Magazine Article | March 20, 2008

Best Practices In Remote Video Monitoring

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Security experts discuss how to get the most out of your video monitoring technology.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, April 2008

Video monitoring isn't just for deterring shoplifters. Retailers are using remote video monitoring to improve store operations, verify alarms, and provide security for store employees, among many other functions. This month, Jack Finefrock, vice president of retail security for Diebold Global Security and Dan Dunkel, president, New Era Associates, a consulting company focusing on physical security and IT convergence opportunities, discuss some of the ways retailers can use video monitoring systems to add value throughout their operations.

What business issues are driving the adoption of remote monitoring in retail?
Finefrock: The most critical issue remains the need to identify and prevent shrink. The best estimates indicate that shrink reduces a retailer's profit by an average of 2% to 3%. That translates to billions of dollars every year. When coupled with well-planned security policies, practices, and procedures, remote monitoring can help identify where a retailer's problems are found. Video provides more information than ever before, enabling a more planned, intelligent response to the activities that lead to shrink.

Dunkel: The adoption of remote monitoring is being driven by the promotion of open systems and standards and the continuous drop in the price of video-monitoring technologies. In addition, the rate of organized criminal activity and retail theft continues unabated. It must be countered by the use of video analytics and innovative video technologies. According to widely accepted industry data, organized retail crime is estimated to cost the industry as much as $30 billion each year. The numbers are so startling that retail associations that had been tracking this information in two separate databases were asked by the FBI to begin merging their efforts in late 2006.

What are some best practices for camera placement?
Finefrock: Camera placement should protect a retail facility's most critical areas. In general, cash register lanes, back doors/stocking doors, stocking areas, server/computer rooms, and safes are considered some of the areas of greatest risk. Each retailer is in the best position to identify other high-risk areas specific to the type of retail entity and the facility. For instance, in clothing stores, fitting room entrances are particularly vulnerable. Two questions can assist security leaders in identifying their organization's most critical areas. First, what areas within the store would shut down the operation if they didn't exist? And second, where are the areas of greatest loss?

Dunkel: Innovative camera deployments are replacing traditional guard services to reduce costs and promote efficient total-cost-of-ownership models. For example, an integrated access control, video, and HVAC solution can allow 24-hour delivery services without the need for a physical security presence.  Drivers can access a gate and approach the warehouse, lighting can be activated with doors opening, and a combination video/audio capability can be deployed to monitor the activity for audit purposes and in response to real-time circumstances.

Which events should retailers be setting as alarm triggers?
Finefrock: In the storefront, some common triggers include the open and close of back/stocking doors, glass breaks, and blown alarm codes upon entry or exit. Areas that house safes often have a number of triggers from duress alarms to the safes themselves. For example, if policy prohibits opening the safe during business hours, any activity to the contrary would be a trigger. Today, even POS exceptions can serve as high-tech triggers.
Some triggers for distribution centers or warehouses include: trucks being loaded when they're supposed to be unloaded, rejected card reads or access codes at the gate, and people carrying boxes out of the facility. Similar to the greatest areas of risk, triggers are specific to the retailer and the facility.

Dunkel: Successful retailers are setting alarm triggers around access areas where theft is likely to occur. An example could be a back door to a warehouse that remains open for an extended period of time. This scenario could indicate a potential theft and therefore trigger an alert to a command-and-control center that then maneuvers a nearby camera to pan, tilt, and zoom in on the activities.

What network, integration, and infrastructure concerns should retailers consider prior to implementing remote monitoring?
Finefrock: When a retailer's bottom line is at stake, timing is critical. The faster the retailer's network connection, the faster images can be transmitted to the central station. This enables more timely action to thwart activity that could lead to loss. The most important investment a retailer can make to impact remote monitoring is in the speed/bandwidth of its network.

Two key approaches to managing the video from remote monitoring are streaming and pull on-demand. Although video monitoring calls for more bandwidth than yesterday's security tools, it doesn't require as much as retailers may think.

Because a trigger is required for transmission of video to a central station, video isn't being streamed on a continuous basis. Instead, it's being pulled on demand, according to a retailer's security protocols. On-demand video streams are more practical and are much less of a burden on an IT infrastructure.

Dunkel: Remote monitoring is a subset of a holistic security policy and must be deployed across the company or global enterprise in alignment with the existing IT infrastructure. This involves an approach of open systems and standards that has collaboration at the center of the strategy. A new software category called PSIM (physical security information management) is evolving. It provides an integrated approach to sharing data across IP (Internet Protocol) networks from disparate sources, eliminating the proprietary silo approach the physical security industry has historically implemented for video surveillance. The ability to integrate multivendor video, access control, biometrics, and identity management applications, to name a few, will enable the future of digital security. These physical security middleware platforms can provide a transition strategy from legacy (analog) to new (digital) security solutions. Once security policy is transitioned to a digital global network, the opportunities to apply a preemptive security policy in retail environments can become a reality. 

Give some examples of remote monitoring done the right way.
Finefrock: The retailers that enjoy the most successful remote monitoring deployments have two things in common. First, they build the technology around the "three Ps" — policies, processes, and procedures. Remote monitoring can provide verification that the three Ps are working, or it can identify opportunities for improvement. Second, they leverage their remote monitoring capabilities to enhance other components of their operations. Monitoring can provide retailers with a variety of data beyond those directly related to security. For example, it can enable a retailer to evaluate the success of end caps, determine inefficient use of square footage, monitor inventory, observe employee behavior, and much more.

Dunkel: One example is Pathmark grocery stores. The company incorporated a strategy that involved both the marketing and physical security departments. The collaboration was created to improve revenue-per-square-foot metrics, as well as to fund surveillance cameras across the store aisles, not just the traditional slip-and-fall deployments in the produce section of the store.

Security needed to replace a traditional analog video system. Simultaneously, marketing wanted to understand why stores located on the same road, a few miles apart, with similar local customer demographics, had different revenue per square foot of retail space. Through a combination of video surveillance cameras on the aisles that were used to monitor customer buying behavior and questionnaires, the store was able to reconfigure the facilities and reposition products to improve revenue per square foot. The configuration was installed at the other location with the same results, and later to more than 100 locations during the first phase of a much larger rollout. The same increase in revenue per square foot of retail space was realized.