Looking Through a Lens Differently

For years, video analytics have been applied in airports using profiles of specific behavior. Today, as retailers upgrade their technology to protect assets and customer data, integration between security and marketing is creating a new demand for low-voltage systems.

Tight budgets have not eliminated security installations in commercial establishments. In fact, as technology prices drop, vendors claim retailers are making surveillance and data protection a priority expenditure. Retailers are updating cameras, moving into high-definition surveillance, for images that allow management to identify an event for security and marketing purposes.

Several large retail chains are piloting surveillance equipment with intelligent software, allowing them to identify behavior for marketing purposes. For example, smart cameras can identify dwelling points, measure how long people spend looking at a specific merchandise promotion, and determine the gender, race and age of the person attracted to that location. The software also can be used to track traffic patterns in a store or the effectiveness of digital signage display. Signage content can even be changed to reflect the interests of an identified viewer.

There is little difference between the price of high-definition cameras and traditional ones, said Steve Collen, director of product marketing for Cisco’s physical security business unit. High-definition surveillance cameras have been available for less than a year. Cisco offers plug-and-play high-definition cameras with some analytics.

“The emergence of standards will also go a long way toward making technology interoperable, opening up surveillance options for many retailers who would like to build onto a platform they already have installed,” Collen said. “Those standards are being developed by the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance and the Open Network Video Interface Forum, a forum for creating a standard to allow interface of network video products. This global standard will allow retailers to install multivendor systems that previously were proprietary.

“Our platform is IP-based, and we’re trying to be very active with standards bodies,” Collen said. “It certainly enhances retailers’ choices, and their investment can be protected as they move into newer generations of technology.”

As retailers face more choices, one of the challenges for vendors is finding the integrators who can support the technology through installation and any necessary maintenance. Cisco develops relationships with integrators who can install the system with an understanding of Internet protocol, networking and electrical skills.

“You have to be full service—to be there not just for the installation, but the optimization and maintenance,” Collen said. In some cases, the best integrators are those who pair up with physical security installers or electrical contractors to fill the gap that has developed for retailers and technology vendors.

Still, the primary concern for most retailers is the data, and that is an area where more contractors find themselves specializing. PIN-pad hardware, for example, is developing with tamper-evident technology to ensure no one taps into credit card data while it is being entered at the cash register, i.e., before it even reaches the backend system.

“Retailers have very small margins,” said Paul A. Ruocchio, IBM solution architect for systems management security. “They don’t move on technology unless they have a good reason, and data security is the reason in this case.”

There are multiple points where credit card data can be at risk and vendors work as hard as the identity thieves do, in their case patching up holes the thieves would try to manipulate. IBM strives to ensure cash registers, which are personal computers, are safe from intrusion by physical breach at the store or remote access elsewhere. They can be used in conjunction with surveillance to identify immediately if there is an unusual activity at a register or PIN pad.

Members of the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ANSII) are working to develop standards for this technology as well. In the meantime, Ruocchio said the “tier one” retailers are already sampling data protection and PIN pad intrusion detection systems.

“The message is that security is not an add-on but an integral part of development cycles of both hardware and software,” Ruocchio said.

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at claire_swedberg@msn.com.

About the Author

Claire Swedberg

Freelance Writer
Claire Swedberg is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at claire_swedberg@msn.com .

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