Considerations for Video Analytics in Retail

There was a time, just a few years ago, when many people thought video analytics for the retail market would give them all the information they could possibly need by simply plugging in a camera and pressing record. The promises did not live up to the hype and video analytics never saw the rapid adoption by the retail market that was anticipated at the time. Today, however, expectations have been reset and video analytics systems have become more sophisticated and technologically advanced. Though it is still not a plug-and-play world, video analytics can significantly empower retailers when they invest in the proper video infrastructure and take the time to understand how they want use the analytics.

Video Analytics RetailThe biggest key to success is being able to pinpoint exactly what you are looking for out of a video analytics program. This is particularly important because different applications call for different equipment, setup, and data. For example, if the loss prevention department is interested in employee theft or fictitious transactions at the registers, cameras should be placed with a clear line of sight to the register. On the other hand, if management wants to analyze the behavior of how long people are standing in the queue and which end cap displays are most effective; a wide-angle lens covering a larger field of view may be more cost-effective.

Loss prevention and sales/merchandising are the two main applications for video analytics in retail. With loss prevention applications, retailers must define their requirements as specifically as possible; for example, whether they are attempting to eliminate shrinkage from internal theft, external theft, or both. They should also decide if there are specific behaviors, such as loitering, that store personnel want notifications about; or if management is looking to understand transaction inaccuracies in specific cash registers. This isn’t a loss prevention application

Since a video analytics system is set up to collect a lot of data, a natural inclination for retailers is to use some of that data to understand their customers’ behavior. The biggest challenges for retailers with merchandising applications are determining the specific scenarios they want data for, as well as in what form they want the data. Who will be using the data is just as important as what data they want to see.

For example, does the marketing department want quarterly reports of the effectiveness of promotional events or end caps? In this case, they most likely do not want to see video clips, but rather reports from the clips that tell them how often customers visited the end caps compared with the transactional sales of those items during the specific period.

One final consideration for choosing the right video analytics program is to make sure the supplier and installing company have longevity and experience in these complex programs and will be able to support  the needs of the organization. Video analytics companies are in large supply, but not all of them may be around in another five years. Therefore, taking the time to find a supplier that meets the organization’s needs and will be available for a long-term partnership is the final piece of the analytics pie.

Let us know how you are using video analytics in your retail establishment (or want to) by leaving a comment below.

 

Video Management Software: Sized to fit

skechers logoThere are many factors that can make a security project particularly challenging—the size, the timeline, the special needs of the client, just to name a few. When lifestyle and fitness shoe giant Skechers unveiled plans for its new 1.8-million-square-foot distribution warehouse in Rancho Belago, Calif., size was certainly an issue to be dealt with. The new facility was replacing five smaller, existing warehouses and was being built with long-term usage and future expansion in mind.

But the distribution warehouse also bears the designation as a foreign trade zone (FTZ), and that in and of itself required some creative planning from a security standpoint. Without a doubt, operating as a foreign trade zone requires additional security functionality since it is subject to U.S. Customs Service supervision and security requirements. Product in an FTZ requires continuous tracking as it comes and goes, for the purpose of determining delayed or reduced duty payments, as well as for logistical and tax benefits.

With so much activity both inside and outside the warehouse requiring the supervision of security staff, Skechers’ loss prevention team needed a solution that  provided an intuitive, user friendly interface along with the ability to instantly replay recorded video in the event of an incident.

Greg Drivas, Director of Loss Prevention for Skechers USA, and his integrator, Select Systems Technology, selected the American Dynamics’ victor video management system as the backbone of the distribution center’s digital video recording solution. Through victor, Drivas and his staff can view, manage and control recorded video from the five VideoEdge network video recorders that capture video from more than 100 cameras both inside and outside of the facility. victor is also tied in with the building’s access control system, so if someone exits through the wrong door, a video of the mishap is instantly brought up on the screen.

Employing a highly responsive, highly functional video management software platform, at the level victor provides, keeps Skechers in synch with its Compliance Department to meet specific foreign trade zone security requirements. But it also has provided side benefits by allowing Skechers’ management to tap into the video for internal studies on productivity and product movement.

