IP Video: Big Benefits for Smaller Retailers
For the last decade, IP video surveillance manufacturers have been jockeying for a seat at the head table of retail decision makers. Network video technology — with better image quality, video intelligence features and scalability benefits — was best suited for big box stores with large camera systems and bigger budgets. But what about smaller retailers? Most bricks-and-mortar locations are small-footprint retailers that rely on analog CCTV systems or, worse, nothing at all. Fortunately, technologies have emerged that allow small camera-count surveillance users to ditch the DVR and reap the same benefits. They include: Analog-to-IP migration: Moving to IP-based, digital surveillance isn’t all-or-nothing. Migration technologies like video encoders and coax converters enable retailers to leverage existing analog investments while enjoying some immediate IP benefits. Affordable HDTV-quality cameras: The very first HDTV-quality surveillance camera cost about $1,500 in 2009. Today, a 720p professional box camera runs for a little more than $200. Manufacturers have stripped out some of the traditional bells and whistles of IP cameras to provide small businesses with the most important feature: high-quality images. In-camera storage: Traditionally this technology — recording video to the camera’s internal SD card — was used for redundant storage. But today there are downloadable, entry-level software clients for small installations that enable the camera to act as the recording device, eliminating the need for a DVR. Hosted video: The surveillance industry has leveraged the cloud for hosted video platforms. Video is streamed to a secure data center via the Internet and the retailer is charged a monthly fee based on storage needs, shifting surveillance from a capital expense to an operating expense. Hosted video is perfect for multi-site owners with a few cameras in each store, or for seasonal displays or temporary storage areas. High-definition covert cameras: Because of their size, covert cameras were traditionally analog devices. IP manufacturers have not only released covert cameras in creative housings — inside an ATM, for instance — to capture perfect face shots, but these cameras also deliver HDTV-quality images. 360° / Corner cams: Like HDTV cameras, new 360° cameras are hitting the market for a fraction of what their predecessors sold for. They provide bird’s eye video when installed on ceilings, and a 180° panoramic view from a wall. If installed properly, corner cameras can even provide views into shelves on either side of the camera. Both types of IP cameras can multi-stream — i.e. be “divided” into many virtual cameras — allowing a single camera to deliver increased functionality to a small retail footprint. Corridor Format: Ever wish for a long view of the beer aisle, drive-thru lane or stockroom without wasting pixels on the sides? A 9:16 view called Corridor Format is possible using cameras with 3-axis lenses that can be turned on their side during installation. Only an IP camera can offer this feature because it requires processing within the camera’s chip to “flip” the image back 90° so it’s usable for surveillance.
Growth capabilities Kiosks, pop-up stores, hypermarkets and seasonal storage or displays are other areas where these technologies could be used as a subset of an existing large-scale surveillance system with a small business design in mind. The beauty of moving to IP is that, as the business grows, the surveillance system can keep pace. A single QSR franchisee could start with a basic high-resolution SD card storage system, migrate to hosted video when an additional location is opened and then convert the highest-traffic stores to an in-house IP system with advanced analytics for sales and operational efficiency.
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