This year has been characterised by uncertainty and extraordinary strain, which has fallen heavily on all manner of key workers. Alongside our celebrated healthcare professionals, carers and the emergency services, those working in essential retail have proved themselves to be the backbone of our society during this challenging period.

As people try to grasp onto normality and cope with the unexpected changes taking place in every aspect of their lives – including the way they are allowed to shop – it’s no surprise that tensions are now running higher than ever. Retail crime was already on the rise before the pandemic struck, with the British Retail Consortium finding that at least 424 violent or abusive incidents were reported every day last year. The Co-op recently reported its worst week in history in terms of abuse and antisocial behaviour, with 990 incidents of antisocial behaviour and verbal abuse suffered by staff between 20th and 26th July.

990 incidents of antisocial behaviour and verbal abuse suffered by staff between 20th and 26th July

To manage the increased risks currently faced by retail employees, businesses must adopt new initiatives to safeguard their staff. Growing numbers of retailers including the Co-op and Asda have equipped their in-store and delivery staff with body worn cameras to enhance safety and provide them with peace of mind, as well as to discourage altercations from taking place at all.

Traditional tech

Body worn cameras are nothing new and have been used within the law enforcement industry for years. Traditional devices are record-only and can be used to record video evidence able to be drawn upon ‘after the fact’ should it be needed as an objective view of an event and who was involved.

These devices can also be used to discourage violent or verbally abusive incidents from occurring in the first place. If a customer is approached by an employee, they are likely to think twice about retaliating if they know their interaction is being recorded. This stance is supported by research from the University of Cambridge that found the use of body worn cameras improves the behaviour of the wearer and those in its vicinity, as both are aware of the fact it can act as an objective ‘digital witness’ to the situation.

However, record-only body worn cameras do leave much to be desired. In fact, the same University of Cambridge study found that, in the case of law enforcement, assaults against officers wearing these devices actually increased by 15%. This could be attributed to those being recorded being provoked by the presence of the camera or wanting to destroy any evidence it may hold. 

Out with the old, in with the new

Live-streaming enabled body worn cameras provide the benefits of record-only devices and more

Fortunately, there is a better option. Live-streaming enabled body worn cameras provide the benefits of record-only devices and more. Live-streaming capabilities are able to take ‘after the fact’ evidence one step further and provide the wearer with ‘in the moment’ safety and reassurance. With these devices, if a retail employee is subject to a volatile situation with a customer, they can trigger live video to be streamed back to a central command and control room where security officers will be able to take the most appropriate course of action with heightened and real-time situational awareness. Having access to all of the information they could need instantly will enable security personnel to decide whether to attend the scene and diffuse the situation themselves or to take more drastic action if needed, before any harm has been caused.

This capability is especially valuable for lone workers who don’t have access to instant support – such as delivery drivers, in-store or warehouse staff and distribution operators to name a few. The pandemic has also doubled the number of consumers who do their regular grocery shopping online, leading to potential supply and demand issues resulting in unhappy customers. 

Live-streaming body worn cameras rely on uninterrupted mobile connectivity to excel, as they are not connected to any physical infrastructure. To minimise the risk of the live video stream buffering or freezing – a real possibility for delivery drivers who can be working anywhere in the country – retailers should look to deploy devices capable of streaming in real-time, with near zero latency footage, even when streaming over poor or constrained networks. To get the most out of their tech, retailers should also look to implement devices that can be multi-use and can be deployed as a body worn camera or a dashcam to record any incidents that may occur whilst driving.   

Novel threats  

This year brought about a new threat that retailers must protect their staff from

While not to the same extent, retail workers have always been subject to a level of potential physical or verbal abuse. However, this year brought about a new threat that retailers must protect their staff from. The COVID-19 pandemic has been the cause of many of the new threats facing employees, but is also a threat in itself. To mitigate this, retailers should look to introduce remote elevated temperature detection cameras in their stores, which analyse body temperature and sound an alarm when somebody’s temperature exceeds a certain threshold – as this could indicate the presence of a potential fever. When deployed on the same cellular network as live-streaming enabled body cameras, these tools can be linked to a central command centre and the alarms viewed remotely from any connected device. This means a network of cameras can be monitored efficiently from a single platform.

Ensuring the protection and security of retail workers has come to the fore this year. With the risk of infection in high-footfall locations, such as supermarkets, and the added pressure that comes with monitoring and enforcing safety guidelines, retail staff are having to cope with a plethora of new challenges. Retailers should adopt innovative technologies within their stores and delivery trucks, such as live-streaming enabled body cameras and remote elevated temperature screening solutions, to minimise the threat faced by their employees and provide them with instant support and reassurance should it be required.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Neil Hendry Technical Director, Digital Barriers

Neil Hendry is Vice President – EMEA at Digital Barriers, previously working at the company as a Technical Director. He has over 25 years of extensive engineering experience and was a member of the British Army for more than 20 of those years, achieving the position of Chief Technical Officer. Neil co-founded telecommunications and surveillance company, Enterprise Technologies (UK) in 2010. He graduated from Cranfield University with a degree in Telecommunications Systems Engineering.

