As many security integrators are aware, the retail security market has experienced a pretty dramatic shift in the past decade, which makes selling to this huge market a trickier proposition. Retail security departments that are dominated by decision makers from the loss prevention side of the equation are dwindling. Analog cameras are reaching their end of life — and with that, a retail security operation’s need for live operators is declining as well.
Bottom line is that it will take a forward-looking integrator, entrenched in the world of IP technology and IT departments, to make inroads in the retail market. “It is just a more complex sale,” explains Chris Lesnewski, CEO of Cam Connections Inc., Lakeland, Fla., an integrator specializing in, among other things, loss prevention and retail security.
A Decade of Technology Change
One only needs to look back at the last 10 years to see the dramatic technological changes that have affected retail security. Since many big-box retailers made such huge investments in analog cameras, many of them were still tied to VCRs and multiplexers just 8-10 years ago. “A few years later, most were converted over to DVRs and higher-resolution analog cameras,” Lesnewski says. “Where they used to be 280-300TVL cameras, they went up to 500-600TVL.
“They still have quite a bit of investment in (analog technologies), and the equipment is still working. However, some of it is starting to reach end of life, and we are just now getting into that period the last couple of years where large-box retailers can start to make a change,” Lesnewski continues. “They have gotten enough ROI and lifespan out of that analog equipment, they have justified it, and now they are ready to start going to IP.”
The Impact of IP
As much or perhaps more than in any market, the transition to IP technology has created a major transformation in retail security. As retail security departments wean themselves off of analog PTZ cameras, it creates more opportunity for efficient operations.
“Many retailers surprisingly rely heavily on analog PTZ,” explains Brian Echtenkamp, western region sales manager for NVT. “PTZs generally require live operators, but today’s retailers are trying to get away from that. Operators watching cameras isn’t what they want — they can take those people out of a dark room in the back and into other places for undercover-type of investigations or looking into internal shrinkage. They are going to multiple high-resolution IP panoramic cameras, and with better technology and better forensics, they can perform investigations at a lower cost.”
“We have already started replacing analog PTZs with IP cameras,” Lesnewski confirms. “Depending on the environment, 3-4 IP cameras — placed in proper locations — can give you the same coverage. When you compare the cost of a quality analog PTZ, the mounting hardware, enclosure and controller joystick, the additional IP cameras are really much more cost effective.
“Once an end-user experiences the benefits, it is really an easy sell and transition. The biggest advantage is not needing to physically monitor the PTZ camera to get the view you need.”
As indicated, moving away from analog PTZ to IP-based technology creates greater operational efficiency. It enables retail security departments to forget about the days of searching through hours of videotape to investigate an incident; in fact, IP cameras truly become a force multiplier for retail security. It should be one of the main selling points of making the transition for those retailers who are lagging behind the adoption curve.
“It’s a lot less drain on the hours it takes to do a case,” explains Robert Bull, president of Cam Connections and member of the Board of Advisors for the Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC). “Going back 4-5 years, our retail customers had an active security agent in the store where all they basically did was monitor that PTZ and follow potential shoplifters around. IP definitely eliminates that. It’s much less stress on the operators, because they don’t have to be in two places at once — both on the floor and behind the PTZ — so it’s definitely helped with staffing and workload.