Strengthening Retail Security
Caught in the Act
The biggest concern for owners of retail establishments is stock loss due to shoplifting and employee theft. Insurance companies are now putting pressure on retailers to develop and implement a loss prevention program. CCTV equipment plays a key role in such a program.
The performance of CCTV cameras is generally defined either by overall image quality or the feature set. Regarding image quality, the increased perception of HD quality in consumer markets is definitely having a knock-on effect on the same perception in the professional CCTV market. As HD in the CCTV world has a major impact on bandwidth usage, overall system setup and storage - especially for retail applications up to 32 cameras - the impact on cost is large when implementing an HD based CCTV system.
In terms of the feature set, TV shows such as CSI have artificially inflated capabilities. However, the available technology is definitely catching up with Hollywood. Bosch Security Systems' latest update of its Intelligent Video Analysis (IVA) software includes a feature called Counterflow. It can be used in retail environments to detect people or objects moving in a user-defined opposite direction. One application is the detection of hit-and-run actions where people try to leave with full shopping trolleys via the store entrance.
Way To Go
Unfortunately for retailers, a large proportion of loss is due to theft by their own employees. Consequently, great attention is given to the POS terminal area and storage areas. Traditionally POS fraud is fought by surveillance staff monitoring a POS terminal or by manually searching in surveillance video recordings. With Bosch recording solutions, the POS data can be fully integrated with video, thereby connecting the physical actions of the employee to the information entered into the terminal.
In addition, entrances and exits need extra attention as, in some countries, shoplifters can only be apprehended when having the intention to leave the store with stolen goods. This also means that in case of suspicious behavior, a security person should be able to conduct remote surveillance of the checkout proceedings and track them in detail. For this reason, moveable cameras are increasingly being introduced in the retail industry.
There is a slow but steady move towards IP in the retail sector, although its success, especially for smaller installations, depends on true plug-and-play functionality. Many manufacturers are now offering boxed solutions combining recording and management capabilities. Bosch will soon release new firmware that will enable its current Divar Hybrid H.264 recorder to become a true plug-and-play IP system. It will connect IP cameras at the click of a button. Motion fields for the IP devices can also be set up via the same Divar interface without having to go to the IP device itself. This saves configuration time and reduces TCO.
Furthermore, there is an increasing demand to use storage in the camera. Especially for smaller retail outlets, the new Bosch IP Camera 200 Series with built-in SD card storage and free viewing software is a perfect and highly cost-effective surveillance solution.
IVA can also automate some surveillance work, although in retail only certain applications are considered suitable. Examples are the Counterflow application mentioned earlier; the initiation of an alarm when a certain object in an area is removed; and line crossing, which is when an invisible barrier is crossed, instigating an alarm.
Integration is especially important in larger retail environments, where the Bosch Software Development Kit (SDK) enables straightforward integration into third-party software. Another area of integration is with local access and intrusion systems, which is proving particularly useful in loading docks, warehouses, accounting areas, safes, data centers and security rooms. It not only allows remote viewing and evidence recording but, if needed, remote authorization and control of who enters and leaves a particular area.
Retail applications usually range from four to 64 camera systems. They are normally tailored by solutions consisting of standard (hybrid) recorders that offer limited scalability. IP systems are preferable if a scalable system is required. Bosch offers such systems, ranging from straightforward and affordable recorders for video management and recording to more highly-featured IP solutions.
The overriding challenge in retail security is ease of use, which Bosch builds into all its products. It's particularly important in smaller retail outlets where the owner is frequently also the security guard. The easier the CCTV system is to control, the more effective it's likely to be.