How the IoT delivers better protection in retail with the security assets already on site

21 August 2019
High street retailers are under incredible pressure to deliver for their customers and their bottom line. Everything in today’s stores has to be focussed on customer satisfaction and efficiency. At the same time, crime in the sector is rising. Last year, businesses saw a total loss of £700 million from customer theft alone, and figures suggest the total cost to retailers of crime and crime prevention was £1.9bn. It is therefore imperative that smarter security solutions for retail are adopted.

Physical security has a significant role to play, and systems such as network cameras and access control can deliver both better crime fighting abilities and an improved customer experience at the same time, thanks to Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

Retailers that adopt IoT solutions, such as cameras connected to cloud platforms and analytics, are finding that they can improve their ROI from existing assets, both by improving their core functions and by turning the data gathered to new uses. 

It’s proving to be a highly successful way of balancing the competing priorities that managers face, using investments that have already been made in the security space.

Improving retailer safety

First and foremost, IoT is helping store managers to protect their staff, stock and premises in ways that would have previously required expensive up-front expenditure on dedicated servers for image analysis. Today’s advanced camera edge processing and cloud-based platforms are able to take live video data and spot patterns of behaviour that are linked to the build-up of aggression, for example, or pick out when a customer is loitering suspiciously near a valuable asset such as an ATM.

Where CCTV was primarily useful for forensic analysis of incidents, more and more it is helping retailers to proactively manage security without the need to recruit extra staff. Image analysis can help human agents to prioritise correctly, and help avoid false positive alerts. 

The same video network, moreover, can also play a role in delivering efficiencies and improvements to customer service, especially when it is connected to other networks and systems. For example, cameras in the cashiers’ area can be used to automatically detect queue build-ups and issue a call over the PA system for more assistants at the check-outs, or identify when there is no customer present during a transaction. 

Rajalla På Gränsen, a mall in Finland, takes this intelligence a step further. Security cameras are used for monitoring footfall and understanding how customers move around stores, helping managers to refine and optimise layouts and marketing messages. The same information can help reduce costs by closing certain tills when customer numbers fall.

The key to success lies in communication. Security devices are historically the prerogative of the security team, but unlocking new forms of value requires both the technology and buy-in and understanding from other departments too.

The importance of cybersecurity

These benefits are unlocked because physical security is going through the process of digitalisation, with IP networking and the cloud replacing dedicated cabling and on-site appliances. At the same time, however, it’s important to be cognisant of the risks involved. Cybersecurity breaches can impact both the financial health of an organisation and its reputational wellbeing. Few companies trading on today’s High Street can afford either – all the benefits of an integrated, IP-connected system can be lost if the cybersecurity fundamentals are not in place.

It’s important, then, to ensure IoT deployments are made according to best practices and well-established processes that can mitigate risk. Cybercriminals tend to focus on poorly configured and protected “low hanging fruit”, and simple precautions can reduce risk factors considerably. 

These precautions include ensuring that no device is accessible using default credentials, such as a factory set admin username and password. These combinations are well known and quickly tested by bad actors. Strong user authentication also means being able to restrict access levels based on who is using the technology. Not only does this mean you can keep records of who has accessed videos and when, for example; but it also enables rules-based systems for access, such as, only giving permission to see live or recorded feeds to those who really need it. 

Choosing a vendor who will support networked cameras and devices throughout their lifetime is also critical, in order to ensure that firmware upgrades are delivered in a timely and easy-to-install manner. With the right due diligence in vendor selection and appropriate policies around cybersecurity in place, the connected physical security systems of today can deliver on the promise of both better protection and added business value.

/Graham Swallow, Business Manager Retail Axis Northern Europe

For further information, please contact: Kristina Tullberg, Regional Communications Manager Northern Europe, Axis Communications
Phone: +46 708 90 18 72