In case you missed it

What are the new trends and opportunities in video storage?
What are the new trends and opportunities in video storage?

Video storage has been a challenge since the days of VCRs and videotape. Storing images is a central need for any video systems, especially one that is focused on the forensic and investigative aspects of video. Today, digital video is stored on hard drives and even in the cloud. Increasingly, video is considered “data” that drives a variety of video analytics and even artificial intelligence (AI) applications. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the new trends and opportunities in video storage?

Secure, pinpoint location with UWB-enabled indoor positioning
Secure, pinpoint location with UWB-enabled indoor positioning

Indoor positioning is, in many ways, an inside version of the satellite-navigation apps we rely on for outdoor navigation, but with an added twist – it can also be used to help locate people and things. Let’s say you’re at home and misplaced your car keys, or you’re in a grocery store and can’t find your favorite brand of coffee. Or maybe you’re working in a factory and need a particular tool from a storage bin, or you’re a site manager dealing with an emergency and need to make sure everyone’s exited the building. Indoor positioning helps in all these situations, because it can locate items and guide you to where they are. The importance of “where” Knowing where an asset is located in real time is useful in many ways. In industrial settings, it improves item utilisation rates and saves time spent searching for things. It opens the door for a new level of “just in time” efficiency on factory floors, and for inventory management in warehouses and retail environments. Safety is another benefit of accurate location, because knowing where people, automatic guided vehicles, and robots are in real time can help prevent accidents and keep people out of harm’s way. Accurate location in real time also enables contextual decision-making, so your smart house adjusts your stereo automatically as you move from to room or lets you control objects by simply pointing at them. Lets you control objects by simply pointing at them Security authorisations based on location is another possibility. Precise real-time location is something that can be hard to fake, so it can be used to restrict access to an area or used to add protections based on where an asset sits, where a piece of data resides, or the origination point of a communication. Getting the technology right Developing an effective technology for indoor positioning requires several things. To begin with, location readings needs to be very precise, with accuracy down to as small an area as possible. The technology has to be secure, because location often needs to be kept private. The technology has to be reliable, even in harsh environments, and easily scalable, too, so it can address the thousands of people and assets in large venues. It has to be low power and affordable, so it can be embedded in everything from high-end, complex devices like smartphones to low-end, simple devices like asset tags. And, of course, the technology has to have latency low enough that it can track movement in real time. Various wireless technologies, including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, are already used for indoor positioning, but they don’t deliver on the full set of requirements, especially in terms of accuracy. A different kind of wireless, called Ultra-Wideband (UWB) checks all the boxes. It has the potential to change the way we do all kinds of everyday tasks. What is UWB? UWB is based on the IEEE standard 802.15.4a/z, which has been optimized for micro-location and secure communication. UWB is highly accurate. It can pinpoint people and things to within just a few centimeters, making it 100 times more accurate than the current implementations of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Wi-Fi. UWB is reliable because it has high immunity to various types of interference, including multipath, which is when a wave from a transmitter traveling to a receiver by two or more paths causes interference. UWB also offers very low latency, with update rates of up to 1000 times per second and readings that are as much as 50 times faster than satellite navigation. UWB is also implemented using mainstream technology, so it’s both affordable and optimised for low power. Lastly, UWB leverages distance-bounding techniques defined by the IEEE to provide a level of security that makes it extremely difficult to hack. Ultra-Wideband (UWB) checks all the boxes How is all this possible? Physics! UWB out-performs other location technology because, unlike Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, which transmit narrowband signals and use Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) to determine location, UWB transmits wideband signals (500 MHz) and uses Time-of-Flight to determine location. Already in 40+ verticals UWB is already bringing value to products and services in more than forty verticals covering the consumer, automotive, industrial, and commercial market segments. For example, it brings operational visibility to manufacturing and logistics, helps businesses protect workers, and reduces safety-management costs. UWB also lets robots and drones self-navigate, and enables secure, hands-free access to cars, front doors, and other secure locations. It even helps with contact tracing and social distancing in the fight against COVID-19. Now in smartphones Recent adoption in smartphones means UWB is ready to grow quickly. Developers are using UWB as part of new services, with an eye toward making various everyday activities more convenient and safer. With UWB as part of smartphone apps, purchases will be more secure, accessing your car will be possible without a key fob, and misplaced items won’t stay hidden for long. Retail outlets will use location for targeted marketing, and finding things on store shelves will be easier than ever. Home automation will become seamless, and friends and family will be easy to find even if they’re in a crowd. The question of interoperability Having UWB in smartphones is an important first step Having UWB in smartphones is an important first step toward making UWB an everyday part of life, but interoperability is another key factor, since smartphones have to interact with a wide range of other devices and services. That’s where the FiRa Consortium comes in. Launched just over a year ago, the FiRa Consortium is a member-driven organisation of market leaders from the consumer, mobile, industrial, enterprise, and semiconductor industries. FiRa members work collectively to define the future standards that will make interoperability across UWB products a reality. With FiRa making it possible for developers to use UWB in all kinds of new ways, the future of indoor location is really only limited by the developer’s imagination.