Video management has proven to be a powerful tool to help handle large volumes of live, streaming video. At the same time, it’s imperative for a video management system to still be easy enough to use for even the least technical security officer to set up views and archive video.

Security practitioners have recognized the many security and operational benefits made possible by video management systems. Regardless of whether the project is large-scale, such as Skechers’ 1.8-million square foot facility, or a local grocery store with a handful of cameras, today’s video management systems provide end users with scalable, customizable solutions that are easy to use and can meet current as well as future needs.

Find out more about how Skechers secured its massive new distribution facility and derived operational benefits out of its video surveillance system by reading the complete Sketchers case study.

What features of a VMS do you find most useful, let us know in the comments section below.

 

Security Basics: Making the most of the security you have

Security basics checklistAs security professionals, our goal is to make sure our clients are up-to-date on not only the latest technology, but also have the tools to understand what supporting systems they can use to make everything work.

In a recent webinar, “The key security features you aren’t using but should be to keep your business safe and secure,” Steve Lewis, senior product manager for Software House, focused on getting back to basics, taking participants through the various best practices for making sure safety and security are at their highest levels and operating properly.

If you’re interested in reviewing some security basics, especially in the context of our evolving world and changing security threats, watch Steve’s archived webinar.

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What underutilized security task do you perform that others may overlook? Let us know in the comments area.

 

Multicast video transmission vs. Unicast video transmission methods

describe the imageMulticast video transmissionWhen looking for the most effective way to manage video in a security system, there are two often-discussed video transmission methods: Multicast and Unicast. Both have their benefits, but which is best for security applications?

Multicast is a method of one-to-many transmission which is often deployed in IP applications of streaming media. Multiple viewers can simultaneously tap into a single transmission from one source.

Television programming is a perfect analogy. When you want to watch HBO you tap into the HBO feed on the cable network, not to a dedicated signal of HBO. If your cable box is authorized, you get access to the existing stream of HBO on the cable network.

To benefit from Multicast, multiple simultaneous views of the same stream are required. For customers who have multiple operators viewing the same live cameras, Multicast may be a benefit.

However, in most security applications, Network Video Management Systems (NVMS) are used to view recorded video much more than live video, like reviewing video from a specific date and time, around an alarm event, or reviewing video as part of an investigation. Since all recorders, including the most advanced multicast-based recorders, are based on Unicast video streaming for playback, there really is no gain on operation performance by utilizing Multicast network.

To realize significant benefits from Multicast transmissions, a multicast-enabled network must be constructed to enable single stream replication on the IP network, making it available for every user looking to view it.

Multicast stream can only be used on the Local Area Network. Operators communicating over a wireless connection or over the corporate WAN will communicate using Unicast stream by default, and will not gain from the Multicast capability. In addition, IT departments are wary about enabling Multicast on their network due to security reasons, not to mention the cost associated with it.

Is Unicast a better option?

With Unicast transmission, every user in the network who would like to view video will receive a dedicated video stream from the Video Management System (VMS). Compared to Multicast transmission, Unicast does utilize more bandwidth; however, these streams are only required between the source and the “viewer”, and do not affect the entire network (as a Multicast transmission would.)

With VMS implementation of advanced video compression technology and the ability to maintain symmetric bandwidth management of video, users can manage multiple high-quality video streams on a Unicast network without the deployment of Multicast transmission.

To summarize, Multicast transmissions do offer the benefit of lower bandwidth consumption, but comes with higher network construction cost.  Unicast provide cost-savings on the construction of Multicast-enabled networks while maintaining real-time, low latency, high-quality video with adequate bandwidth management for all users on the network.

At American Dynamics, we believe in empowering customers to invest in enhancing their security systems rather than investing in the construction of new IT equipment. VideoEdge is a Unicast-based network video recorder. Unlike Multicast-based digital video recorders that are dependent on the network to manage the video streaming (the Multicast network managing video transmission), VideoEdge utilizes advanced network management techniques that provide higher operational performance.

Note: Most recorders that are dependent on the multicast network to manage the streaming have different performance levels (e.g. 200 or 300Mbps write to disk, while operating on a multicast network compared to 100 or 150Mbps write to disk, while utilizing Unicast network.) The main reason is that these recorders are now tasked with the video management and are not capable of symmetric bandwidth management.

