Integrator Captures Sales With Digital CCTV
One security project leads to an integrator installing digital closed-circuit TV (CCTV) systems at 67 retail locations.
In 1995 while working for ADT Security Services (Boca Raton, FL), Chuck Hall was servicing burglary and fire systems for the Austin, TX locations of a thrift store chain. That same year Hall began studying digital video equipment because he saw the impact it would make on prosecuting retail theft. "With digital video systems, you don't have to scan through a videotape to find the time of a particular incident," he explained. "Instead, the video data is saved on a hard drive which enables you to search by time, date, or even an instance of motion detection."
Fast forward to the year 1997. Hall is now president of Striker Systems, Inc. (Round Rock, TX), an integrator of digital and analog video security systems. His company is bidding on a job to update the VCRs and low-resolution (i.e. 330 lines of resolution) CCTV (closed-circuit TV) cameras at 14 of those same thrift store locations. On average, the stores were experiencing a 15% loss rate and each store was storing hundreds of video surveillance tapes.
Hall's strategy for winning the project was simple: show the client how much better a digital video system is compared to even the best analog system. His tactic worked. "One of the reasons our proposal was more expensive than our competitors' was because the digital video recorders [DVRs] we were pitching cost twice as much as the best commercial VCRs," he explained. "Because of our higher cost, it took a year for the customer to finally give us the OK to go ahead with the installation."
Combine Digital Video With High-Resolution Cameras
Most of the thrift stores are about 60,000 square feet and require 4 cash register cameras and 12 surveillance cameras. Striker installed Samsung CCTV (Carrollton, TX) TD 100 color cameras, which have between 380 and 570 lines of resolution. "When you watch a typical video surveillance tape on TV of a guy robbing a store, you can barely see his face," said Hall. "With our systems, you can not only see his face, you can tell if he brushed his teeth in the morning."
The cameras are connected to the store's Samsung DW-PRO-4316P networked DVR that records at 30 frames per second (FPS). (An analog recorder offers 3 FPS.) Using the DVR, security personnel can view 16 cameras in real time. The DVRs also have a motion detection feature. So, once a camera detects motion, the DVR will automatically record more frames per second from that particular camera. The more FPS, the more video there is of a perpetrator.
"Each networked DVR is assigned a specific IP [Internet protocol] address to enable security personnel to remotely log on and monitor cameras or adjust camera settings [e.g. lighting, color, hue]," Hall said. "We also installed Network Video Technologies [Redwood City, CA] power amplifiers throughout each store's network to ensure signal strength over the long distances of cable."
Eliminate Storage Space For Videotapes
Of course, all of that video data needs stored somewhere. Hall said one week of video from 16 cameras requires nearly 240 GB of storage when running high frame rates. But, the DW-PRO-4316P units came equipped with only 30 GB hard drives. "We set the digital recorders to record below 3.5 FPS at night to save on drive space," he explained. "The system starts recording at high FPS only when there is motion detected." This setup allowed each store to save two to four weeks of video on their hard drives. The digital recorders also have built-in CD burners so the stores can save data on CD-Rs instead of videotapes.
Better Resolution = Better Security = Less Theft
It took approximately three days to install each store's system. Striker project managers installed the cameras, power supplies, and DVRs at each site. Subcontracted "wire pullers" then ran the cable. Hall estimates each store required three hours of training on the new CCTV systems. The security manager of a store is usually Striker's primary contact.
Once the new CCTV systems were installed, the stores' loss rates decreased to 3%. Conversely, the stores experienced an increase in the number of prosecutions. Striker's success with the Austin facilities prompted the thrift store chain to list the integrator as a preferred vendor for video surveillance, security, and GPS (global positioning system) equipment on its Web site.
Become A Preferred Vendor
After three years of using these systems, the Austin stores upgraded to DVRs that offer 240 FPS for recording and 480 FPS for viewing. The new systems have hard drives with up to 320 GB of storage capacity. The stores also chose to interface the CCTV systems with their POS (point of sale) terminals. With this integration, the transaction amount of the cash register is displayed on the surveillance video so security managers can see if a cashier is charging the right amount.
During this update process, Hall was invited to a retreat for executives of the thrift store chain. Only preferred vendors that dealt with more than three stores were invited to display their products at this retreat. "I had five of my staff at our booth, and there was always a line to talk to us," Hall elaborated. "After the retreat, we received calls from stores in 25 states wanting DVR systems. So far, we've worked with 67 of the thrift store chain's stores."