordingly.
“When we started, we used CloudFactory’s data annotation to retrain our computer vision algorithms,” says Cayetano. “We then moved on to camera calibration, allowing us to expand our partnership together." Camera calibration, which involves creating one-to-one mappings between points on store video feeds to points on floorplans, turns videos into a format the Pathr.ai platform can use. Today, as Pathr.ai onboards new customers, CloudFactory performs custom camera calibrations to pinpoint camera locations on a floor plan and identify what each camera sees, information Pathr.ai then uses to project what the camera sees to a mapping of moving dots on a floor plan.
CloudFactory also provides data annotation for Pathr.ai’s analytics, which are based on dots moving on floor plans, such as customers entering the store, heading to specialty departments, or browsing through the jewelry cases. In this process, CloudFactory annotates videos for Pathr.ai’s validation of analytics.
And because Pathr.ai designs custom analytics to help customers with the decisions and optimizations each is after, CloudFactory also labels images and video footage to show traffic patterns, fitting-room entrances, check-out queues, customer interactions, and people tracking across multiple cameras throughout a space. Pathr.ai then uses this information to train its in-house models and build up better person detectors.
“We appreciate CloudFactory’s flexibility, whether it’s expanding services beyond annotation or downsizing or upscaling in a matter of days,” says Cayetano. “It’s been a game-changer. If we sign a deal with an enterprise customer and need to deploy into hundreds, if not thousands, of locations, CloudFactory scales up right away based on the number of hours we need.”
Sadowski says he, too, appreciates the ability to shift to new use cases and annotation types, as well as the ability to shift tools. “We started off doing camera calibration with one in-house tool, and then we shifted over to another,” he says. “CloudFactory moved seamlessly across those two tools, which was very helpful to us.”
We have this entire camera calibration step that’s custom to us. We also have custom annotations for event detection. CloudFactory was able to step in and train themselves. The ability to maintain accurate analytics at scale is really the biggest competitive advantage that CloudFactory offers us.
Today, thanks to the CloudFactory partnership, Pathr.ai continues to meet its aggressive customer delivery window. “With CloudFactory’s help, we’ve achieved less than a one month time to market,” says O’Keefe. “And by month four, our customers achieve time to value, along with a 10x to 20x ROI.”
The team is also happy with CloudFactory’s ability to scale. “Our computer vision stack processes video for every camera at every customer location, which means 30 or so simultaneous video streams where people need to be turned into dots we can do our analyses on,” says Sadowski. “CloudFactory’s work allows us to scale that process and roll it out to multiple locations for each customer.”
Time savings is another result Sadowski and his team of data scientists applaud. “We 100% save an enormous amount of time by using CloudFactory’s services,” he says. “When I think about those initial customer engagements, we have four to five videos with multiple hours each. For computer vision annotations, we usually do a broader suite of maybe 10 to 15 videos. CloudFactory labels where people are in each video and, in most cases, maintains IDs across a video. And then there’s the custom calibration, which we do at every location for every customer—you’re looking at least 30,000 different images per customer. And CloudFactory does it all in a very short time frame, which is fantastic.”
And the best part? The CloudFactory–Pathr.ai partnership enables Pathr.ai’s customers—even large, multi-location enterprises—to quickly roll out new initiatives and strategies across multiple locations, creating best practices playbooks for stores, regions, or entire organizations. “It feels great working with CloudFactory,” says Sadowski. “You give us the ability to maintain accurate analytics at scale, which in turn helps our customers. It’s the biggest competitive advantage CloudFactory gives us.”
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