A Smarter Way to Mind the Store
A blog by Milestone Systems, Platinum Sponsor of the ASG Security Summit & Expo
In both retail operations and the sales floor, the competition is fierce and the profit margins are slim. To stay on top, retailers have to seize every advantage they can. This often means adopting the latest technological advances as they become available. That’s why today nearly every aspect of retail operations, from inventory to hiring, is computerized and networked. Now is the time to add video surveillance to the list.
IP (Internet Protocol) video surveillance gives retailers new tools and capabilities for improving loss prevention and store performance. By enabling video to be captured as digital information and accessed anywhere on an IP-based network, IP video surveillance allows your loss prevention staff and other departments to view, analyze and manage surveillance video. Built-in intelligence also enables cameras to automatically detect and alert staff to potential thefts, suspicious behavior, and other events.
The advantages hardly stop there. This same intelligence opens the door to new in-store research methods for determining the effectiveness of store layout, display design, and employee behavior. What’s more, through advantages in using common networking and digital camera technology, stores can achieve everything from a lower total cost of ownership to higher resolution imagery that improves forensic evidence and repurposing for training and other uses.
As both a deterrent and a source of evidence, video surveillance is recognized as an essential element to any retail operation’s loss prevention program. According to market researcher J.P. Freeman Co., in the U.S. alone there are 6 million video cameras mounted in stores watching customers and employees. A large retail chain with 1,500 locations can record more than 50 years of analog video throughout its stores in a single day.
But how effectively is this video used? In most cases, it is not. Inventory shrinkage continues to be an expensive problem for the retail industry. In 2004, total losses were close to $31 billion, accounting for more than 1.5 percent of total retail sales across North America (National Retail Security Survey, University of Florida). This percentage changes little from year to year, yet as overall sales continue to grow, billions more dollars are added to the total amount of losses. If a company could reduce its percentage of losses from shrinkage by even a tenth of a percent across its stores, it would see a significant improvement to its bottom line.
A major weakness in loss prevention techniques today is the inability of analog video equipment to detect criminal behavior and alert personnel. Someone has to be constantly watching store monitors – or later search through hours of video to find a particular instance of theft. Poor video quality also hurts effectiveness. Analog surveillance cameras are only capable of video resolutions equivalent to 0.4 megapixels, whereas the latest digital video surveillance cameras provide much higher resolution. Blurry, low resolution analog images often fail to provide conclusive evidence in theft prosecutions or insurance fraud cases, such as bogus injury claims. Such images aren’t sharp enough to read license plate numbers, work poorly in training videos, and have no value for other uses, such as facial recognition systems.