Small business owners work hard. They are often the first ones there in the morning and the last to leave at night. Even then, they likely bring their work home with them. During that time, everything they do is aimed at making their business as successful as possible.

Because of this, many business owners don’t take vacations, and if they do, they spend a lot of time worrying about their business while they’re away. In both cases, the potential for burnout is tremendously high.

The primary concern for these individuals is loss, whether from theft, waste, vandalism or other causes. Depending on the degree of the loss, it can have a devastating effect on small business. Therefore, professional security solutions must be top of mind for these businesses.

Small business owners can take advantage of advanced technology that can help them work smarter, not harder

Video surveillance for small businesses

One technology that can address loss, the feeling of helplessness that comes from not being on site and more is video surveillance. Sadly, it’s not always on the radar for small business owners, many of whom think video surveillance is very expensive and out of reach.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are high-quality, relatively inexpensive solutions that don’t require much, if any, configuration, allowing an installer to place cameras, run cable, plug cameras into the recorder and use software to get end users up to speed on remote access.

Best of all, almost all of these solutions come with a mobile app or other means of accessing video—both live and recorded—remotely from a smartphone or tablet. In a world where our phones have become our lifeline to a lot of information, including email, banking, inventory management and more, a security system simply has to provide this type of access.

Given the availability of cost-effective video surveillance solutions and their ease of use, small business owners can take advantage of advanced technology that can help them work smarter, not harder in a few key areas.

Small business owners can take advantage of advanced technology to work smarter
Video surveillance solutions come with a mobile app for accessing video remotely from a smartphone or tablet

Efficient incident monitoring

Having a high-quality video surveillance system with proper coverage means that any time an incident or loss occurs, a small business owner can go back and find it on the video and identify exactly what happened.

For example, if something goes missing from a retail store, reviewing the video will reveal exactly what happened, when it happened, how it happened and—depending on lighting, camera resolution and field of view—possibly who took it.

Video systems can also be valuable from a liability perspective. Slip-and-fall claims are not uncommon, but in many cases they turn out to be false. Thankfully, cameras can provide video that will support or refute a claim. Without video, such incidents could be costly for small businesses.

A simple review of recorded videos will solve any mystery and eliminate the potential for a long argument with no evidence

Video recording for incident verification

Another example would be a customer who claims they were shorted on the change they received from a cashier. Rather than taking the time to count the money in the drawer and reconcile that with receipts, a small business owner could simply review video from a camera placed above the point of sale to determine if the customer’s claim is correct or if they may have been mistaken.

This feature can also help alleviate or avoid a potentially awkward or difficult situation when there’s a difference of opinion with a supplier. Say for instance a delivery driver claims he or she brought three cases of product to the back door, but there are only two cases in the stockroom.

A simple review of the video that’s been recorded will solve the mystery once and for all and eliminate the potential for a long, drawn-out argument with no evidence one way or the other.

Smartphones for remote monitoring

It’s natural for small business owners to feel stressed when they’re not at their physical location. After all, they’re the ones who have invested in the business and are responsible for making sure it runs smoothly and profitably from day to day.

For small business owners with surveillance systems, vacations can become not only a reality but also the relaxing time they are supposed to be.

For small business owners with surveillance systems, vacations can become not only a reality but also the relaxing time

Rather than sitting on a beach and worrying about whether the store opened on time or if employees are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, an owner can pull out his or her smartphone, log in to remotely to the video system and know for sure. That peace of mind is invaluable for small business owners.

This is also helpful for business owners with multiple locations. Because no one can be in two—or more—places at once, a video surveillance system can provide eyes and in some cases ears at a location, which can be accessed at the click of a button.

Video surveillance for training

For a small business, it’s imperative that employees follow established policies and that staffing levels are maintained at the most efficient level possible. These are two other areas where video surveillance can help.

If a small business owner sees that something isn’t being done properly, whether by a single employee or if the problem is more widespread, he or she can use video for training purposes.

They can sit down with the employee or employees to review the video and explain the proper policies and procedures. Conversely, video can be used to demonstrate proper techniques or even to recognise employees for a job well done.

From a staffing standpoint, reviewing video could reveal unexpectedly busy or down times

Maintaining staffing levels

From a staffing standpoint, reviewing video could reveal unexpectedly busy or down times. A business owner can review video from 3 p.m. on a Saturday to see how many customers are in a location and determine the ratio of employees to customers.

