Special Focus: Retail--The Big Business of Small Systems

July 12, 2013
No one size fits all, but there's a solution for everyone

This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of SD&I magazine.

It’s estimated that 60 percent of today’s surveillance installations fall into the fewer-than-16-cameras ecosystem. While integrators might be drawn to large national footprint retailers, selling security systems into small business environments is a market you can’t afford to pass up.

Today there are a number of small IP-based solutions that are far simpler and more cost-effective than analog – even for locations with fewer than five cameras. So embrace the small systems sale. There’s an IP solution for every application.

Small, independent owners/operators

Instead of a traditional analog camera/DVR system, steer first time users to IP cameras with edge storage (in-camera SD cards) and video management software. Piggybacking IP cameras on the same Category 5 cable used for other data technologies running in-store eliminates the DVR and expensive cable runs to a head end. Plus they can monitor the cameras remotely over the Internet after store hours.

For those with existing analog CCTV systems, don’t jump right ahead to a forklift upgrade to IP technology. Instead consider small manageable steps that respect their bottom line, yet still provide tangible IP video benefits (scalability, intelligent functionality, ditching the cumbersome DVR, etc.). If there are viable, un-depreciated, quality analog cameras on-site and coaxial cable that is still in good condition, offer media conversion and video encoders to bring the system into the network age. Encoders will digitize their analog camera signals, while media conversion will turn existing coaxial into Cat-5 cable that is capable of accepting those digitized signals.

It’s a DVR busting strategy that offsets their real risk point for security: a failure-prone technology requiring regular maintenance. Moving toward an open IP solution also allows owners/operators to integrate video surveillance with other security systems, such as access control and burglar alarms, for tighter oversight of store activity.         


If the franchisee is a single location operator, assess the existing system and if it’s in good shape, offer a migration path to IP surveillance in small incremental steps: media conversion, encoders and then a lightweight, decentralized video management system running at the edge.

If the franchisee operates two or three locations, consider a lightweight, decentralized video management system with recording software and edge storage. This would involve gradually replacing aging analog cameras with IP cameras that include onboard storage. It eliminates the need for outdated equipment at the head end and allows the franchisee to be more flexible and nimble with onsite equipment.        

Growing chain with multiple small footprint locations

As the small independent business or franchise grows, consider introducing a hosted video solution to store mission critical recorded video in the cloud. With a hosted solution, every location receives the same quality end result. The chain doesn’t need to hire technology experts to manage the surveillance system because the host provider takes on the burden of maintaining, upgrading and troubleshooting. By shifting surveillance from a capital expense to an operating expense, the franchise owner can control the monthly outlay and achieve greater functionality from the system.

Being a network-based solution, management can remotely access video from any location in the chain for operational oversight and business intelligence. So the surveillance system can provide additional value to the organization beyond loss prevention – from consistent branding to adherence to safety procedures and the quality of customer service.

Something for everyone

Video surveillance isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Whether it’s strictly for loss prevention or a tool for broader business oversight, the solution needs to fit the budget and provide value to the bottom line. If you can show how IP video can give them more bang for their buck, you’re one step closer to closing the deal.