Over the last decade, the retail
 security market has undergone shifts in both approach and technology. The number of decision-­makers coming from the loss-­prevention side of the business is dwindling, and analog cameras are reaching the end of life, meaning the need for live operators is declining as well. Such changes mean that electrical contractors in this market need to look forward, adapt to new technology and find the right partners.

Latest trends

According to Greg Hartzell, senior manager, surveillance business unit, Toshiba, the integration of Internet protocol (IP) video surveillance cameras into point-of-sale (POS) systems, access control and other physical security devices is the leading industry trend. 

“Instead of simple text overlay on the video serving as POS integration, analytics are now being incorporated to identify locations and/or individuals most likely to be committing fraud,” Hartzell said.

Internal theft is on the rise and a trend of great concern, according to Tony Gallo, senior director of Sapphire Protection LLC, Austin, Texas. 

“Some internal theft is being driven by the decentralization of the retail industry, potentially leading to an owner’s or manager’s loss of familiarization with specific store locations,“ he said. 

Many retailers are addressing internal theft by inventory tagging and adding covert cameras that link video recordings to cash regis-
ter transactions. 

“This enables the manager to search transactions to determine if they actually took place,” said Joe Cook, vice president, North America for Merit LILIN USA Corp., Arcadia, Calif. 

“For example, if an employee has a high percentage of voided or cancelled cash transactions, the manager can search the database and see if the customer actually left the store with 
the merchandise,” he said. 

That’s not to say external theft isn’t still as great an issue as ever. 

“We are seeing more theft in specialty retail and an increase in the use of weapons in snatch-and-grab incidents,” Gallo said.

Retail security applications also are taking advantage of wireless communications and using apps on smart devices to see into the store remotely, Cook said.

“Video surveillance is being used for more than just security,” Cook said. “Remote access enables the owner to have a real-time view of the location and determine the number of customers in the store, see if people are loitering, and determine whether employees are providing customer service

At the most basic level, according to Hartzell, retailers want the same thing out of their surveillance system that everyone else wants—decent resolution, ease of use and good value. More specifically, they want IP cameras with built-in infrared (IR) illumination, remote viewing capabilities, and recording capabilities over 30 days.

“Technology enables retailers to have more management capabilities and provides easier ways for them to monitor their locations and review events,” he said.

Retailers are also looking to upgrade or install new radio frequency identification (RFID) tag systems to help combat theft. RFID tags enable the identification of goods leaving the store, while showing exactly where each piece of merchandise is located. 

“RFID technology continues to advance and enables owners or managers to more easily identify losses in the store,” Gallo said.

What’s a contractor to do?

The contractor’s role can vary widely, depending on the size of the job. 

“There is an opportunity for the contractor to go beyond the role of just running cable and conduit and to become a partner to the retailer in designing a system of IP-enabled cameras and DVRs that will help the retailer to prevent loss,” Gallo said.

To do so, however, the contractor needs to fully understand the technological capabilities of security system components. 

“Cameras today are no longer the simple devices of 20 years ago,“ Gallo said. 

Today, cameras can be from a variety of manufacturers and designed for low light, outside use or motion activation. Contractors need also to understand the evolution in alarm-transmitting technology, which now uses polling technology to communicate regularly with the monitoring station. Polling technology is the continuous checking of programs or devices to determine their state. 

“Contractors need to find a manufacturer partner that can provide the right products and support,” Hartzell said, adding that they also need to keep informed of new technology 
and applications.

“Contractors can’t sell old technology for new security issues,” Gallo said.

Overall, contractors need to envision themselves in five years and ask what is right for their business. 

“The retail enterprise has many needs, most of which are becoming automated and that use IP addressing,” Cook said. 

The contractor needs to decide whether to offer a fully installed solution or to partner with other companies, such as a security integrator, an information technology company, a voice over IP company or other industry professionals.