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November 25, 2020

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Contact tracing and COVID-19 director’s briefing

IP Audio Security

How IP audio can help retailers effectively manage security and operations

Graham Swallow and David Needham, Axis Communications, discuss the role of IP audio solutions in modern retail, and the benefits of occupancy management to staff and customers.

The second UK lockdown came just as retail organisations were preparing for what is widely referred to as The Golden Quarter. This is the period from October to December when many retailers plan to deliver the majority of their annual sales. With the expectation of restrictions coming to an end during the first week of December (dependent on tiered restrictions), there is concern among retail businesses that the remaining days until Christmas will become fraught. An influx of customers desperate to purchase last minute items is likely to place additional strain on a retailer’s ability to effectively manage health and safety, ensure mask wearing compliance, and follow regulations around social distancing and occupancy thresholds.

In addition, the allure of window displays on long dark nights and stock rooms packed with high value goods also present an enticing prospect for criminals. The predicted seasonal increase in retail crime brings many challenges. At a time when retailers are mired in the additional measures that COVID-19 makes necessary, advancements in audio technology can play a significant role in helping both operations and security teams. Through employing such measures, retail teams can benefit from more effective management of stores, freeing up staff to better serve their customers.

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Comprehensive security for better store protection

For protection of the physical retail environment, the shift from traditional CCTV to the modern network of cloud-enabled internet of things (IoT) devices in use today provides enhanced security features that can prove powerful in deterring criminal activity. Bringing IP audio into this mix means that pre-recorded audio voice alerts can be triggered to serve as a warning to those targeting the store, with alarms sounding to alert security teams to any potential incident.

With the option to place speakers at the store entrance, the integration of audio with network surveillance cameras, and in turn, access control technologies, results in a complete end-to-end solution. This provides advanced protection of a retail premises inside and out through multiple means. Using networked technology, incorporating additional functionality is simple and brings further value to an investment.

Safer social distancing using public address systems

IP speakers can be used in conjunction with in-store surveillance cameras to provide public announcement capabilities, keeping customers informed of social distancing protocols with pre-recorded or real-time messaging that can also issue alerts in the event of customers failing to comply with regulations. For those with visual impairment, or where English is not a first language, IP audio can also be helpful as part of a wider range of measures to improve situational awareness. Such measures can help to improve the retail experience and boost customer confidence.

Near store entrances, external network speakers can be used to inform customers of what to expect when inside the store, to enforce the requirement to wear protective masks, make recommendations to disinfect trolley handles, and alert to the importance of regular hand washing or use of sanitizer. With such a system in place to aid customer understanding and encourage appropriate behaviours, staff and management are able to focus their attention on operational duties. This is particularly important in the current climate where, following the second lockdown, there will be even smaller margins for error.

Smart occupancy management

Surveillance cameras and sensors, combined with analytics, at entrance and exit points can be used to record the number of customers in store at any one time. With retailers under pressure to set an occupancy threshold which is relevant to the size and layout of their stores, managers can keep a record of everyone arriving and leaving, to ensure that the optimum figure remains consistent. Data about occupancy can be collated from store to store and used to provide evidence that social distancing regulations are being followed.

Network audio speakers, capable of broadcasting to single or multiple zones, can also then be added to a system as part of a broader queue monitoring solution to provide retailers with accurate real-time information such as where bottlenecks occur. Once a network camera detects a queue building, it will prompt a speaker to play a pre-recorded clip, such as alerting customers to maintain social distancing. The same solution could also alert employees to open additional check outs to ease congestion or provide daily customer flow data to aid decision making about resource allocation.

Helping to secure the future of retail

Shopping centres and high street stores still sit at the heart of every community. Enabling these businesses to remain open is a critical step on the road to rebuilding the economy and will support millions of jobs. But current concerns around COVID-19, including heightened awareness of close customer contact, means that retailers will need to employ any methods at their disposal to continue trading and to keep customers safe in a very uncertain time.

It is anticipated that occupancy monitoring is likely to be a long-term factor and that technology will play an important role in supporting the retail industry in the foreseeable future. Through technology, it can rebuild from a strong foundation and become more secure and more efficient. With intelligent, connected systems in place, including the latest IP audio solutions, it’s possible to help the retail industry continue to improve operations and innovate for a smarter, safer world.

Learn more about network audio solutions from Axis Communications.

Graham Swallow MSyI CMI – Retail Segment Lead, Northern Europe, Axis Communications

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Discover the latest developments in the rapidly-evolving video surveillance sector, directly from the people at its heart. We surveyed hundreds of professionals working in the field to bring you the 2020 Video Surveillance Report. Responses come from installers and integrators to consultants and heads of security, as we explore the latest trends in the sector including video analytics; cloud-based storage solutions; VSaaS; cyber security; the impact of COVID-19 and more!

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