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Keeping Stores Safe Amid the Autonomous Retail Revolution

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Autonomous retail technology is on the rise, with innovations like Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology already leapfrogging past yesterday’s self-checkout solutions. This technology has helped make shopping a more frictionless experience for shoppers, but retailers that choose to implement these solutions must place a heavier focus on security technology as well. Not only does physical security technology now play a larger role in deterring and catching would-be shoplifters, but it also helps provide a pleasant customer experience in the absence of store staff.

Deploying autonomous retail technology can do more than just improve the in-store shopping experience — it can also simplify store operations, reduce overhead and help retailers improve their bottom line. Still, some retailers remain reluctant to rely too heavily on autonomous technology, fearing the potential dangers associated with leaving a store “unguarded.” Fortunately, today’s physical security technology has come a long way — and stores don’t have to sacrifice security in the name of convenience.

The Right Technology in the Right Places

Effective retail security in a heavily autonomous environment requires a solution that is both flexible and comprehensive. The idea of surveillance cameras is nothing new to retailers, but modern solutions can significantly augment and improve aging or obsolete solutions. As cameras have gotten smarter, the ways in which they can be leveraged has improved considerably — and they can also complement other related security solutions. The following technology should be considered by all retailers looking to increase security in increasingly autonomous store locations:

  • Network Cameras. Network cameras can be implemented to monitor entrance points and sales areas, including standard and self-checkout stations. Today’s advanced chipsets allow cameras to process vast amounts of data at the network edge, which means video can be processed and analyzed in near-real time. When detected, suspicious or illegal behavior can be flagged by the system, alerting store personnel to a potential security incident. This eliminates — or at least greatly reduces — the need for a security presence on the floor, which can help retailers reduce costs while giving them confidence that their autonomous sales solutions remain secure.
  • IP Audio Solutions. Sometimes, perceived security is just as good as actual security. With less staff on the sales floor to observe and tend to customers, IP audio speakers can play ambient music to create a calm and relaxed in-store atmosphere. But they can do more than that: they can play audio warnings when a shopper ventures too close to an emergency exit or off-limits area. A shoplifter looking to enter a stock room or sneak out a back door can often be spooked by such a message. Often, the implication that their behavior is being observed is enough to make them think twice about what they’re doing.
  • Access Control Mechanisms. Access control has always been important, but the COVID-19 pandemic drove home its value at a time when limiting store capacity was critical. Access control mechanisms at entrance and exit points can facilitate smooth, touch-free access to customers while keeping track of how many shoppers are in the store. During the pandemic, this has helped enforce social distancing guidelines, but the data can also be used for other purposes, such as powering down lights or music when the last customer leaves the store and reactivating them when another approaches. Used in conjunction with cameras, it can also deny access to customers not wearing masks or who are recognized as shoplifters.

Future-Proof Security

Autonomy is the way of the future. Cars are starting to drive themselves, automated checkouts are becoming the norm and surveillance video is being analyzed by AI. And as autonomous solutions streamline the shopping experience, make customers feel safer and help retailers reduce overhead and improve their bottom line, they will only continue to grow more prominent.  

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But today’s stores don’t need to fear. Increased autonomy doesn’t have to mean increased risk. Today’s security solutions have grown more advanced as well, providing new and innovative ways to keep stores safe even as fewer employees are needed for day-to-day operations. Today’s retailers have a wide range of solutions available to them, and technology like access control, network cameras and modern audio solutions can help keep their stores safer than ever.


Hedgie Bartol serves as a Segment Development Manager for Retail in North America at Axis Communications. In this role, Bartol works closely with partners and retailers on strategic surveillance installations designed to maximize loss prevention and streamline business operations.

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