Tackling Shrink

Technology demands that theft stop dead in its tracks

The winter holiday season is a highly anticipated double-edged sword for retailers. During this time period, brick-and-mortar stores earn a large chunk of annual revenue, and the aggregated sales statistics from big-box stores can often serve as a gauge for how the economy is faring overall. The holiday season is also known for its high amount of losses from theft and fraud. According to the 2015 Global Retail Theft Barometer, U.S. retailers reported that 46 percent of yearly retail losses occurred in the winter season, nearly twice as much as during the school shopping months.

More data from the same study shows that from shoplifting and related scams cost U.S. retailers approximately $42 billion annually, with American consumers paying the ultimate price for theft at approximately $403 per household each year. The study also showed that employee theft accounts for 43 percent of lost revenue. Some of the key reasons for these numbers include ineffective pre-employment screening, reduced levels of employee supervision and the reselling of stolen merchandise through online auction sites and flea markets.

Retailers large and small need to increase awareness throughout stores during the peak holiday shopping season to best control crowds, reduce theft and minimize liability.

A STORE WITH A VIEW

The holiday shopping season brings opportunity for increased customer traffic and higher volume of sales, but with this upside comes the pressure to monitor activity within stores’ environments in a cost-effective manner.

Increased visual awareness inside stores as well as throughout a retail organization’s infrastructure, such as parking lots, and ingress and egress points, is critical. Surveillance cameras are critical tools to helping LP personnel extend coverage to high-risk or hightraffic areas. However, traditional cameras have limited fields of view, so retailers have to deploy additional cameras to extend coverage, resulting in greater costs. Additionally, PTZ cameras can only record what’s in the camera view, leaving blind spots in coverage, which can hamper investigations. Since PTZ cameras incorporate moving parts, the quality of the image can be compromised and maintenance costs can be high as the camera ages. Moreover, PTZ cameras can only focus on one view at a time, requiring more cameras to view an area and increasing costs related to installation, operation and integration.

Because of the limitations of these types of surveillance cameras, omnidirectional and 360-degree cameras are becoming more popular in a number of vertical markets, and it’s the retail market, especially, that is finding significant value in using the technology to mitigate shrink and gather critical business intelligence.

The technology principle behind the most innovative 360-degree cameras is simple: the camera records high-resolution footage through a fisheye lens, capturing a 360-degree view to deliver total situational awareness with no blind spots. The incoming image is then “de-warped” in real-time, allowing security personnel to electronically pan, tilt and zoom in the live video. If something happens, they can follow the action or subject before, during and after the event occurred as the dewarping can also be done retrospectively on previously recorded images. In addition, powerful video analytics can be layered to enable users to easily gain business intelligence, identify trends and potential risks or liabilities.

Higher resolution sensors allow multidirectional cameras to maximize visibility and image quality to deliver more value to customers. PTZ cameras only allow what the camera views to be recorded and stored. 360-degree cameras monitor multiple areas at the same time for complete situational awareness. The stored video includes the full 360-degree view, even if the operator is only looking at a particular area when recorded. This comprehensive view can be accessed at a later date for further inquiry.

NEW LEVELS OF ROI

Surveillance video delivers new levels of data, that when combined with other network or business systems, allowing users to experience the correlation of multiple data points into one interface. Networkedenabled video surveillance can be integrated with access control, security management software and business intelligence applications to provide retailers with a complete view of its security, loss prevention and operational tactics. The ability to bring multiple monitoring platforms together allows users to correlate information under one interface to gain new levels of insight on the entire business.

Today, IP cameras are powerful enough to internally manage video management functions and deliver the same powerful features found in traditional VMS systems. These advanced cameras have rich feature sets and built-in intelligence that allows users to view live and recorded video in real time, making it simpler to streamline security efforts. Additionally, mobile capabilities are enhanced and loss prevention staff is able to leverage dewarping abilities for 360-degree surveillance cameras from any mobile device.

BRINGING INNOVATION TO THE BOTTOM LINE

Retailers are at the forefront of a growing trend in today’s market in which users leverage traditional surveillance solutions for uses beyond security. Video is proven to deliver value far beyond the protection of assets. Cameras can be used to collect data that can be analyzed and then used to optimize operations. 360-degree views provide retailers with the most data possible from one camera.

Analytics can also help identify the number of shoppers in a store or the number of people drawn to a particular marketing display. The technology can also be implemented to help retailers track the behavior or traffic patterns of customers to determine how they shop and identify which areas have the lowest visibility and highest risk for theft. Using this information, video captured for security purposes becomes valuable data that can be used by other departments, such as merchandising and marketing, to better market new products, understand the flow of traffic through a store and deploy staff efficiently during the busy holiday season.

Omnidirectional and 360-degree video surveillance deliver unique solutions to retailers. By leveraging these cameras, robust video management capabilities and integrated video analytics, retailers can have a powerful impact on reducing shrink and crime for their businesses during the holiday season while experiencing a significant return on investment for the remainder of the fiscal year.

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Security Today.

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