IP Video Improves Security For Supermarket Chain In Sweden

The largest supermarket chain in Sweden is ensuring personnel safety with video surveillance from more than 100 IQeye megapixel cameras managed by Milestone XProtect open platform IP video management software.

MAXI ICA Superstore in the Swedish city of Umeå has invested in a security system with 115 megapixel cameras from IQinVision. The servers handle a total of about 2,200 images per second and Milestone XProtect Enterprise software makes it easy to manage, view and export the video.

In the autumn of 2009 there were on average three store robberies every day in Sweden, but MAXI ICA in the city of Umeå has thus far been spared major incidents.

“Word got around quickly that we had installed a tough new system. According to the guards, the usual mischief disappeared at once,” said Joakim Lindgren, MAXI ICA Superstore Umeå. “But it’s a question of preventing robberies. Otherwise, personnel risk both threats with weapons and actual assaults. The main reason for camera monitoring is so that personnel can feel safe. The problem is with drug and alcohol-influenced people who sometimes come into the store and become aggressive. Verbal death threats were directed at personnel, which is terribly disturbing, of course. But since the new security system has been installed, nothing more of the kind has taken place.”

The guards still discover shoplifting with every inspection, in general. Attempted fraud in the store is also recorded. For example, customers who claim they have received change for a hundred kronor note instead of a five hundred, or who try to cheat at the betting counter.

A security concept has been developed by ICA Group’s central security unit, which sets minimum security levels for the stores. For example, the checkout lines, entries and exits are monitored by cameras, and an analog system had been installed when MAXI ICA Superstore Umeå opened in 1998. But that fell far short of present-day needs.

“We couldn’t really expand on the analogue system, so it was natural to take the next step. The future lies in megapixel technology with IP software. This is where developments are taking place with astonishing speed,” observes Lindgren.

The new system was fully operational in December 2008. A total of 115 IQinvision IQ-711 1.3 megapixel cameras were installed. Together with some of the previous analogue cameras that operate with the Milestone software through video encoders, 147 cameras are now monitoring the store at this location.

“The reason MAXI ICA doesn’t need to have even more cameras per square meter is explained by our choice of megapixel cameras, which can cover a greater area than cameras with conventional resolution. It is quite simply a more efficient solution, thus more economical than installing conventional cameras. Although the unit price is higher for megapixel cameras, we don’t need as many,” explains Fredrik Westin, Managing Director at InSupport, the certified Milestone partner who implemented the solution.

“Each camera takes 15 pictures per second; altogether we have about 2,200 pictures per second, which requires an enormous storage capacity of 70 Terabytes. The ongoing network load is about 4.3 GB per second. Six servers and a master are required for this,” he reports.

Because Lindgren wants to be able to get at the pictures quickly when a case arises, the software must also be of the highest quality.

“Now we install Milestone software almost exclusively. Open software is a cornerstone, since the customer must not be hamstrung,” Westin said. “It’s no problem to put a twenty-camera system together, but with such a large performance system as this, everything comes to a head -- it has to be high-quality. XProtect Enterprise has no limitations as far as how many cameras or servers can be connected. Thus, it’s possible to do almost anything. We can also monitor the whole system from our office in Stockholm.”

Private guards hired from Securitas are always on duty, but they can “be made” if they show themselves too often out among the customers. Previously, it was also hard for the guards to prove that someone had taken merchandise.

“The new surveillance system makes our job easier! I hope that more clients will get such systems - it is easy to use and we can monitor everything that happens in the store. We work in pairs and communicate with each other using cell phones,” says one of the guards.

MAXI ICA Superstore Umeå has a policy of reporting all infractions taking place on the premises to the police, including shoplifting. Permission to save recorded material for 30 days is a precondition for the police to have time for handling every infraction.

“There is never any doubt when the guards call -- the police are grateful that they can easily order images and get them on a DVD or USB stick,” Lindgren said. “It's great when the police say the image quality is so good that they can easily see what’s happening and identify the perpetrators.”

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