Today's security systems offer retailers much more than perimeter protection, fire and burglary alarms and anti-shoplifting capabilities. When combined with specialized software and broadband corporate networks, digital video surveillance equipment becomes an extremely effective management tool that provides savvy managers with a wealth of valuable data.
For years, one major retailer with more than 1,000 stores in the United States and Canada effectively used video surveillance and point-of-sale (POS) exception monitoring systems. Yet the two systems operated largely independently of one another, depriving corporate mangers of timely, accurate information related to a host of retailing topics.
Corporate loss prevention managers contacted their vendors – ADT Security Services, the leading provider of electronic security services, and Datavantage, a leading retail software management company – and asked them to leverage their technologies. The result was a truly integrated system. While the goal is a chain-wide implementation of the system, it has been inaugurated in what corporate officials label "high-risk" stores.
Corporate managers can now remotely and simultaneously review POS and video data to take action on concerns ranging from employee fraud to product display placement. Each POS activity report includes a small camera icon. By clicking on the icon with a computer mouse, a manager can access pertinent recorded video information regarding transactions from stores hundreds or thousands of miles away. This allows corporate officials to:
- Quickly confirm or absolve suspicious behavior on the part of customers.
- Distinguish fraudulent cashier activities from unintentional mistakes.
- Effectively deter fraudulent actions.
Before the installation of digital video recorders, corporate managers had to request videotape copies from store managers or send a field manager to the store to investigate suspicious transaction activity. This resulted in either a significant delay or expensive travel costs. And typically, store officials would determine that up to 75 percent of suspicious transactions were not fraudulent.
In addition to assisting loss prevention efforts, the new exception monitoring/digital video system also benefits other corporate department managers. For example, merchandising can check customer reactions to new displays; business processes can review the efficiency of customer traffic patterns and fixture layouts; and operations can review video to confirm employees are properly executing policies and procedures.
The driving forces behind this integrated technology are improvements in digital video recorders and the added speed and bandwidth now available for corporate networks. Hardware and software enhancements to DVRs allow both live and recorded video to be accessed from virtually any desktop or laptop computer with a link to the Internet.
Digital technology offers superb video resolution and superior compression for more efficient bandwidth usage. And 30 seconds of recorded video that might have taken 10 minutes or more to download with a 56K dial-up modem connection can now be downloaded in a minute or less with a broadband Internet link.
The DVRs can be set to record only when they sense motion, increasing the amount of video that can be stored on enclosed hard drives. By using DVRs, store managers have no tapes to replace, no waiting for tapes to engage or rewind, no degradation over time and no need to store bulky videotapes. The hard drives can store up to one terabyte of information. If necessary, data can be archived to compact discs or small digital audiotapes.
In addition to reviewing the video by exception monitoring, video can be searched using filters (such as user-determined perimeters, motion detection and change in light levels) to identify critical events. These search tools save managers time and increase the effectiveness of investigations. Digital video is also accepted evidence in a court of law.
The POS exception monitoring system provides timely information to corporate managers. The software prepares transactional exception trends by store, cashier and register. Automatic email alerts can be programmed to immediately notify appropriate mangers of user-determined exceptions. For example, managers may want to review all voided sales greater than $10 or refunds on specific SKUs.
The corporate database saves 90 days of transaction information. And, as with the video, all retail field managers have remote access to the exception monitoring data via laptop computers.
Overall, the integration of systems by ADT and Datavantage has helped corporate officials to pinpoint areas of concern across the chain. It has focused the attention and time of regional managers on issues of verifiable concern. A wide variety of issues – from fraud to store layouts – can be reviewed and addressed from corporate headquarters or managers almost anywhere in the field. These benefits and others save corporate time and money and bring about a high return on investment that helps make a positive contribution to the corporation's bottom line.
Submitted by ADT Security Systems, Inc.