Access control in retail: scalability and security in a unified solution

Carl Staël von Holstein

The retail landscape is constantly shifting, and retailers are seeking to both optimize their offering to fit the changing needs of the market and increase efficiencies in their own operations. The connection of devices and technologies through the Internet of Things (IoT) has brought with opportunity to create numerous new functionalities, allowing retailers to apply intelligent technologies to increase the sophistication of processes and address key challenges.

Open IP network access control is one example, and can today mean much more than simply letting people through a door. When network intercoms, cameras and sensors start communicating, and smart analytics are applied, creative solutions can be developed which go beyond the basic functionality of analog and proprietary systems.

Scalability remains a top priority for retail solutions

One of the challenges faced by retailers is their ability to scale in line with market demand. Being able to quickly increase the size or number of stores provides a competitive advantage, but security solutions must be able to keep pace. With open IP-based access control, scalability and futureproofing is ensured whether there are one or a thousand doors in the system. And adding new network intercoms, other devices or new functionalities is easy should requirements change.

Open common standards and technology platforms are key to making this a reality. Solutions from third-party suppliers can interact to provide solutions which are significantly more than the sum of their parts. These platforms are a giant leap towards making buildings truly smart places, and provide solid foundations for retailers to build on as their needs change.

Managing internal workflows in high-traffic areas

It’s not only scalability that presents a challenge for retailers, but the ability to control how different areas are accessed seamlessly and securely within the premise, both in the store itself, stock rooms, and administrative areas. Introducing an IP-based access control system to a proven and agile video platform makes for some interesting use cases in retail. One of them is the possibility to add virtually any type of credential to operate a door or a function.

This concept is already being used in delivery areas, where vehicles are constantly dropping off or collecting goods.

  • Typically, the delivery company registers their vehicle before arriving, and during regular working hours a gate will open once the license plate recognition application in the camera identifies the delivery truck.
  • During the night an extra layer of security can be added: as soon as the camera recognizes the truck an alarm is triggered to the security center. An operator then opens the gate remotely after visual verification.

This scenario could be replicated in store, especially in high traffic staff areas such as the store room. With the help of a QR-code application in a camera, access could be granted to all staff wearing a specific QR-code on their badge or shirt. The benefit here is that staff can easily open doors without contact, for instance when carrying goods between the store room and the sales floor. Such touch-free access control also brings benefits in relation to store hygiene and cleanliness.

Supporting both retail security and the customer experience

Automating internal processes also helps ease processes and ensure they are consistent regardless of the conditions. Activity can become quite hectic inside the store during peak times, which requires staff to focus on delivering high levels of service to customers. As a result, security measures enforced by staff – such as monitoring areas with high-value items – might become secondary. By using the appropriate technology, staff can be better supported when their attention is needed elsewhere.

Combining video, access control and audio with a powerful and easy-to-use action rule engine allows retailers to set up rules and triggers that are normally cumbersome and time consuming to program.

For example, luxury retailers can increase the level of awareness for the staff when opening a drawer of high value merchandise. Once the drawer is opened, an alert can be shared with employees over the speaker in the staff room. Images from a camera directed towards the drawers can be automatically displayed on the monitor in the back office, allowing staff to remotely monitor activity.

Responding to changing demands around opening hours

Sometimes it is beneficial for retailers to extend their opening hours to accommodate demand.  This could be achieved by introducing unmanned opening hours or even a completely unmanned solution. In this case, a unified IP based system would play an important role. The store could use a printed QR-code by the entrance that prompts the customer to identify themselves with an electronic ID to gain access to the store. Once inside, a targeted marketing message could then be played over the IP audio to further increase the customer experience, together with a welcoming message on in-store monitors.

Should an incident occur, this type of system – where video and access control work seamlessly together – will be invaluable to the investigation. For example, the retailer could search for instances where a cardholder had been denied entry, and not only would they receive a log, but also video material showing the event with a synchronized time stamp. This information removes the need to search and collate different material from two separate databases to create an account of the incident, ultimately saving time and resources.

Intelligent access control plays a role in the future of retail

As the retail sector evolves and adapts to changing marketing demand and customer preferences, the desire for integrated, scalable solutions will increase – particularly around access control. Retailers have to be agile and able to respond quickly to optimize their offering for staff and customers alike. Combining video and access control intelligently makes sense, due to the increased functionalities and capabilities it unlocks. In this way, retailers can ensure they are investing in the right technology that will allow them to become and remain competitive.

Find out more about solutions for access control here.

Solutions for access control