Technology Advice from ISC West—And a Few Words of Warning

Advice at ISC West centered on strategies for the latest retail security technologies.

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What will help you be a more effective loss prevention executive today and in the years ahead? There was no shortage of advice handed out at last week’s ISC West conference in Las Vegas, and—being a giant trade show—most of it centered on strategies for approaching new security technology. Here are three tips that we heard again and again at the show.

Even good habits can make you fall behind. In today’s rapidly changing retail and technology environments, a security strategy that made sense yesterday may not be the best solution today. Because of it, several experts presenting at ISC had the same advice as Eddy Collier, who is in charge of selecting surveillance technology for retail and casino areas at MGM Resorts International. “Don’t do what you’ve always done,” he warned. Another industry leader put it this way: “What got you’re here won’t get you there.”

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Collier cited the example of a PTZ camera going down. You could, of course, just replace it. But just because that was the smart choice before is no guarantee that it still is. Several experts at the conference advised to always revisit the original purpose for any device before replacing it. What problem was it trying to solve? Is the problem still there? Is the solution you had before still the best solution? Technology has simply moved too fast not to revisit core assumptions, they advised. Don’t be reflexive in such situations—be strategic. “What was that PTZ camera doing?” asked Collier. “If it was just to provide a general overview, why not throw a new 360 camera up there? Now you’ve got complete situational coverage at less cost.”

Solutions can be problems. When it comes to ensuring the security of the security products they sell, “vendors get a D in my book,” said Bill Bozeman, president and CEO of PSA Network, an organization comprised of more than 200 electronic security systems integrators. But vendors weren’t the only ones with fingers pointed in their direction at ISC West. Integrators were in the hot seat for, among other things, calling a system install complete when default passwords are still in place. And end users didn’t escape criticism. Most are inflexible with their mind made up on the product they want, integrators and vendors complained.

What’s the lesson? It’s critical to evaluate the security of a security device as closely you do other criteria, such as compatibility, features, and price. Often, even basic security precautions are ignored in the manufacture and installation of security devices. Even though they are designed to protect you, connected security devices can create critical network vulnerabilities, and “you can’t allow your security solution to become a threat vector,” said Gavin Bortles, president of Kepler Networks, a network engineering services provider. So: 1) Pick your integrator carefully. 2) Demand vendors have a roadmap for the security of their products. 3) Watch out for yourself—because no one else is.

Feature-rich is good, easy-to-use is imperative. Example: Despite its promise to boost store performance as well as cut shrink, not every loss prevention professional we heard at ISC West was singing the praises of business intelligence (BI) software. These solutions can be used narrowly—to watch transactions at a specific location by a cashier with numerous suspicious transactions—and more broadly to inform retail operations. Who is opening their store late? Where’s the customer traffic? That’s all good data, but some questioned whether it’s worth all the time it takes to train people how to use it.

Time was a concern for Terra Walker, manager of LP & Investigations for Murphy USA, because it was a concern for her management. “My boss warned me that we can’t get something that was going to keep people in training.” In the end, however, they chose and rolled out BI software (3xLogic’s VIGIL Trends) to cover its 1,344 convenience store locations without any training at all for district managers—just a short instructional video. It also took no time at all for their loss prevention analysts to get up to speed and now they’re now solving more cases, more quickly.

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