Gus Brecher, managing director of Cathexis, says that as IP camera prices come down and vendors enhance their technology offerings, many retailers are opting to leave their analogue cameras behind for the advantages offered by IP, and megapixel technology in particular.
He says, for instance, that the company has seen a trend towards installing fisheye megapixel cameras in the entrances to stores where they provide a panoramic view of customers entering and leaving the facilities, particularly in the UK market. While analogue cameras may still be used elsewhere in the store due to budgetary constraints, the move is definitely towards adopting IP technology due to its high return on investment.
Brecher points out that this ROI is not just perceived in terms of the traditional security benefits these installations have, but more so because by using analytics and integration with third-party systems, the business benefits become apparent. “Clients want their retail security systems to add value to their operations and this is now possible in a number of areas. For example where analytics data is used to determine the length of POS queues. When a queue becomes too long, the system alerts the control room and additional cashiers will be dispatched to the shop floor.”
Another example he cites is where the general movement of people within stores is analysed. This allows store managers to charge a premium for floor space given to those suppliers who have products within that area. The design of the shops therefore becomes a primary consideration and adds value to the entire customer experience. The only barrier to entry is high cost of presently available analytics, and they are working towards a more cost-effective solution.
IP for business
Leigh Brown, project manager: CGRI at the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) agrees that the big drawcard for retailers using IP recording and analytics is the enhancement of business operations using extrapolated data.
She points out that cameras can be used to count foot fall and monitor which areas in the store have the most traffic, as well as conduct conversion rates and collect sales data. “RFID is not new to retail, but it has come a long way in terms of both cost and uses. Retailers now have the ability to dual tag items to incorporate RFID into the EAS system. They do not have to choose one system and risk limiting the capabilities.”
Brecher’s company has a number of large retail installations internationally, including Sainsbury’s, Woolworths, Walmart and Tesco’s, as well as local chain retailers such as Pick ‘n Pay and Spar. The company’s philosophy is to evolve its system in line with the retailers, which involves looking at retail security requirements together with health & safety, logistics and training around staff interactions with customers.
This can entail using audio and analytics in a money counting environment as well as integration with the logistics system in terms of the scanning of products. “We have integrated our system with some centralised POS data mining solutions that automatically identify patterns in data collected from every area and level within the retail operation. By adding synchronised video, the retailer is now able to flag areas of concern at POS and any exceptions are immediately sent to the risk manager who can then take action on the exception,” says Brecher.
He adds that while this solution provides a good overall post-transaction analysis, the problem in retail operations has always been that situations are dealt with retroactively. With real-time analysis of transactions on site, retailers can now put rules into the system to alert the control room immediately when trends occur.
Cathexis has also been investigating the integration of its system with NewCo Technology’s facial recognition solution. This allows retailers to capture a snapshot of customers who apply for refunds on items that they may or may not have purchased at the store. The system compares the image with a database of known fraudsters and alerts stores countrywide, thus greatly reducing the incidence of false refunds.
A pilot study at one of the Sainsbury’s stores involved the use of a mat that is able to ascertain the number of products resting on its surface on a shelf. This system is connected to the stockroom via a Cathexis system and alerts the manager when stock levels are getting too low and allows restocking to take place.
Brown believes that one of the biggest focuses at retail stores is cash management. It is the belief of the retailers that the lower the amount of cash held, the lower the chance of the store being robbed. Some of the retailers have participated in a secure cash distribution project held at one of Johannesburg’s largest malls, with very positive results.
She explains that the components of this system are:
* Cash is moved from retailers and banks through air tube systems (or other secure protection devices) throughout the day to the secure cash distribution centre, removing the armed cash in transit personnel entirely from the public areas of the shopping centre and removing cash from the stores;
* The cash is counted, sorted and recycled within the shopping centre, reducing the number of cash in transit movements to the cash centres;
* Cash required for floats, bank branches and ATMs is provided by the secure cash distribution centre through the air tube system or other secure protection device;
* All cash in transit deliveries and collections are effected through a secure loading bay and without cash in transit personnel alighting from the vehicle in a public area, or with a secure protection device with no firearms.
The system has a number of benefits to various stakeholders. The cash-in-transit personnel’s exposure to risk is greatly reduced, since they no longer leave their vans. Customers to stores are also not exposed to the risk of being caught in the crossfire should an attack on cash in transit personnel take place. The retailers create an environment that is more customer friendly and therefore drive more feet through their doors.
Cash centres are protected with state of the art physical protecting and security systems. All control to the centre is through joint dual control offsite. Biometric readers and single entry access points eliminate any potential forced entry into the centre, which is constructed with the same materials as a Category 5 Vault. The centre has been designed to be implemented in any environment, metro or rural and with no external protection required, with no requirement for armed cash in transit or security personnel.
Cash is distributed throughout the mall using a secure air tube system and other secure devices from the various businesses to the distribution centre. Innovative counting devices are used to improve the audit trail of the cash received and security devices are used where cash is being held and counted.
Feedback from its members indicates to the CGCSA that retail security technology has to be simple and cost effective; retailers are looking to simplify and optimise. Affordable solutions without compromising safety are key to the success in the retail business. Innovation is welcome but must be easily integrated with current crime prevention technology used in the stores.
Brown says that criminals are constantly innovating and formulating new modus operandi that will lessen the risk they face when perpetrating crime and increase their reward. Technology allows retailers to stay one step ahead of the criminals
“Each retailer is so diverse with such diverse security measures that it is important to remember that there is no magic bullet and that a comprehensive retail security plan needs to be tailored around each store’s specific needs,” Brown concludes.