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Digital CCTV - where to within the retail environment?
July 2001, CCTV, Surveillance

Traditionally, retailers have used CCTV as a surveillance tool for security, safety and loss prevention, and the move from analog to digital media has only enhanced its strengths in that arena. Recent improvements, however, in video and communications technology, are enabling uses of digital CCTV beyond these traditional applications.

Digital video provides improved image resolution and quality over analog systems. Digital images can also be compressed and stored on alternative media such as hard drives, thereby reducing storage space requirements and ensuring consistent video quality over time. Digital systems can also be programmed to capture and index images based on specific parameters, providing targeted search and instant retrieval of key images, saving hours when looking for evidence. It is thus evident that these advances set the stage for their wider use as business tools, expanding the reach of digital video beyond simply security, safety and loss prevention.

Advancements in technology are allowing a convergence of previously disassociated business systems and information sources. Video and data from various, normally independent business systems can now be tied together to provide significantly enhanced security management and business tools.

For example, by intelligently linking point-of-sale terminal data to the video system, suspicious activity in the use of credit cards can be identified, as well as a range of potentially suspect activity by the tellers themselves. 'point-of-sale exception monitoring' systems are already commonly applied by retailers within South Africa to close the loop on under-rings, voids, and till refunds.

The same video system currently used for security can now be used for remote management and training. Managers can easily archive video events based on selected incidents, such as evidence that work hours are not being observed or examples of unproductive activities. Similarly, a networked system could be linked to a company's time and attendance system, overcoming the practice of employees clocking in and out their associates.

With South African retailers' margins under continual pressure from increased competition, changes in the patterns of consumer spending, the need to apply new management tools to decrease the cost and increase revenue per square metre of floor space becomes increasingly pressing.

The application of intelligently gathered event-based video can provide a perfect tool for measuring and evaluating performance of critical success factors, such as the effectiveness of displays and promotions, and traffic patterns and flow within the store.

A digital system can be set to identify and record motion within a defined area of the store. An application of this might be to evaluate the amount of traffic passing by a promotional area over a given period of time. This information could then be compared to the shopper count at the store entrance to measure what proportion of store visitors are being drawn to the promotion. Further, more detailed observation of purchasing behaviour and shopper demographics at the point of promotion can yield valuable marketing insights for refinement of future marketing expenditure.

Motion detection

Motion detection can similarly be intelligently applied to increase efficiencies of loss-prevention measures, particularly in stock rooms and receiving bays. Alarm events can be programmed to detect and report on unauthorised movement of pallets and high value items. Importantly, digital systems have the capability to retrieve images prior to the activation of the event as well as during and after. And being able to intelligently retrieve and only view pertinent footage also saves on hours and hours of unproductive tape reviewing.

On-line and realtime notification of security breaches are also possible, such as the opening of electro-magnetic door locks, and unauthorised movement after hours. Links with fire detection systems can also provide remote and accurate verification of alarms. A number of major South African retailers have already taken advantage of these applications, particularly in high-risk receiving bay areas.

A further example might be to control and monitor the movement of bakery staff, or after-hours merchandising teams or cleaning staff. An alarm could be generated by the detection of motion within designated areas of the store or outside of allowable hours. The system is then used to create artificial access control in-store without the need for physical barriers.

As the sophistication of digital CCTV develops, so the scope for an ever-wider array of applications becomes possible. Perhaps the most important development is the ability to analyse and review critical business information, and for this to be made available online, enabling access to reports from anywhere in the world.

The key to success is to develop a solution that includes the functionality of a digital CCTV system with a variety of business applications to form a comprehensive business tool. Such a solution will then not only save money from a security, safety and loss-prevention perspective, but will also enhance efficiencies and revenue.

For further details contact David Pople, Marketing Manager, DNA Sensormatic, tel: (021) 930 7277, e-mail:

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