Looking at a variety of times over a period of weeks or months could help determine optimal staffing levels, which may lead to the decision to increase staffing on Saturday afternoons when a store is busy. This will help improve customer experience and potentially increase sales.

Motion detection for accurate access control

Cameras can be deployed with motion-detection sensors to alert business owners when someone enters a certain area, whether during or after business hours. In many cases, detected motion can trigger an alert and/or a video clip to be sent to the business owner’s smartphone so they can review and verify whether something is out of the ordinary.

These deployments could be set up to monitor a variety of locations, such as an office, safe, doors and other sensitive areas at all times or just during specific hours. If motion is detected during off hours, the business owner can view video and alert police that an unauthorised individual is at their business.

For a small business, it’s imperative that employees follow established policies
Surveillance videos can be used to demonstrate proper techniques or even to recognise employees for a job well done

Cybersecure video surveillance systems

From a cybersecurity perspective, manufacturers are constantly releasing firmware updates to protect cameras from malware and/or unauthorised intrusion. Once someone has accessed any device, all systems and devices connected to the same network become vulnerable.

Updating these devices tends to be an afterthought for small business owners, who may either forget or simply not have the time to do it. So it should come as no surprise that these important updates often go uninstalled.

Today’s advanced video systems overcome this obstacle with easy updating, which can be performed by small business owners or installers to ensure constant protection. Other systems are available with auto-updating capabilities, which remove the onus from small business owners completely.

Today’s advanced video systems overcome cyberthreats with easy updating

Cost-effective surveillance solutions

These are just a few of the many benefits video surveillance systems offer small business owners. What’s important to note is that for each to be successful requires having to have the right camera for the right environment.

For instance, a camera positioned at the back door of a business has to have wide dynamic range to deal with changing light levels throughout the day. A camera used to monitor transactions must offer high enough resolution to identify bill denominations.

Today’s solutions are cost-effective, easy to use and offer the flexibility to monitor operations from anywhere at any time – giving small business owners the power to work smarter, not harder to grow their bottom line.

Download PDF version

Author profile

Larry Chay Small Business Program Manager, Axis Communications

In case you missed it

What is the changing role of training in the security industry?
What is the changing role of training in the security industry?

Even the most advanced and sophisticated security systems are limited in their effectiveness by a factor that is common to all systems – the human factor. How effectively integrators install systems and how productively users interface with their systems both depend largely on how well individual people are trained. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What is the changing role of training in the security and video surveillance market?

What is AI Face Search? Benefits over facial recognition systems
What is AI Face Search? Benefits over facial recognition systems

