Many Faces of Video

Protect assets, grow business during troubled times

As global economies struggle, theft and crime tend to increase. According to a National Retail Security Survey, retailers’ losses due to theft hit $41.6 billion last year, and almost half was from employee theft. These numbers are expected to rise in 2009 as a result of the current economic recession. Many companies, especially retailers, use video surveillance to help prevent loss. But can the technology do more? How can it be used to actually help grow the business?

Find More Theft ... Faster
Most retailers have video surveillance installed in their stores. Frequently, however, these systems become passive tools for documenting theft after it occurs, because no loss prevention investigator can be aware of all suspicious activity at all times. Thus, they’re often capturing footage but not catching the thief. Video analytics has offered a solution to solve this problem—using a computer to help the investigator monitor the store.

Traditional video analytics—using simple motiondetection algorithms—hasn’t proven valuable in busy retail environments. A simple motion-based alert on an expensive handbag or other high-theft merchandise will generate too many false alarms as people walk between the bag and the camera. At the same time, traditional DVR technology requires hours, or even days, to pull all of the video together to accurately document a case.

More recently, new video intelligence solutions have been developed to deal with these problems. Leading video analytics solutions can distinguish between people and merchandise movement and focus on truly suspicious activity, like a shelf wipeout. In addition, video intelligence solutions combine these analytics with tools that make it quick and easy for an investigator to track a suspect across cameras in a store, build an end-to-end evidence movie and export that evidence, along with case notes and mug shots, for sharing internally or with law enforcement. These same solutions marry the video with feeds from point-of-sale registers and customer service call buttons to simplify internal investigations. In this way, the video intelligence solution does more than just generate a list of alarms; it actually helps make every step in the theft identification/investigation process more effective and efficient.

In-store Intelligence
Shrink represents 2 to 4 percent of most retailers’ revenues. However, the latest video intelligence solutions offer opportunities for retailers to use existing video infrastructure to drive improvements in even bigger ticket line items—increasing top-line revenues and gross margins while helping curb payroll and marketing expenses. At the simplest level, remote access to video can allow headquarters staff to quickly and efficiently monitor procedural compliance, such as whether a display has been installed in time for a promotion.

Remote access to video helps companies trim travel budgets. With additional video intelligence layered in, retailers can make better business decisions with unique insight from in-store video intelligence. Video analytics monitoring cash register lineups can feed retailers scheduling information to better optimize staffing decisions. Intelligent video reporting on displays and shelf space throughout the store gives merchandisers early insight into when customer tastes might be turning away from a new product and provides buyers with additional leverage in their negotiations with suppliers.

Bringing it All Together
Security managers are aware of constantly changing technology. Whether it’s moving from analog to digital or Windows to Linux, the surveillance and security world is continually shifting. To protect existing investments, it’s important to consider backward-compatibility when purchasing new equipment. As retailers transition to new video surveillance technologies that help generate improved bottom-line results, they need to feel confident their existing DVR and camera investments are protected. Users should embrace solutions with a common interface so they may access the video at sites with the new equipment and continue with legacy equipment, helping ease the transition. It’s equally important to invest in products that are developed on an open or compatible architecture, so they can work with other solutions within the business without conflict. This is particularly relevant as organizations look to tighten security measures amid shrinking budgets.

Investing in a future-proof access control system, for example, paves the way for tie-ins to other security and non-security systems that are useful for managing costs and generating new revenue.

A large energy provider, for example, uses access control cards to monitor arrival and departure times for all contractors. Tying this data directly into their accounts payable system enables the firm to eliminate thousands of dollars in overcharges from contractors. Likewise, a large property management firm uses access control cards to accurately charge homeowners for gym memberships and parking usages.

Making Sense of it All
New technology is beneficial, but it also leaves companies to contend with a mountain of data. It’s easy to capture video footage or track door access. It’s how businesses apply this information that’s critical—choose solutions that make the data useful. Enhanced reporting and presentation capabilities in surveillance applications should be an important part of customers’ purchasing decisions.

The natural inclination of any business manager is to curb new technology purchases in the midst of a financial crisis. However, with internal and external theft increasing at alarming rates, organizations must be especially vigilant about protecting their assets and leveraging technology to improve the bottom line.

This article originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of Security Today.

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