The 12 Ways of Christmas Surveillance

All stores have surveillance cameras. They're typically used to boost loss prevention and protect liability, but today's surveillance cameras are no longer dumb analog devices. Network-based IP video — either through IP cameras or by video encoding existing analog cameras — can provide invaluable data and pro-active alerts to not only combat crime but improve sales and operations.
Here are twelve tips to make the shopping season merry through network surveillance:
1. Network Cameras to Boost LP - We start with the obvious: an intelligent surveillance system is only possible with network video. Network surveillance cameras — otherwise known as IP cameras — facilitate video intelligence and data sharing while providing HDTV quality to get the most for a Loss Prevention program.
2. Integrating Systems – "Going digital" has benefits across all different systems. POS, EAS, HVAC and access control systems are all most likely on digital platforms. By integrating IP video surveillance, store operations can be streamlined and a set of alerts can be established. Are your cashiers sweethearting with their friends? Are EAS alarms legit or false? Is the ajar back door a threat (and wasting heat) or just a delivery?
3. Store Operations - Much like how systems can integrate together, network video can also be used to address shopping issues in real-time, such as restocking shelves, cleaning up spills or even customer service. IP video can be used to make appropriate staffing decisions and maintain order. 
4. Customers getting antsy? - Video analytics like cross line detection and people counting can alert managers to when checkout lines are too long. If the camera detects people standing beyond a predetermined threshold, the manager knows to open a new register. January also brings long lines at Returns. Customers keep moving while the store watches for fraudulent returns.
5. Exception-based Reporting - Obviously, not all strange POS patterns are cause for concern. By linking video to POS reports via time signatures, the LP department can verify void fraud and sweethearting versus simple human error. If it was a simple mistake, the video can be logged for training purposes.
6. Covert Cams - Unfortunately, employees sometimes are malicious and covert cams are one way of catching them. Analog covert cams do exist, but any network IP camera can be wirelessly-enabled, making it easier to move to potential trouble zones without employees knowing. Also, network-based covert cameras, like those found inside height strips, provide HDTV clarity for identification.
7. Shrinking Your Shrink - There are many software solutions out there to detect fraud and act as a manager in the sky. Additionally, network video cameras are intelligent enough to know when they are being tampered with. If the camera has been moved, blocked, or unplugged as part of a crime, it can alert security that it can no longer "see."
8. Internal Audit Savings - Between November and January, a store's regional investigator must review massive amounts of video. IP video is dramatically easier to search, tag and locate. Additionally, with remote viewing capabilities, the regional investigator can view video from anywhere in the country from the comfort of his/her office. This saves time, money and travel.
9. Consistent Branding - The marketing department can take advantage of remote viewing and centralized video storage to ensure that the brand and customer shopping experience is consistent from Miami to Maui. They can also remotely monitor if holiday decorations and special sales displays are removed in a timely fashion — without having to hire third-party vendors.
10. Plan-o-Grams Made Easy - IP-based surveillance systems can also be offered as a fee-based incentive for your merchandising partners. With a password, they can login to check on their displays as well as product deliveries. Analytics can also be used to show store traffic patterns, dwell time analysis and hot/cold zones to analyze customer interaction.
11. Surveillance in the Cloud - Hosted video — the act of streaming and storing video to the cloud — is an emerging trend. By storing video offsite, there is no need for onsite DVR storage. Hosted video is perfect for a smaller retailer who may not have the staff or resources to install a full head-end system. It's also perfect for those temporary "pop-up stores" that are common around the holidays.
12. Flash Robs Are Coming to Town - What started as a fun promotional gag — the flash mob — has turned into a scary trend. Video analytics can sense large crowd formations, otherwise known as a data "blob," and alert security that a potential flash rob is forming. Even if it's a false alarm, it's good for store management to know that a large crowd is gathering in or around the store.
Hedgie Bartol is business development manager for retail at Axis Communications.
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