Investing in modern surveillance for retail buildings of tomorrow

Over the last few months, retail has experienced a wide range of shifts and has been forced to evolve. As more people crave social interaction and the physical store experience slowly opens to the public, some are venturing out to buy within stores while others are booking personalized appointments with retailers while following new health and safety protocols. For the more anxious shopper, they continue to buy online or through curbside pick up at the store front. Some retailers have vacated their spaces altogether due to business closure or have had to reconsider their business strategy. Everywhere retail buildings and space are being reassessed and rebuilt or redesigned for other uses or to better support the next retail evolution.

With these changes store owners and retail developers, such as architects, engineers and builders are having to rethink store layout and building designs. Recent research by CoStar Group Canada said among the accelerating trends is the fact that since mid-March, more retailers are adopting ecommerce, downsizing to smaller and more efficient space, repurposing mall space for micro-fulfillment, and adding coffee bars or services to maximize their usage.

The macrocosm of the retail-built environment is in for an overhaul. Shopping malls and curbside or street facing shops will need to change as the world around us has changed and will continue to as we face the new world. Customers will need to feel safe when they venture into a store. People in the next few months and perhaps for future safety are going to be wearing masks; they are going to practice safe distancing; there is going to be a limit on people in the stores; touchless service will become a necessity; and access points in and around the store are being rethought and redesigned. But brick and mortar retail won’t die; in fact, it’s being and will continue to be reinvented for even greater customer experience, optimization and buyer comfort and assuredness.

Designing retail infrastructure with modern surveillance in mind can enable that feeling of added protection, safety and reassurance for clerks and customers, while creating an environment that is also efficient, stimulating to shop in and delivers a best-in-class experience.

 Re-evaluating an older building or retrofit

What about surveillance for an older building? Retrofits can be challenging due to limited placement of surveillance devices, cabling and other barriers sometime causing improper placement. The other challenge is whether to replace the wiring infrastructure to save costs. The good news is it can be done by updating the infrastructure, which is the backbone of the system, to meet and anticipate the needs of advanced technology that provides a gateway for future solutions.

Many older buildings may require special consideration for surveillance device sizing to meet the designations of a historical building, and in this case speciality housing and cameras may need to be considered. For it to work, follow the key placement of the devices in a retrofit the same way you would for a new build. Update the infrastructure to allow for lifecycle management of devices, even if you are reusing existing devices to save on project cost. The future use of a device requires an evolution of the infrastructure that allows for upgrades and security patches, so keep that in mind.

Consider all the stakeholders in future builds

In building out a modern surveillance system for a new retail infrastructure, the methodology to consider should be inclusive of all stakeholders. The most common element is loss prevention, which covers four zones of a building including the parking lot; general interior of the infrastructure; category areas like specific departments; and specific product assets. Implementing proper surveillance coverage for these areas is necessary to allow for complete tracking of the persons or assets within the store while ensuring proper identification at entrances and exits.

At the crux of this is applying the proper technology for each zone. For example, using network cameras with Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) Forensic Capture for entrances and areas with strong back light, the best low light cameras for outdoor spaces, Infrared (IR) Cameras to cover areas in day/night mode where little or no light exist, and Height Strip cameras at exits to get the optimal facial shot. It is proven that the most integral part of the video system is a usable image that can provide identification of persons, vehicles and other valuable evidence to assist in an investigation or prosecution.

To be truly impactful, combining overall surveillance with analytics will create a proactive approach rather than a reactionary or investigative one. Integrating technologies such as video, access control, intercoms, and audio can enhance the measures while supporting the other stakeholders.

Next is marketing. A spiking interest for retailers is optimization like analytics around occupancy levels, foot traffic, heat mapping and dwell-time management which all cover areas of the business. They also help maximize the retail space, understanding staffing levels for peak periods and utilizing high traffic areas to increase sales. In the case of store optimization, cameras may have different placements within a retail building than those for loss prevention to create the most accurate data which is critical to business intelligence. They’ll use the same infrastructure, but with a different purpose and perhaps a different reporting system.

Because technology can do more than just surveillance, enhancing the customer experience should be in the system design that resides in the overall architectural design and build. Another element should be the thoughtful consideration of staff and customer safety and making sure that complete areas of coverage are available where safety concerns may exist. The areas to consider in the overall planning stage are parking lots, fire exits, warehouse areas and elevators. Everything designed and built inside and out with surveillance in mind.

A platform like Axis Camera Station video management software should be considered to make sure all cameras can be controlled remotely. This is specifically developed for small and mid-sized installations where retail stores can enjoy full control, improve their business functions, protect their premises and quickly address any incident.

And of course, no building plans are complete without cybersecurity considerations. This applies to all new builds and retrofits too. Chipsets with cyber security in mind that meet National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) compliance, encryption certificate and more. These should not be an afterthought.

As you evaluate your next design or build, what really needs to take centre stage is making sure you discuss the expectations of the surveillance systems purpose with the retailer. Consulting with the surveillance manufacturers for specifications, coverage assistance and technology applied for retail can also be advantageous as well as looping in IT and security.

Make it part of the design plans

Design professionals can leverage intelligent 3D modelling to plan for surveillance in their building designs. To plan for entire surveillance systems in your Building Information Modelling (BIM) building designs, there are plugins where you can select and place interactive surveillance products directly in your building plans. You can incorporate systems right into your Autodesk® Revit® design.

Some of these plugins are fully integrated with your BIM projects, and they quickly let architects, engineers and builders access surveillance product as a realistic 3D model. When using a camera, you get a complete eye on your 3D visualization of your CAD design as seen from the point-of-view of the camera. It’s a very simple and effective way to help configure and verify the camera coverage in the various locations where they are mounted/being used. Also, each new camera added is automatically updated in your building design in real time. For anyone in the retail infrastructure building industry, it’s an extremely attractive and useful tool. Some plugins even let you visualize the entire setup and customize both resolution, pan, tilt and zoom of the camera(s) to adjust the field of view for each.

Last words: consult with other professionals

Be sure to take advantage of the manufacturer’s skillset to understand the current technologies that exist and the trends happening in retail. It’s an industry that changes rapidly, as we have seen in recent times, and so is the technology available, which means that analytics, business intelligence and AI play a key role in modernizing the retail of tomorrow.

Surveillance systems that allow people to do more with less is increasingly important, so that every stakeholder of the business can utilize the feed for loss prevention, marketing and sales, health and safety, compliance audits, store audits, real estate review, signage and fixture review without the requirement of an in-person visit . In this new world that we live in, keep in mind the total cost of ownership – investing in the correct technology contributes to lower cost over time rather than switching out product every five years. It will also offset the high costs of travel and store visits, lower product loss and elevate the customer experience, which is paramount in today’s retail world.

Finally, another consideration is to consult with retail segment specialists to assist in the design or to provide regular updates on how retail is using video technology to accomplish more of a profit for retail versus being an overhead cost. I assure you, much more change is on the horizon for built retail spaces.

Rick Snook is the Business Development Manager for Retail and Banking at Axis Communications.  In this role he provides support and education and assists with providing comprehensive and sustainable solutions to our large end users while protecting our channel partners. Rick holds a Physical Security Professional (PSP) certification from ASIS International, Loss Prevention Qualified (LPQ) from the Loss Prevention Foundation, CPTED Level 1 as well as an Axis Certified Professional (ACP) designation from Axis Communications.


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