How to deter thieves on construction sites
How to deter thieves on construction sites

Construction site theft can cause project delays, property damage and loss of profit for companies in the construction sector. It is imperative to deter thieves from targeting construction sites with the help of construction site security. Here, we look into the various security options and how they can help protect your firm from the threat of a break-in. Construction theft has soared during the COVID-19 Pandemic Construction site theft is an ever-increasing problem in the UK, costing the industry an estimated £800 million per year. Unfortunately, this type of crime has accelerated further throughout lockdown by an estimated 50% due to the abandonment of construction sites across the UK. With many uncertainties around a potential second wave in the UK, it is time for construction firms to enhance their security strategies to help prevent thieves from becoming opportunists on construction sites. Why are construction sites ‘easy’ targets? Construction sites can easily be targeted, as they typically lack adequate security loss prevention practices. The most popular security-related issues that are leading causes of construction site theft are: Poor overall site security Multiple pieces of equipment sharing the same keys Easy access to open cabs Unsecured sites, particularly at night and over weekends Lack of product identification systems If you do not want your site becoming a costly statistic, you might want to try implementing some or all of these preventive measures. Strengthen your perimeter Putting a clear boundary around a construction site will help to prevent youths and members of the public from inadvertently wandering onto the site. To stop opportunist thieves in their tracks, you will need to go one step further by erecting robust fencing and concrete blocks along with signage warning intruders about the consequences of trespassing. Putting a clear boundary around a construction site will help to prevent youths and members of the public from inadvertently wandering onto the siteIf potential trespassers can see that it would be too challenging to attempt a break-in, then they will look elsewhere to find another construction site which is not as well secured. Lock away valuable tools When considering the vulnerabilities in your construction site, it pays to think about this from the perspective of a criminal. What is it exactly that they are looking for? What can a thief steal easily to make money if they were to remove something from your site? Unfortunately, many construction firms do not lock away their tools, materials or vehicles properly, which makes them an easy target. Ensure valuable tools and materials are locked away and are not left unsecured or lying around. Criminals are mostly interested in scaffolding, bowsers and other valuables that are quick to sell on, so it is important to have a strategy in place to keep these locked away, safe and securely. Put tracking devices in your equipment If you are unable to securely lock away valuable tools, then modern technology makes securing equipment easier than ever before. Tracking devices can be installed onto vehicles and equipment; if any thief is unwise enough to steal from the site, site owners will be able to provide the location to the police who will be able to follow this up. Site owners should also engrave company identification numbers on valuable tools, equipment and vehicles so that it can easily be identified and will serve as proof who it rightly belongs to. Invest in CCTV Closed Circuit Television, otherwise known as CCTV, is renowned for being one of the most effective deterrents for thieves, especially when it comes to construction and building sites.The items that criminals steal from sites are notoriously hard to trace The items that criminals steal from sites are notoriously hard to trace, but if you have CCTV, there is a chance that you can capture clear footage to help bring criminals to justice, such as footage of the vehicle used and the car licence plate. CCTV cameras can help to oversee every inch of a construction site, and can even be hidden out of sight where required. Step up with regular site patrols With a wide range of security monitoring methods available, stepping up on regular site patrols can help to keep track and respond to any criminal activity taking place on your site. Traditional site patrols can be carried out on a schedule by professional SIA-approved security agents. With the presence of guards patrolling a construction site, any criminals in the area will be deterred to force entry onto the site. Schedule supply deliveries on an as-needed basis To prevent an excess of supplies ‘sitting around’ on the site, construction site managers should instead order what is needed at the time, so that valuable materials are not left around waiting to be stolen for weeks at a time. Good planning and excellent communication between the team will be required so that projects are not delayed, but planning accordingly will help to reduce the chances of theft on a construction site. Drone surveillance As technology becomes more and more advanced, drone surveillance may soon be a security option that many construction sites could benefit from.Many construction firms in the UK are using drone services to provide aerial images, and are seeing huge cost savings by either purchasing and operating their own drones or by hiring out the work to a company equipped to provide imaging.As technology becomes more and more advanced, drone surveillance may soon be a security option With surveillance drones already handling tasks like mapping and surveying of construction sites, one day they may be able to patrol construction sites at night, equipped with motion sensors and infrared or night vision cameras; They could be automatically deployed from a charging station and fly along a pre-programmed route at regular intervals. One to keep an eye on for the near future! Construction site security to help protect your site If you are ready to tighten security on your own construction site, then your starting point will be to identify your main vulnerabilities and get in touch with a reputable security specialist.