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Interviews

Shard views

We take another lift up the Shard to enjoy the view and to gather the perspectives of retail security people over lunch. Roy Cooper and Mark Rowe report.

The sponsors of this lunch were Axis Communications and the subject of the day on the table – alongside the plentiful plates of Chinese food at the Hutong restaurant at the Shard, offering spectacular views over London. The topic: using CCTV for other things than security and retail loss prevention. Our guests were besides Scott Brothers of Axis, the network camera manufacturers, and Justin Wheatley, Director of Engineering at the analytics product company Wavestore, the retail security heads Mitch Haynes of Aurora Fashions (that you, or your children, will know as such high street clothing brands as Coast, Oasis and Karen Millen) and Jim Oughton the long-time Tesco man; Steve Lewis of Selfridges; and consultants David Petrook from Four Square, Roger Noakes from Daro Associates, and Stephen Halpin, the security project manager at Four Group. The timetable for the day was the same, and turned out the same, as the previous lunch at the same place in November, featured in our January issue. Lunchers gathered at the foot of the mighty addition to the city skyline at 11am, welcomed by Kevan McCrone, the Shard’s head of security. He escorted us to the viewing platform. However he was unable to stay this time for lunch, and his deputy Julian Roche took his place at the table. The reason for the lunch remained the same: good food at an outstanding venue were the draws, and the chance to devote some time in a relaxing setting to chew over – pardon the pun – a security management topic that ordinarily, highly busy people in responsible jobs might not have the chance to consider, let alone share experiences with others in similar positions. Roy opened the business of the lunch after the seafood starters. “I know you are security managers, but are there any other departments that use CCTV?” Jim Oughton sitting with his back to the Thames and City of London said: “The answer to that is no, but there should be. For example, one of the things we are trying to monitor is the analytics of customer traffic and footfall.” He added that the supermarket chain’s retail people are investigating cameras to monitor customer flow, to learn their shopping habits. In conversation before the lunch became more formal – “that in an ideal world what I should be doing is designing a system for retail so they can look up what is going on in the world and they can say to us.” Here is the nub; by Security-loss prevention working on CCTV with another department, such as marketing, or operations, both can gain: security gets more cameras, or newer more advanced cameras, and other parts of the business get intelligence, or whatever they need to do their part of the job for the good of the business overall. Roger Noakes said: “What I tend to do as a consultant – I will see security as a very limited budget, because it’s a ‘grudge purchase’.” You may recall that Roger’s upgrade of CCTV at the National Portrait Gallery in central London featured in last month’s ‘Spending the Budget’, an install which included the gallery shop – such retail settings in museums and stately homes and the like easily forgotten. Roger has long done more obvious retail work also. As he went on, buyers or businesses may take begrudge a security spend because they take the view that ‘it’ (crime or whatever) ‘won’t happen to us’. Retailers, and he named one high street chain, are getting rid of staff and putting cameras in, with a view to technology doing what staff have done. “But if you tap into marketing budget, which is what I always suggest; and you show the benefits of having and utilising what [CCTV] you have already got: I will give you a typical example; there was a DIY retailer and they had issues where they were having thefts, because there’s not too many people in the shops in terms of workers, so what they did: they utilised the cameras that were there and if there was anybody in the area that stayed more than 15 or 20 seconds, they would send a tannoy saying, ‘assistance required’.” Such use of CCTV with analytics increased sales – and the increase could be precisely measured compared with sales before the new use of CCTV, ammunition denied security people who are often left with vague phrases such as preventing crime or reassurance. Yet that use of CCTV for better customer service also reduced theft – and again, a measurable figure. And to top it all, ‘that came out of a different budget’ than security.

Are departments ready?
Use of CCTV for non-security and loss purposes is possible, then; indeed, David Petrook recalled 20 years ago proposing it to a customer. But are businesses or entire sectors ready to work across departments? Stephen Halpin stressed the engaging of other business units, getting them to understand what Security can offer; for instance, health and safety. How can Security protect the profit, if it doesn’t understand what the business objectives are? “Communication to me is a missing strength.”

