Valerio Bianchi, Chief Revenue Officer, UlisseValerio Bianchi, Chief Revenue Officer
Imagine walking into a retail store, and before you even start browsing through the clothing racks, a staff walks up to you with a courteous smile and an assortment of dress shirts that you were actually thinking of buying! They were precisely the colour, size, and price range you were looking for. You make your selection, try them on, finalise the shirts you want to purchase, and pay—all while the in-store staff patiently assists you throughout the process. You exit the store thinking to yourself what a remarkable shopping experience you just had! But, at the same time, it also hits you: how did they know that you would stop by? Who told them what you wanted to purchase? Or how did they predict your budget and colour choices?

The name of the game is ambient (or spatial) intelligence, driven by physical space analytics. Spatial intelligence is powered by AI and refers to the process of gathering and analysing a wide spectrum of data signals generated from IoT sensors in smart environments.

How does it work? By connecting smart sensors with the ubiquitous cloud technology and powerful spatial data analytics, smart environments, a.k.a. intelligent places, are born. Such places allow retailers to accurately track and map a customer’s journey and gather rich and deep insights into their actions, preferences, and behaviours. With reference to the above example, this means, with physical space analytics, the store is able to track your prior visits and purchases, the duration of each visit, the clothing racks you spend the most time at, and the size and colour of shirts you usually trial, among others, to build a full profile of your offline behaviour at the store. This is how the retailer (staff) was able to decipher that you mostly prefer buying dress shirts from the store and was ready with a selection of shirts you would like—enhancing the chances of their sales, and of course, your shopping experience.

In theory, this instance undeniably seems lucrative for the retailer as well as the customer. But, in reality, is this technology feasible yet or too far-fetched?

If you are a client of Ulisse—an Italian forward thinking retail tech solution provider—you stand to be delighted! Ulisse offers a proprietary IoT platform, including hardware, software, and AI algorithms to develop turnkey visual analytics solutions for the retail sector and many other physical space dominant industry verticals. “We are here to turn every physical space into an intelligent place. Our Intelligent Places Platform enables retailers to turn events into data and insights to understand and predict customer behaviour and intent,” shares Valerio Bianchi, Chief Revenue Officer of Ulisse. “By turning the physical store into an intelligent place, we help our clients to get measurable improvements relating to the customer experience, the market share of the store, the retail planning and, last but not least, conversions funnel.”

The company is planning to strengthen its physical space analytics offering by incorporating a more advanced multi-frequency RADAR system for detecting humans and classifying their unique behaviours using the micro-doppler effect

Under the Hood of Compelling Physical Space Analytics

At the core of Ulisse’s Intelligent Places solution is an end-to-end platform made of a proprietary and patented combination of hardware, software, algorithms, and behavioural analytics. To add to that, its IoT sensors have been built with the highest degree of reliability in mind. The sensors have a LEGO-like modular design to conveniently add different pieces or technologies into the base module, making it flexible and quickly adaptable for diverse industry applications. On top of that, the hardware doesn’t need the traditional means of network connection, namely LAN cables or WiFi. Instead, it uses a more modern and future-proof 4G/5G SIM, eliminating one of the most common hassles for the IT team—network configuration. “All you need to do is place the sensors in their best position, connect them to the power, and let them work the magic,” explains Bianchi.

Once connected, the sensors immediately start gathering the data and analysing it at the edge in less than five minutes, with the help of Ulisse’s machine learning algorithms. At the same time, the data is also encrypted and sent to Ulisse’s cloud-based software, where additional algorithms can be applied by the users for visualising and representing data in its intended way via a dashboard.

Boosted by Innovations in RADAR Technology and Computer Vision

What further augments Ulisse’s already top-of-the-line Intelligent Space Platform is the combined use of RADAR sensing technology and computer vision systems. “We are, in fact, the world’s first camera-radar fusion device for unobtrusive tracking of how people behave and interact within a physical space,” says Bianchi. While the united force of these technologies, without a doubt, increases the accuracy of analytics, it also reduces the density of the sensors used in a physical environment. This naturally means more cost efficiency; “as the sensor density reduces, the cost per square metre of the solution also goes down,” adds Bianchi.

