Lowe’s Innovation Labs and Asset Protection teams are collaborating on the next big idea in asset protection and loss prevention — Project Unlock.
Vice President of Asset Protection and Safety Scott Draher, Vice President of Lowe’s Innovation Labs Cheryl Friedman and Senior Director of AP Operations Luke Moeller discussed the early-stage project during a presentation at the NRF PROTECT conference and expo in Grapevine, Texas.
Project Unlock is designed to tackle the theft of powered products — in Lowe’s case, power tools — in a way that is virtually invisible to retail customers. Products are embedded with an RFID chip and are set to inoperable. When the item is purchased at a store register with a point-of-sale RFID scanner, the item is unlocked and ready to use, ensuring that only legitimately purchased products are activated. If it’s stolen or not unlocked, the product won’t work.
In addition, the product and box barcode are embedded with a unique serial number so the transaction is recorded on the blockchain. That allows vendors, resellers and law enforcement to quickly verify the item was legally purchased.
Project Unlock is just one of many security and asset protections initiatives that have come about from collaboration among Lowe’s Innovation Labs and Asset Protection teams.
“Through partnering with the asset protection team and other groups within Lowe’s, we’re constantly innovating and leveraging technology to try to stay one step ahead, as best as we can, of bad actors,” Friedman said, “while still providing that great customer shopping experience.”
Lowe’s has seen a 180% increase in acts of violence against associates and customers in stores since 2020 and a 77% increase in weapons-related incidents over the last year, Draher noted. Criminals are becoming more brazen, he said.
“I’ve been in retail loss protection now for 33 years and I have not seen anything like what we’ve seen in the last three years alone in my entire career.”
In response, Lowe’s has put in place several security solutions to keep people and products safe from criminals, creating a full-organization, collaborative ecosystem to detect, deter and respond to thefts and violence.
“We need to have a multi-faceted approach to make an impact on Lowe’s,” Moeller said. “There’s not one solution that will solve all the problems.”
The outside of each store has robot parking lot patrols, security towers, integrated CCTV and camera platforms that use analytics to identify vehicles, not just plates. Vehicle analytics has been particularly useful, Moeller said: Within the first 60 days of deploying the technology, the AP team was able to close 478 active cases.
Post-incident prosecution is also a major strategy for Lowe’s, Moeller said. “If we can’t deter and we can’t respond, we let it go,” he said. “This is part of our strategy. We want to make sure we keep associates safe first.”
Collaboration with the IT department and CCTV helps identify criminals for post-incident prosecution. “When we first started this project, we got 50 of our 1,700 stores done,” and wired up with cameras, Moeller said. “When we started working with our IT partners and truly allowing them to take the reins, we had 650 stores done in one year.”
It’s a long way from where the teams at Lowe’s started — and an important lesson for other retailers.
“Partnership across Lowe’s has not always been where it is today,” Draher said. “In fact, a number of years ago I would do anything and everything I could to work around the IT organization, knowing that it was going to set me back and delay the solutions and efforts that I wanted to deploy. What I learned way back is that you can’t do that successfully all the time.”