Why “as a service” works for video surveillance in retail

Sep 28, 2018

Video surveillance has long been an essential tool for retailers, primarily used to satisfy physical security risk prevention and detection needs. But technology has been steadily progressing to reveal new possibilities.

The rise of cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) has transformed an IP video camera from a security necessity to a business opportunity that can provide much more than protection against crime, with real-time insights into retail store activity.

Investing in the future of retail

Loss prevention managers have traditionally been the beneficiaries of video surveillance technology, which is usually purchased as a capital investment (‘Capital Expenditure’). That means a large up-front fee for IP video, access control and audio devices, as well as storage equipment, most of which is likely to require upgrading only years down the line. Regular maintenance and software patches are also an added expense, creating problems for a struggling high-street that is not only seeking to increase revenues, but also reduce operating costs.

This is where the “as a service” model could revolutionise the industry. Usually applied to software or IT infrastructure investments, the “as a service” approach means that an end user only pays for services and products used on a rolling monthly licence (‘Operational Expenditure’), instead of a large up-front investment. The user also always has access to the most up-to-date version of an application, guaranteeing that they have the latest security updates and feature upgrades in place.

It is now possible to achieve this in the physical security industry too; Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) is a prime example. It has the potential to unlock new business models that can reduce the total cost of ownership for customers, while at the same time deliver new revenue streams for resellers. Hosting the core intelligence and storage for a camera network in a secure cloud environment not only ensures video footage is stored off-site and is sufficiently protected, it also brings down installation costs. But physical security resellers may need to think about adopting new business models for this approach to take hold.

Intelligent insights in retail

While cost savings and flexibility are, of course, vital for high street retailers who are operating in an unprecedented climate[1], this is only half of the VSaaS story. Obsolescence can also become a thing of the past, thanks to cloud software upgrades that can unlock new features without touching the physical camera. Today’s network cameras are truly intelligent, with real-time image analysis that can automatically alert security staff to suspicious behaviour and stock control.

And that is just the beginning. The same network security system can provide valuable business insights for the operations and marketing teams. This includes how customer flow is moving around a store and notifying managers when queues begin to appear, as well as providing demographic information around gender and age to adjust in-store offers in real-time. This information can be used to improve efficiencies based on in-store needs and develop effective data-driven marketing strategies targeted at specific audiences at certain times of the day. And with VSaaS, these kinds of features can be easily added or removed depending on need and budget.

What’s more, VSaaS can even help retailers tackle increasing compliance issues with new privacy regulations, as image data should be stored and processed in certified environments that meet GDPR requirements. “As a service” has proven itself as the key disrupting force in business IT. It’s no surprise that it is doing the same for video surveillance.