When a child goes missing in a large, crowded mall, we have a panicking mom asking for help from the staff, at least a dozen cameras in the area, and assuming the child has gone missing for only 15 minutes, about 3 hours’ worth of video to look through to find the child. Typical security staff response would be to monitor the video wall while reviewing the footage and making a verbal announcement throughout the mall so the staff can keep an eye out for her. There is no telling how long it will take, while every second feels like hours under pressure. As more time passes, the possible areas where the child can be will widen, it becomes more time-consuming to search manually, and the likelihood of finding the child decreases. What if we can avoid all of that and directly search for that particular girl in less than 1 second? Artificial neural networks are improving every day and now enable us to search for a person across all selected camera streamsWith Artificial Intelligence, we can. Artificial neural networks are improving every day and now enable us to search for a person across all selected camera streams in a fraction of a second, using only one photo of that person. The photo does not even have to be a full frontal, passport-type mugshot; it can be a selfie image of the person at a party, as long as the face is there, the AI can find her and match her face with the hundreds or thousands of faces in the locations of interest. The search result is obtained in nearly real time as she passes by a certain camera. Distinguishing humans from animals and statues The AI system continuously analyses video streams from the surveillance cameras in its network, distinguishes human faces from non-human objects such as statues and animals, and much like a human brain, stores information about those faces in its memory, a mental image of the facial features so to speak. When we, the system user, upload an image of the person of interest to the AI system, the AI detects the face(s) in that image along with their particular features, search its memory for similar faces, and shows us where and when the person has appeared. We are in control of selecting the time period (up to days) and place (cameras) to search, and we can adjust the similarity level, i.e., how much a face matches the uploaded photo, to expand or fine-tune the search result according to our need. Furthermore, because the camera names and time stamps are available, the system can be linked with maps to track and predict the path of the person of interest. AI Face Search is not Face Recognition for two reasons: it protects people’s privacy, and it is lightweight Protecting people’s privacy with AI Face Search  All features of face recognition can be enabled by the system user, such as to notify staff members when a person of interest is approaching the store AI Face Search is not Face Recognition for two reasons: it protects people’s privacy, and it is lightweight. First, with AI Face Search, no names, ID, personal information, or lists of any type are required to be saved in the system. The uploaded image can be erased from the system after use, there is no face database, and all faces in the camera live view can be blurred out post-processing to guarantee GDPR compliance. Second, the lack of a required face database, a live view with frames drawn around the detected faces and constant face matching in the background also significantly reduces the amount of computing resource to process the video stream, hence the lightweight. Face Search versus Face Recognition AI Face Search Face Recognition Quick search for a particular person in video footage Identify everyone in video footage Match detected face(s) in video stream to target face(s) in an uploaded image Match detected face(s) in video stream to a database Do not store faces and names in a database Must have a database with ID info Automatically protect privacy for GDPR compliance in public places May require additional paperwork to comply with privacy regulations Lightweight solution Complex solution for large-scale deployment Main use: locate persons of interest in a large area Main use: identify a person who passes through a checkpoint Of course, all features of face recognition can be enabled by the system user if necessary, such as to notify staff members when a person of interest is approaching the store, but the flexibility to not have such features and to use the search tool as a simple Google-like device particularly for people and images is the advantage of AI Face Search.Because Face Search is not based on face recognition, no faces and name identifications are stored Advantages of AI Face Search Artificial Intelligence has advanced so far in the past few years that its facial understanding capability is equivalent to that of a human. The AI will recognise the person of interest whether he has glasses, wears a hat, is drinking water, or is at an angle away from the camera. In summary, the advantages of Face Search: High efficiency: a target person can be located within a few seconds, which enables fast response time. High performance: high accuracy in a large database and stable performance, much like Google search for text-based queries. Easy setup and usage: AI appliance with the built-in face search engine can be customised to integrate to any existing NVR/VMS/camera system or as a standalone unit depending on the customer’s needs. The simple-to-use interface requires minimal training and no special programming skills. High-cost saving: the time saving and ease of use translate to orders of magnitude less manual effort than traditionally required, which means money saving. Scalability: AI can scale much faster and at a wider scope than human effort. AI performance simply relies on computing resource, and each Face Search appliance typically comes with the optimal hardware for any system size depending on the customer need, which can go up to thousands of cameras. Privacy: AI Face Search is not face recognition. For face recognition, there are privacy laws that limits the usage. Because Face Search is not based on face recognition, no faces and name identifications are stored, so Face Search can be used in many public environments to identify faces against past and real-time video recordings. AI Face Search match detected face(s) in video stream to target face(s) in an uploaded image Common use cases of AI Face Search In addition to the scenario of missing child in a shopping mall, other common use cases for the AI Face Search technology include: Retail management: Search, detect and locate VIP guests in hotels, shopping centres, resorts, etc. to promptly attend to their needs, track their behaviour pattern, and predict locations that they tend to visit. Crime suspect: Quickly search for and prove/disprove the presence of suspects (thief, robber, terrorist, etc.) in an incident at certain locations and time. School campus protection: With the recent increase in number of mass shootings in school campuses, there is a need to identify, locate and stop a weapon carrier on campus as soon as possible before he can start shooting. Face Search will enable the authorities to locate the suspect and trace his movements within seconds using multiple camera feeds from different areas on campus. Only one clear image of the suspect’s face is sufficient. In the race of technology development in response to business needs and security concerns, AI Face Search is a simple, lightweight solution for airports, shopping centres, schools, resorts, etc. to increase our efficiency, minimise manual effort in searching for people when incidents occur on site, and actively prevent potential incidents from occurring. By Paul Sun, CEO of IronYun, and Mai Truong, Marketing Manager of IronYun

What technology will impact security most in the rest of 2018?
What technology will impact security most in the rest of 2018?

Where does the time go? Before you know it, here we are at mid-year reflecting on an eventful first half of 2018 in the physical security market. It’s also a good time for our Expert Panel Roundtable to pause and look ahead at what we might expect in the second half of the year. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What technology development will have the greatest impact in the second half of 2018?