VideoEdge’s advanced networking architecture manages the video in real time. When a user requests video, live or instant playback, VideoEdge responds with no latency. This advanced architecture does not strain the system resources and, as a result, the rack-mount VideoEdge Network Video Recorder maintains full performance of 400Mbps write to disk, 400Mbps video streaming to client, with the Desktop maintainng 50/50Mbps, while providing metadata generation on all cameras. This is accomplished with no video quality degradation or frame-rate loss, all the time on all cameras.

 

Have any questions about Multicast or Unicast video transmissions; post them in the comments section below.


Technology for Safer Schools

safer schoolsViolence in American schools over the past two decades has resulted in the real need for an increase in security technology in the school setting. Federal government initiatives like Safe Schools, Healthy Students have been created to bring together school officials, law enforcement, and surrounding community leaders.

Along with federal grants, these initiatives have helped generate a national awareness for the increase of school security technologies to help keep our schools safe. Be sure to read Cheryl Shea’s blog post, “Technology for Safer Schools”, on the Tyco Security Products Blog to see what types of technologies are being deployed in the school setting and how manufacturers like Tyco Security Products are working to meet the specific requirements and limited budgets of this industry.

What are your areas of concern regarding school safety, let us know by leaving a comment.

Navigating the road from Analog to IP Video

For those of us who operate in a 24/7 physical security technology world, the migration from analog to IP based systems may seem like a done deal. After all, the security industry publications are busy touting the next big developments such as surveillance in the cloud and HD vs. 3D and have presented case studies on analog to IP conversion for the past decade. Doesn’t that signal that everyone has gone down this road already and the process is complete?

Truth be told, the reality is far different. There are still plenty of companies and institutions with analog systems that are just embarking on the migration journey. According to IMS Research, a U.K.-based market research firm, it will likely be 2013 to 2014 before sales of IP and network-based equipment surpasses the sales of analog products. Granted, analog sales are flattening out and IP video product sales for cameras, NVRs, encoders and video management systems are growing at about 30 percent a year, based on IMS’ data, but there remain buyers in both categories and analog hasn’t disappeared from the radar as quickly as may have been predicted.

In this ongoing migration to IP network video, many are beginning to weigh the benefits of replacing or supplementing their existing analog-based products. They are asking themselves a host of questions: Will switching to IP improve the resolution and quality of my video? Will IP products perform better in both day and night conditions? Will I be able to do more with the video I am capturing?

Likewise, they are exploring not only the possible benefits of a conversion, but also the challenges presented by taking a new path: How do we get in sync with the IT department on how this will work? What training will be required for the security staff on this new system? Do I need to start from scratch, or can I integrate some IP based products with what I already have in place?

These and other questions are addressed in the Webinar: Uniting Analog CCTV and IP Video Security Systems. If you’re in the process of evaluating this migration and would like to learn more about what steps to take, please watch the recorded webinar.

 

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Have you thought about, started, or completed the migration? If so, leave us a comment below with your biggest concerns?


Retail Security: IP Video helping prevent shrink & improve operations

A few weeks ago the National Retail Federation (NRF) held its 101st Annual Convention & Expo in New York City, bringing together some of the biggest names in retail, such as Target, Macy’s and Walmart, to network, participate in educational programs and view the latest retail technologies.

NRF 2012 ExpoKnown as “Retail’s Big Show,” an important element of this annual expo is retail security, as the industry continuously grapples with loss prevention issues on a daily basis. Not only do loss prevention professionals need to ensure that merchandise remains secure after hours, they also have to contend with employee theft, shoplifting by individuals, and organized retail crime rings.

What tools will loss prevention professionals deploy to tackle these many problems? IP video is expected to play a large role in helping to solve the retail shrink problem, as more retailers look to harness the full benefits that technology has to offer.

The Global Retail Theft Barometer reports that total global shrink in 2011 costs retailers $119 billion a year which includes Organized Retail Crime (ORC). According to the National Retail Federation’s Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Survey 2011, nearly six in 10 senior loss prevention executives say senior management understands the severity of the organized crime problem. Because of these staggering statistics, many retailers reported they are investing in additional technology to mitigate losses from ORC.

