Big or small, a retailer has a range of technology options to improve security and loss prevention—but none of those should be used in a silo, according to Dan Reese, director of vertical market applications at Bosch Security and Safety Systems. Maximum benefit comes when you integrate security technologies and communications systems together, he suggested.
But where do you start?
As retailers evaluate their current security infrastructure and make plans for the future, Reese said the team responsible should ask some key questions: Are there areas of the store that require greater security? Are there notifications or other technologies that could improve the efficiency of personnel and the safety of shoppers? Are there other departments within the organization that could benefit from the data gathered by security technology?
“Understanding current pain points within stores—and how integrated security solutions can address them—is the key to implementing the best solution,” said Reese.
Typically, retailers have a few “hot spots” where the power of integrated solutions is easy to see, said Reese.
Point-of-Sale (POS) Terminals. Whether it’s sweethearting or other fraud, POS terminals present a significant shrink risk, which integrated systems can alleviate, Reese explained. For example, video recording of HD or megapixel cameras integrated with POS data makes it easy to locate video associated with transactions and exception reporting, allowing for visual verification of each transaction when needed.
When it comes to the risk of robbery, the integration of panic buttons or bill trap sensors with the intrusion detection system can ensure that silent alarms are issued when employees are at risk, explained Reese. If an employee presses a panic button or pulls the bill from the sensor, it can automatically trigger a video snapshot to be sent to the monitoring station to provide alarm verification and more information for law enforcement when they are dispatched. By adding audio integration, it can trigger the sending of a message to store security personnel’s two-way radios. If no guard is onsite, video monitoring centers can intervene through audio, alerting a perpetrator he or she is being watched and that authorities have been called. “This can cause the offender to flee, which mitigates the safety risk as well as the potential for loss,” said Reese.
High-Value Displays. Using video analytics integrated with audio communications can help protect high-value or frequently stolen items, such as electronics, noted Reese. For example, a person standing at a display for longer than a pre-defined time, or touching items on display, can trigger the sending of a video snapshot to the store manager. It can also trigger an audio message to play through a nearby loudspeaker, such as: ‘Thank you for your interest in our smartphone selection; an associate will be right with you.’ Reese says this not only thwarts theft, but “it also serves to improve customer service for legitimate shoppers, as a retail floor associate is notified that a customer may need assistance.”
Cash Office. Access control readers at cash office doors restrict access, and integrating video can automatically capture images of individuals requesting access to verify identification prior to granting access or for retrospective analysis in the event of a theft.
Integration can also enhance security at exit doors, explained Reese. Left open too long, an intrusion detection system can alert, triggering a nearby camera to send a snapshot of the open door to the store manager and prompt the PA system to play through a nearby speaker a pre-recorded message to close the door. The same concept can apply to doors for coolers and freezers to prevent spoilage. Left open too long, a cooler or freezer door monitored by the intrusion detection system can trigger an audio alert or chime to remind staff to close it (and alert the store manager if they don’t).
Serving a Dual Purpose
Integration benefits extend beyond LP to health and safety, customer service, and customer engagement and sales, according to Reese. For example, while analytic-enabled IP cameras at the store entrance provide security, camera metadata can also provide business metrics, like counts of people entering the store. “This data can help them understand peak days and times when making decisions about staffing,” said Reese. In another example, a camera surveilling a cash register area could trigger an alert if a queue exceeds a pre-defined threshold. “In that case, the same loudspeakers that you use to play background music to enhance the shopping experience could broadcast a message to open another cash register, improving store operations,” said Reese.
Video analytics can provide value in other ways, such as by improving health and safety by triggering an alarm if an emergency exit is blocked. Camera metadata can even combine with sophisticated algorithms to show heat maps of where shoppers walk, stop, and dwell—all while protecting the privacy of individual shoppers. “Merchandisers can use that to evaluate the success of displays and store layouts, which directly impacts customer engagement and sales,” said Reese.
Reese noted that when systems are used for and deliver data for purposes beyond security, other departments may be willing to contribute toward the cost of the system, thus relieving some of the cost burden from security or other operational budgets.
Standards and industry partnerships are making integration easier and broadening purchasing options, but in some cases, it can speed and simplify installation to choose systems that are designed to work together from a single vendor, explained Reese. This option can reduce system costs for both the integrator and end user.
Regardless of the products chosen, Reese advises retailers with multiple locations to pursue consistency in the type of equipment installed at each site. “This makes support easier and enables a more uniform response to incidents that happen at various stores,” he explained.
Ultimately, retailers understand that there is no silver bullet to reducing loss. “However, a combination of the right technologies, working together to prevent shrink and improve investigative capabilities, is something that can lead to loss prevention that is both smarter and more effective,” advised Reese.