Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Covid-19, Drones, Hyperspectral Remote Sensors and Customer P&Ls

Hyperspectral camera embedded on an
OnyxStar HYDRA-12 UAV
from AltiGator
Digital transformation is more than replacing analog systems and processes with digital ones.  It is often about enabling entirely new strategies and tactics never before possible.  One of these new strategies is the ability to use technologies including: artificial intelligence, predictive and big data analytics and machine learning technologies to forecast a lifetime profit and loss (PL) statement for individual customers.  How is this useful?  It can enable companies and brands to develop unique personalized marketing campaigns, sales and loyalty programs for individuals dependent upon how much they are likely to spend over a lifetime, rather than marketing to anonymous demographic groups. 

I call these predictive lifetime profit and loss statement, PL-360.  PL-360 can use data feeds from mobile apps, websites, loyalty programs and brick and mortar check-ins, etc.  The more good data the better the accuracy of the predictive PL-360s.

Predictive PL-360s for individual customers invites a completely different way of looking at customers.  Rather than measuring a customer based on their most recent transaction, it can consider the lifetime value of the customer.  Rather than analyzing a customer based on the $3 cup of coffee they just ordered, a lifetime of daily $3 coffees can be recognized. 

Covid-19 has impacted consumer behaviors in so many different ways, and has opened up the door to more kinds of data.  One is that it has dramatically increased the number of consumers ordering products online for delivery and curbside pick-up.  In fact, Instacart hired an additional 300,000 workers between March and April to meet the surging demand and plans to hire at least 250,000 more.  In another example of changing behaviors, Target reported 2 million customers used its drive-up service for the first time between January and March of 2020.  

The Covid-19 pandemic is acting as an accelerant for increased product deliveries of all kinds - including the use of drones for product deliveries.  Using drones can potentially offer many benefits.  Drones can bypass traffic congestion and make deliveries faster and delivery times more predictable.  Most drone delivery systems are still in testing and proof-of-concept, but the pandemic has added a sense of urgency to these efforts.

If the use of drones for product deliveries is successful, they can then start testing the collection and sales of different kinds of sensor data as another revenue source.  Sensor data and analysis can capture the condition of a farmer’s crops, the health of a neighbors’ shrubbery and all kinds of other details about homes, traffic and neighborhoods as the drones fly over delivering products.

Drones can also be used to enhance existing maps with additional GIS (geospatial information systems) data.  Rather than depending on satellite imagery or imagery captured from expensive aircraft, drones could enhance existing imagery with HD close up video feeds from many different direction and angles.  Other kinds of sensors and imagery could also be added including hyperspectral sensors and processing systems. Hyperspectral sensors are special kinds of cameras that look at objects using a vast portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. 

Hyperspectral sensors with the right analytics software can identify soil conditions, minerals, chemical elements, paint and wood stain brands, colors, plants, roof conditions and tens of thousands of other things.  Theoretically, a hyperspectral image of a person combined with facial recognition can identify a person, their shampoo, make-up, hand lotion, deodorant, perfume, the food they ate, chemicals they have been in contact with and the materials and chemicals used in their clothes.  OK, the implications of this technology for personal privacy are really scary, but the technology itself is fascinating.  Outside of the intelligence community, hyperspectral sensing is just beginning to emerge in the commercial sector, but it potentially can be an extra service provided by drones as well.

As with most innovations, hyperspectral sensing and other forms of data collection can be used for both good and bad purposes. It can be used in defense, disaster relief, mining, oil discovery, forest management, crop improvements, city planning etc., or it can be used to invade a person’s privacy in ways never before imagined.  Society needs to be concerned, and quickly create the policies and guidelines to ensure these kinds of technologies are used for the common good.

Digital transformation both produces and consumes vast amounts of data.  Businesses that can use this data both effectively and appropriately to create predictive PL-360s that enhance personalized customer experiences and customer loyalty will gain the most value.

Read more from Kevin Benedict on the business impact of Covid-19:

Kevin R. Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.