Using audio to protect retailers’ staff and property

October 24, 2019
For retailers in city or town centers, storefront vandalism and break-ins will affect the bottom line negatively. Integrating network audio in their IP camera surveillance systems is an effective way to protect property but also to improve staff security.

The high streets of Great Britain have seen their status as the main arteries of towns and cities dwindle since hitting “peak High Street” in 19th-century Victorian England. Even so, they remain essential, for example, offering residents shopping, food, and entertainment.

However, during nights, especially during weekends, the high street may attract more shady individuals. For the retailers, this may result in costs for clean-ups, repairs, replacing damaged property, or worse.

A need to improve security

Recently, several UK retail businesses have approached Axis. Some are long-time Axis IP camera users; others use competitors’ cameras. The common denominator is that they are looking to improve their surveillance solutions.

David Needham, UK & Ireland Sales Manager, Axis, explains: “If you look at their stores, they are normally on the high street, and there is lots of anti-social behavior that can happen, or people trying to break in or damage their property.”

As the word spreads about the benefits of integrating network audio in IP surveillance systems, more customers want to install loudspeakers outside their stores to improve security.

Network audio deters crime

David Needham, Sales Manager, Axis Communications
David Needham, Sales Manager, Axis Communications

A typical system works like this. If the AXIS Perimeter Defender analytics inside the IP cameras catch someone loitering in front of a store longer than a predetermined period, it generates an alert to a staffed control room. Here, an operator talks live through the horn speaker, telling intruders to go away. The way the analytics is set up, it ignores anybody that walks past the store, which significantly reduces the number of false alarms.

The analytics can also trigger a pre-recorded message that is broadcasted through the speaker. However, live messages have proven more effective.

“Our horn speakers have been a great success in the UK,” Needham says. “We sell a lot of them, so it is just natural to put it all together. The result is less damage and less crime. Network audio is now a standard part of several customers’ store design.”

For the customers, the connectivity and the quality of Axis’ solution are usually determining purchasing factors. “If you’re putting analytics in a camera on a high-street, where people and cars are passing, you need something that will work well,” Needham says. “You need a reliable solution that doesn’t trigger false alarms.”

Making the staff feel safer

There are several ways to use network audio in surveillance. In one project, Axis UK added horn speakers and live voice messages to help improve working conditions. This retailer’s staff often work inside the stores after closing time to stack shelves, getting the store ready for the next day. However, it is quite common that intruders try to break in to steal small and high-valuable products that they can quickly convert into cash.

“Obviously, if someone tries to break in, that is quite unnerving,” Needham says. “With the audio solution in place, the staff feel protected and safer. The result is that you have a happier, more productive staff. The staff retention goes up as well.”

Another network audio application used for staff security is a high-grade panic button. “If there are any problems or conflicts in the store, or people are trying to steal high-value goods,” Needham explains, “the staff can press the button, and the alert goes through to the control room. The operator then talks through a ceiling speaker to the store, for example, ‘You are being observed, please leave the building!’”

Supplier of end-to-end solutions

The integration of network audio has opened some customers’ eyes to the fact that Axis is so much more than a supplier of high-quality IP cameras. It is changing Axis’ role.

“A growing number of customers now see us as an end-to-end supplier as well as their security partner,” Needham says. “Increasingly, they come to us and say, ‘Here’s the problem that we have, how do we fix it?’ With some of them, we have an ongoing review process and special innovation days, where we show them what we can do and discuss their requirements.”

Needham points out that one crucial success factor is that the competitors don't have the network-based audio component with the horn speaker. “Maybe they could do something similar, using an analog speaker, a mixture of devices and code,” he says, “but they will miss out on the many features and possibilities of IP systems, and there we control the whole solution.”

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