IP video can help retailers reduce shrink by identifying shoplifting activities quickly. Built-in intelligence helps to reduce the number of uneventful recordings and send alarms when suspicious behaviors occur. A store manager can easily search thousands of hours of video to find a specific video clip quickly for forensic evidence after an incident has occurred.

The intelligent capabilities of IP video enable store managers responsible for many stores to remotely monitor each store for suspicious behavior from any location with a network connection. Both live and recorded video can be viewed at any time thus reducing the need for dedicated loss prevention specialists to monitor shoppers at each store. Also, remotely monitoring store activity using high-definition IP cameras gives a clearer picture of activity across all stores. Gone are the days of dealing with grainy footage to capture a crime in progress or to identify the perpetrator of the crime after the fact. The clarity of an overall scene can help determine whether a shoplifter acted alone or as part of organized crime ring that moves from store to store.

IP Video SecurityIn fact, the Illustra IP cameras enable rapid evaluation and recognition of ORC members through their interoperability with Sensormatic EAS pedestals. Taking an alarm from the pedestal, an Illustra camera can instantly send an image or a clip anywhere via email. Clear face shots of potential perpetrators can be evaluated and redistributed to other locations as ORC teams move from store to store. 

The Illustra 600 HD IP cameras extend the reach of IP cameras by intelligently targeting high-definition resolution directly at faces in the scene. A properly situated Illustra 600 camera can detect faces dynamically and increase the bit-rate or clarity around those faces in real-time. That means a full HD camera can operate at a network-friendly level, but deliver crystal clear face shots in the blink of an eye.

Learn more about how IP video can help retailers solve their unique security requirements by watching an interview featuring Karen Olsen from Tyco Security Products taken during the NRF show.

How is IP video helping you curb retail shrink and improve store operations? Let us know by leaving a comment.

Digital Video Storage | the Impact of the Thailand Flooding

Even though the flood waters in Thailand have mostly receded, the flooding caused by record monsoon rains this year has had a significant impact on the storage industry. Almost one-third of the world’s hard drive manufacturers facilities were under water this fall and some areas remain flooded. As a result, storage device manufacturers have been challenged with keeping up with demand, driving up the cost for storage by as much as 50 percent.

Low supply and higher prices present several challenges for the security industry, which requires enterprise-class hard drives that are designed for continuous, 24/7 operation. Not all hard drives are created equal. While consumer grade hard drives can often be less expensive, security industry recording requirements need to be more reliable and to continuously read and write multiple video streams simultaneously. As a result, security Hard Disk Drives should never be low-cost consumer drives such as those used in a desktop or laptop computer, as these components were not intended to process information 24 hours a day.

digital video storage

Systems integrators need to be vigilant when it comes to buying hard drives for their customer’s digital video storage needs. Here are a few simple tips to follow:

  • It’s important to know where your products are coming from and to work with a reputable supplier in the industry that will maintain product integrity. The cheapest storage device is not always the best.
  • Since most integrators don’t have the financial backing to maintain large inventories of hard drives, be sure to maintain a dialogue with your vendor about your storage needs for future projects. Provide your solution provider with a list of upcoming projects so you can get your order in early, avoid wait times and perhaps save some money.

It will take several months before the hard drive storage industry returns to normal and inventory levels to recover. In the meantime, it’s important for Tyco Security Products customers to know that we are working closely with our hard drive storage device suppliers to maintain inventory levels of our various storage solutions and to ensure that we continue to deliver quality products to the marketplace. 

Lets us know how you have been affected by the hard drive shortage by leaving a comment below.

Face Detection | Choose Right Camera to Save Bandwidth & NVR Storage

With each stage of development in high-definition IP cameras, as the megapixels increase, there is a greater emphasis on tailoring solutions to avoid major impact on network bandwidth and storageAs camera features are improved and enhanced, so is the need for greater bandwidth and storage. While H.264 compression enabled widespread use of megapixel resolution, bandwidth and storage are still a major concern for many customers.

