Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

More than Just Security: The Future of In-Store Surveillance #3

March 14, 2017

In my previous blog in this series, we explored some of the new and exciting possibilities created in retail by combining HD IP security cameras, such as those offered by Cisco Meraki, with the store network to identify individual customers and drill down on their behaviours.

Now we go a little further left-field, by considering how retailers embracing IoT as part of their digital retail transformation could use the security camera as a sensor, to add an additional dimension of AI in key areas across their operations.

We usually associate cameras with recording what is present, and the latest generation of security cameras are capable of analytics and triggering activity based on movement captured. For example, somebody lingering longer than expected in front of a display may require assistance, and an alert could be sent to the closest member of staff. However, they could also be used to trigger activity based on no movement, and we’ll look at two scenarios where they could be used effectively.

Health & Safety

Consider the issue of workforce safety, particularly in small stores with few or lone workers, or back-office areas with restricted access. If a team member has the correct privileges to access an area, but has an accident or worse – is attacked (violence by customers is a growing issue in-store, increasing 40% in the last year according to the BRC) and is unable to call for help, a camera sensing no movement could alert store management or security to check everything is OK. Customer safety could be assured in the same way.

Shrinkage Prevention

In theory, access behind the scenes is tightly controlled, yet shrinkage behind the scenes remains a significant problem, with a recent BRC Retail Crime Survey showing that 100% of UK retailers experienced employee theft in 2015-16. While all retailers take precautions around restricting access to the most at-risk areas and ensuring a quarantine between the shop floor and workforce personal property and entrance/exits, this is only one clandestine route for goods to leave the premises. The reality is that the process of receiving and handling deliveries is labour-intensive and doors cannot be impermeably secured. A camera sensing no movement in a loading bay, for example, where the door is open, could trigger an alert for the area to be secured, closing the window for goods to be removed fraudulently.

Moving on from sensing a lack of movement, did you know that cameras actually register much more than we can see? Software recently developed by MIT reveals the invisible motion and detail behind video images, making it possible, for instance, to calculate the heart rate of someone by monitoring the blood pumping beneath their skin making it possible for an IP camera to act as a super-sensor.

Imagine, then, how retailers and brands could use this technology (leaving data protection and privacy issues aside just for the moment) to carry out the ultimate in Consumer Behaviour Tracking?! Where, how and why might the heart rate of a shopper change? When they are excited, in a rush, annoyed?

So, what’s next? Smart stores and even smarter shopping. By combining the camera with both 3D sensing technology and deep machine learning algorithms, the same customer enters the store and is directed straight to the department he browsed online at home earlier from his smart watch. There, he’s presented with items he looked at and complementary ones – perhaps a tie and cufflinks to go with that shirt – in just the right size and finish, and when he’s done, he can pay using his wearable tech and walk straight out, with his purchases shipped home or to the workplace. A programmed, personal retail experience.

The scenarios outlined in this blog series may seem far-fetched, however the technology is already in place to make them a reality. The pace of digital transformation in retail and the risk and rate of disruption, as identified by Cisco Retail research, is exponential and these use cases may be commonplace tomorrow.

Click here to learn more about how we are working with retail customers worldwide to securely digitally transform the customer experience, workforce experience and optimise retail business operations.

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