A Jack of All Trades

Theft is not the only reason for installation of surveillance equipment

For years, retail has been the largest vertical market for video surveillance. In fact, a regional fuel service and convenience store chain with more than 1,200 locations will spend $1 million in the fi rst year of a three-year project. A pharmacy chain’s initial order for 80 locations was 1,300 cameras, more than 16 cameras per location. And a major international retailer will spend $15 million for its two-year asset protection and safety program contract extension.

There are many reasons why retailers employ video surveillance. Theft is, of course, a prime motivation. American retailers lose billions of dollars per year due to theft from shoppers and employees.

The Hayes 20th Annual Retail Theft Survey, which covers 24 major retail companies, representing 119,151 stores with retail sales exceeding $689 billion, reports thieves stole more than $6.7 billion in 2007 from a range of companies, including large retailers that practice true loss prevention strategies.

Beyond Theft
Although it’s an important reason for surveillance, theft is typically not the top reason for implementing a system. Video also eliminates payouts for fraudulent slips and falls, a major liability concern of retail outlets. For instance, fixed cameras placed at escalators can verify if there has been an accident.

Video surveillance also allows retailers to minimize false alarms and greatly increase the all-important detail captured by cameras. It lets shoppers know they are protected, which is why so many mall operators prioritize the parking lot when developing their video systems.

Many retailers display live video on a large screen to announce they are using surveillance cameras, allowing people to see themselves on the monitor. Such a video wall is easy to set up and can be used for multiple purposes.

The Samsung SMT-4011 large-format monitor provides a multi-display control function that allows retail management to control up to 10 units from a single PC with the supplied MDC software. The builtin video wall image-enlarging processor supports 2x2, 3x3, 4x4, 5x1 and 1x5 video walls without the need for a separate video controller device. No additional input signal distribution is necessary.

In addition to increasing security, retailers often use the system to monitor essential areas and ensure operations are running smoothly. Managers can watch cleaning crews and staff on monitors to maintain the integrity of the mall, for example.

Incorporate a digital DVR, and the retail managers can view any camera or play back any image at any time, as well as send images to other users or offi cials over the Internet.

IP On Deck
Retail is an analog application because analog cameras provide the images retail and loss prevention managers need at a much lower budget than IP. Since most dealers, integrators and end users are already comfortable selling analog, this eliminates the frustration some integrators have with IP video.

Today, more loss prevention departments are focused on the future of video analytics and the domain of IP cameras and systems. Video analytics also will help loss prevention departments morph from being cost centers to revenue generators. For instance, marketing can show its vendors video of product appeal testing via shelf location and determine which end caps and displays attract the most people.

This way of thinking is important because the cost of all the necessary video equipment can often be beyond the security department’s budget. That’s why security departments need to work with their counterparts in operations and marketing to amortize the cost of their video investment.

Types of Cameras Used
Although each application is unique, there are some commonalities that run throughout most retail video implementations.

Dome cameras. Typically, dome cameras are strategically placed to cover all common areas. In most cases, the dome system switches automatically between a color mode for daytime use and more sensitive monochrome for nighttime viewing. This allows one camera to provide around-the-clock surveillance, reducing equipment and maintenance costs.

Problems with light. With traditional cameras, outdoor details can be overpowered by bright light. For example, security personnel are often unable to see inside trucks at loading docks. New cameras display picture quality equal to that of the human eye. Motion adaptive DNR takes dark gray images and makes them clear. Digital image stabilization removes the blurs of motion, providing a crisp still image.

Today’s cameras also incorporate a low-light noise reduction and color suppression function. Their extended dynamic range feature corrects the problems of darkness and brightness that render images unreadable.

Wide dynamic range provides clear images even under back-light circumstances, removing glare. Such technology increases exposure in shadowed areas and decreases exposure in bright areas, delivering a light-corrected image that shows crucial details clearly. It even adjusts for different lighting conditions within the same image.

An East Coast pharmacy chain had been experiencing problems with nighttime break-ins that were going unnoticed by the video surveillance systems.

They replaced their systems with low-light cameras and DVRs for reliable low-light surveillance and easy remote monitoring, which solved their problem.

Use of megapixel cameras. If the main goal of a camera is to capture a face at the entrance or a license plate in the parking lot, the camera must produce a clear image. That is why many retailers are beginning to select megapixel cameras, which provide higher resolution progressive-scan images, instead of analog PTZ, which provide lower-resolution interlaced-scan images, or even standard digital IP PTZ cameras for these locales.

The picture quality of megapixel network cameras benefi ts retailers in several ways. In some applications, a megapixel network camera can cover the same area as other cameras but with improved picture quality.

For instance, almost everyone is familiar with images captured by CCTV systems in which the quality is so poor that little can be determined from the recording.

Megapixel network cameras solve this disadvantage by delivering increased resolution and clarity. For example, a high-resolution analog camera provides a resolution of 704x480, while the megapixel camera provides a resolution of 1,280x1,024, a significant difference.

In other applications, megapixel cameras cover a much wider area than standard CCTV cameras.

This means a retailer can choose a megapixel camera with four times the resolution of a standard camera or even a 3.1 megapixel camera with 10 times the resolution of a standard camera.

About the Author

Mike Capulli is senior vice president of North American Sales for SAMSUNG | GVI Security.

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