By Nigel Waterton, Arcules
Video applications expand well beyond loss prevention and liability, and the cloud is needed to help retailers realize their full potential.
One of the biggest trends in security over the past several years has been the adoption of cloud-based services, spearheaded mainly by an increasing number of video-surveillance-as-a-service (VSaaS) offerings in the market. According to MarketsandMarkets, the global VaaS market size is expected to grow from $3.8 billion in 2020 to $6.2 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 8.7% during the forecast period. Why? Increasing demand for real-time and remote access video services, adoption of cloud-based services by enterprises, the increasing number of internet-empowered devices, and lower total cost of ownership are expected to be the major factors driving the growth of the VaaS market.
While many video surveillance deployments still primarily consist of on-premises solutions, the benefits of the cloud are too appealing for some end users to ignore. Prevalent among these users are retailers. Because many have multiple geographically dispersed locations, limited loss prevention (LP) staff, and often have disparate surveillance equipment, retailers are ideal candidates for cloud-based video architectures. However, in retail, as with any other industry, decision makers require compelling business benefits for the need to invest in a new way of doing business.
Let’s face it, security and even LP have traditionally been viewed as a cost center. But making a move to the cloud is not the same as buying a piece of video hardware with a few new bells and whistles: it marks a fundamental shift in how retailers approach loss prevention, safety, marketing, and security. Among these paradigm-altering changes include:
Reduced Up-Front Infrastructure Costs
The most common argument for switching from an on-premises, server-based video system to a cloud offering is the ability to eliminate significant, up-front capital investment in video surveillance hardware and software. The cloud becomes an operational expense in the form of a subscription fee paid on a yearly, quarterly, or monthly basis. The true cost-benefit for users is flexibility: organizations only pay for what they use as far as storage, which means they don’t have to make investments in on-site storage solutions that are much larger than needed.
Budgeting is critical in retail, and reducing loss is just as paramount from an operational perspective. According to a 2019 survey from the National Retail Federation, more than 44% of LP professionals said their budgets would be increasing in the coming years, with most of those funds going toward investments in technology resources. However, the same study also found that nearly one in four retailers expected to see declining budgets, which became a reality in the wake of COVID-19. But whether your budget is going up, decreasing, or remaining flat, these funds need to be invested wisely, and the cloud provides much-needed financial flexibility on this front.
In addition to the enormous amounts of capital organizations spend to get their video networks up and running, there are also significant sums paid on the ongoing maintenance of these systems. Hardware failures are a common occurrence in video surveillance, so much so that businesses often enter into a maintenance contract with their integrator to ensure they’re covered in the event of a camera outage or drive failure. And, of course, consideration must also be given to the cybersecurity of video hardware and software to ensure known vulnerabilities do not compromise them.
With a VSaaS solution, these tasks are handled by the service provider, often before the end user even notices there is a problem. In most cloud configurations, the health of cameras and other equipment are being continuously monitored and can be fixed on time, reducing the chance for lost video. Historically manual tasks like applying software patches and updates are done automatically through the cloud, reducing long periods of downtime, and eliminating the need for IT to tediously search for and update them individually.
Scalability Made Easy
Let’s say you are adding new stores to your network, and you need to increase your surveillance coverage to account for the growth. In the old model, you would once again be in the position of evaluating technology, determining how much more storage would be required, adding licenses for your video management system, and once again paying for all this up-front. With the cloud, data storage is no longer an issue as it can scale up or down as necessary, and additional cameras can be added at an incremental cost.
Talk of AI is all around us, and if you’re a retail technology specialist, you are probably aware of the advancements that have been taking place with video analytics. Despite debate in the industry about whether today’s analytics solutions constitute accurate artificial intelligence (AI), there’s little doubt they influence how retailers leverage surveillance technology in a wide range of applications. And, unless you plan on running the high-powered servers necessary for these analytics on every business site, the cloud is your best option to take advantage of this next-gen functionality.
Beyond some obvious LP use cases such as facial recognition to spot known shoplifters or those suspected of engaging in return fraud, analytics also holds enormous potential for retail marketing and customer service departments. Imagine using heat mapping to determine what endcap merchandise attracts the highest amount of customer foot traffic or allocating staff resources more efficiently because the surveillance system was able to recognize longer than standard checkout lines beginning to queue.
Unified cloud security allows retailers to manage a single, unified platform to monitor an entire network of devices and cameras across multiple locations in various geographies, keeping simplicity, reliability, and IT security in mind. Video is one of the most valuable resources for retailers looking to scale while minimizing operating expenses and harnesses the power and security of the cloud for use in several environments. All of this while gaining improved situational awareness of stores and limiting the opportunity for loss and embraces new technology that supports modern business practices.