Is traditional CCTV a risk or relic?

Nov. 17, 2022
Cannabis retailers wonder if it’s time to say goodbye to CCTV

All technologies eventually become obsolete and are replaced by more advanced devices. This is especially true in the security industry where faster, smaller, and smarter devices are created every year. Despite all of the progress in the industry, one technology has managed to hang on longer than others: CCTV, or closed-circuit television.

While video surveillance systems using advanced cameras have made impressive strides in recent years, some retailers have been reluctant to replace their old, ‘reliable’ CCTV systems. Some business owners might believe that the simplicity and familiarity of a CCTV system might better suit their small business, but the use of these security relics could open their business up to risks and losses. CCTV systems have no place in the modern retail world.

 CCTV vs. IP Camera Systems

Though the same terminology is often used erroneously to describe both systems, CCTV and IP camera systems couldn’t be more different. True CCTV is an independent, stand-alone system, while modern video surveillance systems can connect to other security equipment and devices via the internet.

 These advanced video surveillance systems can be connected to the alarm system and are designed to alert owners whenever there is unauthorized motion at the business, like after hours or when the business is closed. Potential criminals are unable to avoid detection from the connected security systems, and once detected, the potential criminal’s movements through the business are tracked and recorded. Alerts from the connected security systems, with information about the potential criminal and their movements, can also be instantaneously shared with security personnel or law enforcement to guarantee an efficient response.

Modern video surveillance systems can also connect to point-of-sale systems to link transactions to security footage, providing the identity of the customer and employee making the sale. Reviewing the recorded footage of employee cash handling procedures and questionable customer purchases or employee discounts can be useful to management in improving business operations. Should a crime occur, this data is also beneficial in conducting an investigation or creating an incident report.

The Risks of CCTV

One of the biggest risks in a CCTV system is a lack of video monitoring. Since the footage can only be viewed on-site, there are often long periods of time during non-business hours when no one is watching the cameras. Unlike an IP system which can be accessed in real-time from almost anywhere, including during a crime-in-progress, footage from CCTV systems can only be accessed on-site, reducing the likelihood of 24/7 monitoring.

CCTV systems frequently produce poor-quality recorded footage because they can typically only record at a low resolution. Low-resolution video footage may be blurry or grainy, especially for footage recorded during hours of darkness. Should a crime occur, a CCTV system won’t be able to discern the level of detail that an IP camera system could, like identifying facial features and license plate numbers?

Additionally, CCTV systems are prone to technical problems which could put the business at risk. CCTV systems are restricted in the number of cameras that can operate on a single system which often limits the angles captured by the CCTV system. Faults or errors in an outdated CCTV system can be a major hindrance in an investigation should a crime occur.

While the physical security of camera equipment can be a concern with any system, this is especially the case when older CCTV systems are used. Criminals often target NVR/DVR storage equipment to destroy recorded footage of their crimes or steal the equipment altogether to reduce the likelihood of their apprehension. Unlike CCTV systems, IP camera systems can back up to cloud storage off-site so that video evidence of a crime cannot be altered, destroyed, or lost.

Old Terminology or Old Technology?

When someone uses the phrase ‘CCTV,’ it’s important to clarify if they actually mean CCTV or if they are simply using outdated terminology. The use of the term ‘CCTV’ to describe any video surveillance or camera system has become commonplace in the security and retail industries. A true CCTV system is closed-circuit, meaning the system only broadcasts to a limited number of monitors within the closed system on-site of the business, while modern video surveillance systems transmit recordings over the internet and footage can be accessed remotely.

Though this old terminology has been used for decades, it often doesn’t truly represent the video surveillance system being described. But the prevalence of CCTV’s old terminology isn’t the only thing that has remained – some businesses still have this old technology installed. Businesses that are still operating a CCTV system have risks in their security that businesses utilizing IP cameras don’t have.

The Future of Video Surveillance Systems

An operational video surveillance system is one of the most important components of any retail security system but is even more crucial in high-risk businesses such as cannabis dispensaries, pawn shops, and jewelry stores. In these industries, compliance with insurance requirements or state/local regulations often includes sections about video surveillance. In the cannabis industry, for example, most states mandate access to video surveillance over a live feed which requires the use of IP camera technology.

Even if not required for compliance purposes, every modern retailer should have an up-to-date IP camera system to improve business operations and prevent security risks to the facility. CCTV systems have not only become a relic in the security industry but have become a risk to modern retailers. It’s time to retire both the term CCTV and the use of the technology.

About the author: Katherine Baxter is the Marketing and Technical Writing Manager for Sapphire Risk, a consulting firm specializing in the cannabis market. She can be reached at [email protected].