Graham Swallow, Retail Segment Lead at Axis Communications, looks at how the physical security of retail premises ahead of the busiest shopping period of the year can make the difference between boom and gloom.
The retail industry is entering the busiest period of the year; the countdown to Christmas, also known as the Golden Quarter. Yet, as window displays are arranged, shops are restocked and store managers prepare for the increased footfall, thoughts also turn to the growing requirement to protect premises, goods and people. Perhaps this year more than others, the need to stock up with goods early, ensuring that delays and shortages caused by both Brexit and Covid do not affect the seasonal opportunities, will make retail premises even more of a possible target for the retailers’ greatest nemesis, the opportunistic thieves and career criminals who cost UK retailers £4.8bn in 2019.
It’s essential that the retail industry prepares for every eventuality, and as Christmas approaches, now is the time to put appropriate physical security measures and internal processes in place to make sure that the upcoming shopping period is safe and secure for staff and customers alike. Considerations must start at the perimeter to ensure that stores and distribution centres do not become a magnet for criminals. Making the right decisions are critical with regards to the technologies that should be implemented to guard against such threats, preventing the needless callouts of staff outside normal working hours, and mitigating unnecessary strain on resources
Intelligent video surveillance starts at the perimeter
The combination of video surveillance cameras and analytics, such as human detection software, has dramatically expanded the security capabilities available to the retailer, who is now able to comprehensively protect the outer perimeter, parking areas and warehousing with a range of solutions. Indeed, many retailers are realising the benefits of ‘target hardening’, making security equipment highly visible so as to deter potential criminal activity. Today’s network cameras should be capable of producing highly detailed images even in adverse weather conditions, and the dark nights of the encroaching winter shopping season, without creating false alerts.
Such technology, utilising the power of artificial intelligence (AI) results in cameras that can significantly improve the ability to only detect activity that requires a response. Combining visual data from cameras with other sources, such as radar detection or thermal cameras, can further improve detection capabilities, capturing additional information such as direction and speed of travel, and the number of intruders, to tailor the best and safest response. Enhanced with edge analytics software which is able to identify people or vehicles approaching the premises, cameras can trigger a standardised response as a deterrent, such as lights and IP audio warnings, backed by high-definition recording.
Video capture, management and response
The data from multiple sources can then be channelled through dedicated video management software (VMS), at a centralised location covering multiple sites, or even via mobile device. This has benefits not only from a surveillance perspective but also in relation to managing actionable alerts to protect your priorities and focus your resource. Accurate video of any incident can play an important role in protecting the integrity of the retailer’s unique reference number (URN), without which, seeking police assistance and insurance in the future might prove difficult.
Video can be quickly processed, packaged and sent to an alarm receiving centre (ARC) or the emergency services as required. When video technology provides good images, is secure, tamper-resistant and redacted where required, it is admissible as evidence in court, increasing the likelihood of action being taken against any potential criminals. Accurate, high-quality video set up with rules and parameters also lessens the chance of false alarms (false positives), meaning that operatives are not deployed unnecessarily to investigate, and better focused on the task when they are called upon to do so.
Controlling personnel access permissions
Access control systems that use video surveillance as a second factor of authentication, can prove a powerful tool for effectively guarding high risk entrance and exit points. Staff admission can be carefully monitored, with access attempts granted or rejected based on a combination of credentials and video camera verification. The use of frictionless access control technologies, employed so effectively during Covid as a means of mitigating viral spread, can be used to speed up access. This avoids staff having to search for ID cards or other credentials when they might be carrying products, or while outside of the premises which could leave them vulnerable. A common result of poor or difficult door access/egress controls is to simply prop the door open
It’s common for criminals to look for unguarded staff access points on the off-chance that they have been bypassed. Here, again, an access control system with two-factor authentication and entrance / exit logs provides assurance that only those with authorisation are admitted. Similarly, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology installed at the central barriers of a retail park can immediately detect suspicious vehicles and deter those that are visiting for the wrong reason. The same technology, linked to the access control system, can grant permissions for delivery trucks out of normal hours and even allow for the delivery to be dropped without manning the store. This represents a significant cost saving and much needed flexibility on delivery times to the supply chain.
In addition to video surveillance and access control, IP audio can act as a powerful deterrent to any would-be intruder or internal threat, with pre-recorded or live audio announcements advising that they are being monitored. IP audio solutions can be triggered in response to surveillance camera data, while notifications, sent to security personnel via mobile device, enable swift action when required.
High-quality video surveillance, access control and IP audio solutions hold the key to smarter, safer retailing during the Golden quarter. With a comprehensive security solution that’s fully scalable to incorporate an array of other sensors to suit individual business requirements, the retail industry can enjoy peace of mind from knowing that its stores, shopping centres, distribution depots and warehouses are more secure. The retail industry has worked hard and been patient during the pandemic. It deserves a profitable Christmas and a stress-free shopping period for managers, staff and customers.