Face Detection Reduces NVR StorageMore industries and organizations have an increased need for greater details and features when purchasing high-definition cameras. From a cost standpoint, storage has an impact on customer purchasing. While storage may seem inexpensive relative to other technology, when a customer adds up the amount of storage needed for a full megapixel deployment, it is not necessarily cost-effective. This results in the purchase of fewer cameras. Fewer cameras may result in security incidents being missed, which can directly impact a business.

Face detection is a new technology that significantly combats bandwidth and storage costs. A camera’s ability to detect a face in a scene and send an alarm without increasing bandwidth and storage is key. Superior high-definition cameras can detect a face and increase the bit rate around it, while still being able to see the surrounding areas in the scene. Think of this as an intelligent region of interest.

Customers concerned about bandwidth are generally on “shared networks.” Shared networks are those where traffic from the security devices coexist with traffic from other business functions, as opposed to dedicated networks where only security traffic travels. This situation can occur anywhere; however, this issue is largely seen in the healthcare and education markets.

In applications where capturing quality facial imagery is important, choosing the right camera can make a difference. With some surveillance cameras, you have no choice but to set the resolution and quality high enough to capture the faces with ample clarity. But when those settings are used all the time, whether there is a face in the scene or not, this wastes bandwidth and storage on video that is not important. In other cameras, you might have to crop the image in order to save bandwidth and storage, but this often loses important scene information. The best option is an intelligent surveillance camera which can be set at a lower overall bit rate but one that will boost the quality around faces detected in the scene. This captures high quality face images, but reduces overall bandwidth and storage consumption by not wasting it on less interesting parts of the scene. But those parts of the scene are still available so that important information is not lost.

 

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What other ways are you offsetting the need for more storage within your IP security system? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
 

Beyond CCTV: Growth within Tyco Security Products

Recently we had the pleasure of announcing our exciting plans to grow our intrusion technology portfolio. With our signing of an agreement to acquire Visonic Ltd a few weeks ago we expect to be officially welcoming them into the Tyco Security Products fold very soon. We’re thrilled with our plans to acquire this unique and innovative company that has deep roots in the security industry and strong strategic sales channels. It represents a key opportunity for us to increase our market presence in the intrusion space in key global markets.

While this is a major move for our intrusion portfolio, it’s only one area of growth within Tyco Security Products. Acquiring new technologies has historically been part of our strategy, but our investments into R&D and engineering are also a significant driver behind the inventive solutions we strive to continually offer the market. The push for continued product development and for integrations between our different technologies is a hallmark of our individual brands and of Tyco Security Products as a whole.

To insure our roadmap development and integration plans are supported and evolve to meet the changing needs of our global customers we continue to make investments into the resources required – like engineering and product management. In fact, in 2010 we added about 200 new employees worldwide, with the greater majority of these new resources being engineers. The hard work of our combined product teams and other valued employee resources has enabled Tyco Security Products to retool each of our major product offerings over the past two years to ensure that we maintain a competitive edge and continue to offer relevant solutions to today’s security issues.

Beyond CCTVLast month at ASIS we had the opportunity to show the industry some of the fruits of this talent pool. Several recent new innovations have been added to our product portfolio, including some that made their debut at the show. Our new IMPASSA wireless intrusion system offers a unique feature set including two-way wireless functionality, an integrated communicator for secure alarm communications and a distributed wireless approach for easier installation and setup.

On the video side, we introduced a new version of our victor unified video client and VideoEdge NVR, furthering our strategy to simplify video management for large sites like airports, hospitals and universities. This means easier prioritizing and sharing of video within the facility’s operations center for improved response time. In addition, our easy-to-install Illustra IP video camera family continues to grow, with the addition of the Illustra 600 minidome camera.

Finally, our access control offerings – Software House’s C•CURE 9000 and Kantech’s hattrix security service platforms – continue to break new ground in their respective segments of access control and expanding new possibilities for large and small organizations alike.

Armed with these recent advancements and the power within our individual brand legacies, I look forward to the accomplishments we will achieve in the next six months as we gear up for ISC West.

Let us know which products you are using to help your organization or customers meet their security needs by leaving us a comment below.