Bandwidth
Back to Jim Oughton at Tesco, who said that Internet Protocol allows him to put points around a store. If a retail department requires a camera somewhere else other than a secure area, they can have it added later on the network. The old story – and true not only in retail but anywhere: “IT people are passionate about what does on their networks and they don’t like us taking bandwidth.” Mitch Haynes agreed; it’s all about bandwidth. David Petrook said: “Bandwidth shouldn’t be an issue any more.” Mitch Haynes said: “But it is.” Dave Petrook called it a red herring: “It’s a shame that we can’t get the IT people to understand that we don’t want much of their bandwidth, especially as there’s not a lack of it; I suspect there’s a lack of willingness, because they are always thinking someone will crash their network; but this could be just because they haven’t configured it right.” Later, Scott of Axis recalled the fashion retailer Paul Smith, whose use of network cameras, managed by IT, featured in the April issue of Professional Security. Scott recalled the telling line of Lee Bingham, the head of IT at Paul Smith, who took over the retailer’s CCTV: “If it’s not IP then it’s not IT.” In other words, CCTV over IP is just one other thing that IT guys can look at on their screens. Yet as David Petrook said from experience, IT can be his ‘biggest, biggest blocker’ to fitting cameras.

Access to cameras
In fairness, such differences in how a retailer or indeed any business relates to cameras linked to servers as part of IT may depend on the estate. Roy Cooper put two questions to Mitch Haynes: does anybody else have access to his cameras, and how does he control the cameras? He replied that his department does have access to most of the stores’ cameras remotely. The store managers have access, ‘because most of our stores are smaller’ and managers have to know how to copy footage and how to present it to police locally in cases of theft. No, other parts of the business don’t have access. “But we are happy to allow them to have the data that they are looking for.” That said, Security has to take care over data protection, which other departments may not think of, when they ask for some images. Aurora’s brands’ stores may have six to 12 cameras each, which compares with over 1000 in Selfridges in Oxford Street. Aurora is going to high definition cameras, but is not an IP system. As Mitch Haynes and Roger Noakes agreed: almost all the time, whether the cameras are showing shop floor or back door, there’s nothing of real interest; if there is, it’s known in retrospect and use is reactive. Stephen Halpin, said that we as security professionals and certainly as security managers in my view would be much more engaged with the business if they we were proactive in offering the data product, with due regard to compliance and the skills of our duties as we are in a position to have a very positive impact on smoothing operations and positively impacting the bottom line through improving operational effectiveness and sharing information data with other business units. I just feel that there is more that we can do to prevent us continuing to be seen by some as a grudge cost. Mitch Haynes said: “You can turn that the other way round, actually; we [Security] don’t get a lot of feedback on questions; we have to ask.” For instance, if a retailer is having a sale and has put the expensive sale item at the front of the store, that brings a risk that such goods might be easier to steal, which Security could point out (if informed) to the designer of the layout. Mitch did speak of insurance and health and safety staff as examples where the retailer has understood the use of CCTV, against spurious claims by customers of trips and accidents. With an understanding of how long CCTV data is held, such claims might only come to the business after 28 days. “The interesting thing is that our insurance health and safety now automatically come to us very quickly if something happens. I enjoy knocking back a claim that’s spurious, because too much of that goes on.” Another non-security use for CCTV, he added, is customer counting. “We always have a camera on the front of our stores, it’s easy to connect software into that. We can also do the same on the till area; you can connect that to your back office. So you can have more detail about conversion. I am happy to try and use that.” Scott of Axis recalled the company’s cameras in use at Douglas Court shopping centre in the Republic of Ireland, explicitly to reduce slips, trips and falls claims. That said – and David Petrook brought up the issue of integration – if too many alarms are being generated, EAS (electronic article surveillance) alarms at the doors for example, there’s simply too much information for the human operator if a large store has several doors, and a score of customers could be the one that’s caused the EAS alarm.

More dynamic
The discussion widened. Jim Oughton said: “The problem for us is shoplifting is not seen as a major crime.” In other words, as Prof Joshua Bamfield put it, retail crime has become de-criminalised; and he was mentioned by Roger Noakes for his pioneering work in the UK on civil recovery. The discussion also went beyond store retail, touching on the supply chain. A distribution centre might have metal cages for high-value goods; why not have ‘virtual cages’, covered by CCTV and analytics? Not only does the site protect goods, it’s ‘more dynamic’, to use some jargon; in other words, you don’t have the time and trouble of opening and closing the cages, and the cost of them in the first place. Analytics, allied to cameras, can solve problems. As the dessert came – dumplings and mango pancake rolls – it was striking that it took some time for any of the diners to take any. Everyone was busy talking, whether with their neighbour or across the round table.


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