03 July 2009
“SA’s retail sector needs to counter rising crime to reduce the impact of the recession” – Elvey
The economic downturn has left no industry untouched, least of all the retail sector where consumer spending is dropping and crime rising.
“The industry is hurting,” says Jack Edery, CEO of Elvey Security Technologies. “Not only because sales volumes are down but also because its old adversary, crime, is simultaneously on the rise. These two problems are typical of recessionary conditions, which can drive otherwise honest people to do stupid things.”
Unlike banks which have sophisticated security systems in place, Edery says most retailers are very vulnerable to robbery and shrinkage. “They often don’t take even the simplest steps to adequately secure their personnel, stock and cash, which leaves them wide open to being robbed.”
Francois Smuts, New Business Development Manager for Elvey, agrees: “Criminals look for opportunities and system weaknesses, increasingly so when times are tough. The bottom line is that anyone, anywhere, can become a victim of retail crime if they don’t have good systems in place.”
One of the most effective ways of reducing retail crime is the installation of an integrated security system that equips security guards with the tools they need to monitor everyone on the premises, whether staff members, contract workers or visitors, says Smuts.
“Patrol systems that utilize GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) can monitor time and attendance in real time,” he explains. “Data transmitted through GSM cellular networks makes it possible to receive second-by-second updates on a live, web-based patrol monitoring system, which has a number of benefits. For one, you can ensure that the guards have been patrolling as scheduled. For another, the guard is able to communicate immediately with the control room in the event that he spots suspicious behavior or a crime in progress by pressing his panic button. This dramatically improves not only the safety of the guard but also that of employees and the property. What’s more, the control room can call a security guard at any time, whether to reassure him that assistance is on its way, or to advise of an emergency or of missed or unfinished patrols.”
The changing face of the shopping mall …
In the last decade, says Smuts, shopping malls have become social centers where an ever-increasing amount of people meet and hang out. Establishing a comprehensive security strategy for this type of environment therefore requires a deep understanding of the diverse layers of security. “This not only includes the actual shopping area but also the parking lot and the area around the building,” he points out. “In such a complex environment, technology is integral to addressing the requisite layers of security, which include intrusion, fire safety, closed circuit television (CCTV) and access control, all critical components of any professional security plan.”
As technology advances, he continues, these layers are becoming more and more integrated into a single platform, which makes it easier to monitor and manage from one central spot. “While telephone lines are usually used by security companies to monitor various locations, it’s the alarm panel that normally sends opening, closing and test signals to the central monitoring station. Considering that each signal costs the equivalent of a telephone call, the annual cost to organizations is substantial. The cost-saving benefit of communicating to the central monitoring station via Internet is therefore very attractive to people, especially in these tough economic times.”
IP (internet protocol) delivers other important benefits too, he notes. These include faster data transmission and immediate notification of line interruptions at both the central station and the protected premises.
To this end, Smuts advocates products such as the T-Link TL300 module, a network internet communicator capable of communicating with any control panel, even those from third party manufacturers. Using state-of-the-art technology, the unit connects directly to the telephone output of a control panel and simulates a telephone connection by providing a TCP/IP connection that sends predefined contact ID codes to the central station.
Another advantage of alarm reporting via IP, he says, is that the communication link between the premises and the control room is securely supervised and any dropped signal or failure to report will therefore trigger a communication alarm - something that the traditional telephone line cannot provide.
When installing protection for retail environments that contain on-site warehouses, Smuts emphasizes the importance of using the services of a security company capable of responding to alarm calls within seconds of an alert. The choice of signal receiver is also very important, he stresses, hence his support of products like Ozline’s System II single-line IP receiver. Designed for proprietary applications such as colleges, university campuses, gated communities, town house complexes, shopping malls, industrial office parks and government facilities, the receiver allows for significant cost savings since, regardless of the size of the site, communication with the central monitoring station only amounts to a few kilobits a day.
In addition, he notes, the receiver calendar stamps all alarm data it receives before transmitting it to automation via TCP/ IP, USB or serial outputs. “Alarm data can also be transmitted directly to a printer using the parallel printer port, allowing for the immediate dispatch of an armed response unit,” he points out.
Another important consideration with regard to infrastructural spend is the number of accounts or locations that can be monitored by a receiver. “Modern algorithm design in IP communication can easily handle no less than 1024 IP alarm communications,” says Smuts. He therefore advises clients who require their alarms to be constantly supervised to take a system where the alarm control panel communicates every 90 seconds with the monitoring station receiver. “This form of communication blocks any attempts to compromise the security of the premises, whereas unsupervised dead lines tend to go unnoticed.”
For owners of small businesses who want to be kept informed of events on their premises in their absence, Smuts advocates the use of video verification. “Video clips associated to alarm events such as arming and disarming the alarm system or opening the safe, can be remotely accessed via the security cameras from anywhere in the world using video verification,” he explains.
Leading the field in video verification technology, maintains Elvey Product Specialist Valerie Bingham, is OzVision’s new T-Link alarm communicator range. “In the same way that cellular phones, pagers and handheld PDAs have revolutionized the arena of personal communication, the DSC T-Link family, which can be connected and streamed in high quality and high speed via the Internet, brings a whole new dimension to the field of network alarm communicators.”
Among its attributes is a powerful processor capable of connecting up to four cameras for simultaneous transmission and video viewing. Bingham says these transmissions, which can be sent over internet, telephone line, LAN/ WAN or cellular connection, enable users to decide how to deal with the incident and how many personnel to deploy.
Adds Zane Greeff, Technical Director for Elvey: “An outstanding feature of video verification is its ability to transmit video using patented compression technologies, which reduces both video sizes and transmission times. OzVision’s unique product is designed to connect to virtually any alarm trigger device. Each input is connected to a specific zone sensor that provides triggered video transmission, which in turn enables video verification, open and closed reports and event notification. Video clips can then be sent to the central monitoring station as well as to the end-user’s email.”
Able to use existing Internet or broadband connections, the T-Link series can save a business hundreds, if not thousands, of rands in communication costs each year, he says. “Other advantages include that it’s Internet-based so it’s faster. Owners don’t have to fear line cuts or security breaches since it’s supervised at 90 second intervals. And last, though certainly not least, it allows for a faster emergency response due to reduced bottlenecks at the central monitoring station.”