Intelligent Space = Intelligent Retailing

One of the most obvious use cases of Intelligent Places Platform is analysing customer behaviour in a store. A luxury Italian brand, for instance, used Ulisse’s solution to determine how their potential customers behave in front of their store windows. They intended to understand how many people were passing by their windows; how many were attracted by the products on display; how long did they stay in front of the windows; and how many finally entered the store and purchased. In doing so, the brand was able to analyse the success/failure and the sales conversion ratio of their store windows.

“The other prominent use case scenario of our solution is for staff distribution,” asserts Bianchi. Let’s say there are two closely-located stores of a retail brand: A and B. Store A is staffed with three sales executives, and store B is staffed with two, and it works out fine for most of the week except for Monday mornings. Store A, on a typical Monday morning, has lesser visitors compared to store B. So, it makes no point for the retail brand’s staff distribution manager to allocate more employees to store A on that day. The roles of the stores, however, get reversed on Wednesday afternoons, which now requires more workforce to be present in store A. “Our solution essentially helps the retail brands get intricate visibility into their individual store operations to better dole out their staff and optimise their workload,” summarises Bianchi.

The third use case—closely associated with the staff distribution aspect—is staff engagement. The entire rationale behind allocating the right number of staff to a store is to ensure that the visitors are properly engaged. There is nothing worse for a store than an unattended—often neglected— customer. Ulisse’s powerful spatial analytics can be utilised to determine the staff-customer engagement ratio. These numbers can also improve the in-store visitor experience and find out the individual performance of all instore staff, by comparing the statistics against their KPIs. On the one hand, it can help the store managers recognise their high-performing staff, and on the other, it can also draw their attention towards the low-performing staff.

These unique case scenarios only stand to substantiate that Ulisse is among the bunch of inventive players that are currently changing the game in retail physical space analytics by driving a fresh wave of modernisation with their domain knowledge and leadingedge tech capacities.

Behind the Wheels of Ulisse

According to Bianchi, the unflinching dedication of the company’s workforce plays a critical role in cementing its position as a leading retail tech specialist. As Ulisse’s work culture is imbued with innovation, the company is a hotbed for talent. Nonetheless, the core values that bind the company’s talented workforce together and shape their day-to-day interactions—both inside and outside the organisation—are integrity and respect. Bianchi himself serves as the perfect role model for his team to steer the company in the right direction for promoting sustainable growth and success. “I am a curious person who loves innovation, and I try to inspire my team in the same way,” mentions Bianchi. “However, having an innovative spirit without the right discipline doesn’t bode long-term success.” Trained in Karate and as a former Runner-Up of the European Karate Championship, Bianchi has honed several skills to channel more self-discipline and determination into his work without leaving space for arrogance. And as a leader of Ulisse, he always imbues the same teachings among his peers and employees.
  • We are here to turn every physical space into an intelligent place. Our Intelligent Places Platform enables retailers to turn events into data and insights to understand and predict customer behaviour and intent

“Exhibiting these core values, we have created a community where people are comfortable with each other and are motivated to grow,” adds Bianchi. So much so that every member of Ulisse’s team, including Bianchi, is ever-present for their clients—not just for ensuring customer satisfaction but bringing forth real, tangible customer success. “What matters the most for us is customer success. Even if this sometimes means lesser customer satisfaction in the short-haul, we assure the client what we are striving to achieve is their success in the long run,” adds Bianchi.

Blazing the Trail of a Data-Driven Future

With several accomplishments and contributions already bolstering its position as an innovative retail tech solution provider, Ulisse is now focusing on opening new doors of opportunities for its clients. The company is planning to strengthen its physical space analytics offering by incorporating a more advanced multi-frequency RADAR system for detecting humans and classifying their unique behaviours using the micro-doppler effect.

“As the era of data-driven retailing evolves further, businesses will need more robust competencies to understand consumer behaviour within a physical space. We will keep on improving our indoor space analytics models to meet such requirements and stay ready to tackle any new retail trend or challenge head-on that might come our clients’ way,” concludes Bianchi in a determined tone.