NEC Launches Retail Intelligence Platform, Called ALP

NEC Display just got into the retail intelligence business, launching ALP – short for Analytics Learning Platform.

It’s a subscription-based retail intelligence program that uses cameras and other sensors, AI, big data, cloud computing and network appliances to give retailers a better sense of what’s going on in their stores. There are plenty of existing platforms out there that offer retail business intelligence, but this one was built over the last couple of years with signage as a core component.

That results in a platform that not only lets retailers better understand customer behaviors, but also lets them develop planned and triggered messaging that can be optimized to patterns and even the individual shopper moment.

The platform is being showcased today at the 25th annual NEC Display New York Partner Showcase.

“With NEC ALP, we’re giving retailers the ability to provide customers with a personalized experience through real-time, relevant content triggered by demographic data such as age and location,” says  Rich Ventura, Vice President of Strategy. “This also provides retailers with valuable insights on the impact their content has, creating more opportunities for consumer engagement, which is invaluable to growing their business. With NEC ALP, we’re helping retailers deliver the right message at the right time to the right audience.”

Says the NEC press release:

NEC Display developed a completely new back-end architecture for the NEC ALP business intelligence platform that uses both edge and cloud computing to deliver real-time insights. Using facial detection, non-identifying demographic data such as age and gender are fed into a locally-based computing appliance, which then triggers the appropriate content to be shown. Data is then delivered into the cloud where big data analytics will provide retailers with insights such as impact on sales from content, demographics and audience traffic, overall engagement with customers, and which content triggered the most positive customer experiences.

“NEC ALP is not a facial detection or even a digital signage solution,” Ventura says “It is a fully-featured business intelligence platform that is all about enhancing the customer experience by driving engagement. It’s less about hardware and more about the data analytic capability the technology enables.”

The platform’s data analytics capability gives retailers the power to deliver the right message or content to the audience because it answers the questions of who the customer is and which piece of content was most successful in creating a meaningful engagement. Using this data, NEC ALP is able to draw a direct correlation between when content was played, the number of impressions and what the conversion rates are to actual sales.

“One of the biggest challenges retailers face is changing customer behavior to spend more time in stores,” Ventura says. “NEC ALP answers this challenge by providing the ability to make positive impressions and engagements with customers.”

The NEC ALP system consists of hardware, software, cloud services, managed services, and big data analytics. Locally in-store, the platform consists of an edge computing appliance, cameras, and sensors. The system is designed with full API integration into key digital signage content management systems (CMS), allowing it to deliver and trigger content onto different media player platforms. The triggered content is then displayed on NEC Display large- or small-format displays.

As a complete platform, NEC ALP includes everything from consulting, software, hardware, cloud computing, customized software development, physical installation, software and hardware integration, integration into key content management platforms, and content creation capabilities. The platform also includes on-site, 24/7 service and maintenance, with hardware, software, and managed services support.

“With NEC ALP, we’re helping change the narrative of what defines digital signage in retail,” Ventura says. “Instead of being limited to traditional architecture such as a media player with apps, NEC ALP includes data analytics with CMS integration to enhance customer engagement.”

NEC ALP integrates several partners to deliver a complete solution. Integration into the BrightSign platform, NAVORI and StratosMedia content management systems (CMS), and Microsoft Azure and Intel for infrastructure are key. In addition, the platform uses NEC EVA for video analytics and Data Call Technologies for weather and location-based content aggregation.

The platform is being demo’d this week and will be available by subscription starting in January. The company will be making a lot of noise about it at the National Retail Federation show that month.

There are, of course, several camera-based analytics platforms on the market and tuned to digital signage needs, most notably Quividi and AdMobilize. A lot of their business skews to digital OOH advertising, as opposed to retail. The closest correlation with ALP is probably a Finnish platform called WalkBase, which is now owned, marketed and integrated with STRATACACHE’s CMS platforms, like Activia and Scala.

It’s an interesting move – long in the works – that can produce a new line of recurring subscription and services revenue that doesn’t conflict or compete with the core revenue streams for NEC’s partners. Margins in the hyper-competitive display business are thin, so ALP could be very important to NEC, and is a great door-opener for meetings with retailers – a key vertical for the company.

If you are in New York, and have NEC contacts, you can see it today at the Partner Showcase, at SIR Stage 37, located at 508 W. 37th St. You will want to contact someone from NEC first, methinks, as opposed to just showing up.

I had a chat with Ventura this morning about ALP, and that will be the subject of next week’s 16:9 Podcast.