Research Foundation News

February 3, 2021

Video software aims to improve airport, retail operations

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Many travelers know the frustration of airport security confusion, where personal items and electronics can become misplaced or stolen. So do customers waiting in long queues at the checkout counters of busy retail stores. 

New software technology may help cut down that frustration and also provide new options for retailers and museums to better serve customers.

A Purdue University team has developed an automated video analysis software architecture for people-centric systems. The video software can be used to observe human and object interactions.

“Many current solutions are geared toward one specific type of operation,” said Rohan Sarkar, a graduate researcher in the lab of Avinash Kak, a professor of electrical and computer engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering. “Our solution is largely domain agnostic, meaning that, with a few minor changes, it works just as well with the automation of airport security as it does with retail operations.”

kak-video-store This image shows how a Purdue video software system may help in automated retail store locations. (Image provided)

The Purdue team’s automated system monitors people’s interactions with items in a store, belongings in an airport, books in a library or exhibits in an art gallery and then establishes an associative relationship between the people and the objects, based on the application.

Sarkar said this technology can also be used with numerous types of sensors, such as weight or RFID, as required for various applications. So, for example, cameras could be used to track a person and the objects they bring into an airport to make sure they leave with their own items after going through security.

The Purdue system uses computer vision and could be used by retailers or museums to track people’s activities via cameras to see which items they review before purchase or which exhibits are visited most often. Sarkar said the system simply tracks individuals and objects as data points, so no private information is tracked or saved.

“This technology is highly scalable as it allows for an arbitrary number of humans interacting with an arbitrary number of objects and any association established between the two to be tracked,” Sarkar said. “It can be used for nearly any event-driven, people-centric process that needs to be automated.”

The innovators worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent the technology. This work will be featured at OTC’s 2021 Technology Showcase: The State of Innovation. The annual showcase, being held virtually this year Feb. 10-11, will feature novel innovations from inventors at Purdue and across the state of Indiana. More information is available by emailing

The innovators are looking for partners to continue developing and commercializing their technology. For more information on licensing and other opportunities, contact Matt Halladay of OTC at and mention track code 2019-KAK-68461.

About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities through commercializing, licensing and protecting Purdue intellectual property. The office recently moved into the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Discovery Park District, adjacent to the Purdue campus. In fiscal year 2020, the office reported 148 deals finalized with 225 technologies signed, 408 disclosures received and 180 issued U.S. patents. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. In 2020, IPWatchdog Institute ranked Purdue third nationally in startup creation and in the top 20 for patents. The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Contact for more information.      

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at

Writer: Chris Adam, 

Rohan Sarkar,

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