"We already had a great experience with video analysis"
Interview with Andre Hanekamp, General Manager of EDEKA Lustfeld, and Ralph Siegfried, Consultant Business Development Retail at Axis Communications
In October of 2013, EDEKA Lustfeld opened a new facility in Nienburg/Weser in Germany. The new market was equipped with a new IP video surveillance system. In this interview, Andre Hanekamp from EDEKA Lustfeld and Ralph Siegfried from security camera manufacturer Axis Communications talk about the advantages compared to analog video technology and the past experiences with the system in the new market.
Mr. Hanekamp, why did you choose IP video surveillance here in this new market instead of using an analog solution like in the three other EDEKA Lustfeld markets?
Hanekamp: The main reason for us to use IP video in our new market was definitely the significantly lower number of cameras required. This is not just a question of installation effort, but also about operation. It makes a big difference for our store detective to analyze 48 cameras versus 96.
Another reason was the image quality. Here in the new market we achieve a vision range of nearly ten meters with the IP cameras. With our analog systems in our other markets, the image quality is too poor to clearly identify people after approximately half the distance. Added to this of course is the scalability of the system. Should we notice that coverage is not ideal in several locations in the market, we can simply and quickly integrate more cameras into the existing network.
Mr. Siegfried, can you give us a brief overview of the installation here in this market?
Siegfried: EDEKA Lustfeld has chosen to install Full HD cameras, which I think was the absolute right thing to do, because in the video surveillance market, the “pixel race“ of the past few years is officially over. While manufacturers in the past tried to outperform each other with ever-higher megapixel numbers, today Full HD is considered the solution that’s future-proof and achieves the required quality.
We have installed 39 model M3005 full HD cameras, which were specifically developed for the retail industry. Most of the cameras in the sales showroom serve as surveillance cameras for loss prevention and forensic analysis that is to analyze the images via the video management system afterwards.
We are using a brand-new model, the Q1614, on the loading ramp behind the market. This camera is being used in this location because of the extreme backlighting situation. It operates with reoptimized WDR functionality called “forensic capture“ and is able to balance even major exposure differences.
To cover the outdoor environment, we used three P1354 models. In the current model generation, this special day/night camera is also equipped with a digital zoom and comes with our ”lightfinder“ technology, which makes it possible to generate color images even in low light.
The checkout area has four M3204 cameras, which monitor the four checkout lanes from the opposite wall. These are special tamper resistant and vandal proof models. Thanks to their positioning, they deliver images that make potential thieves identifiable in a faster and clearer manner than would be possible with pictures from an overhead camera.
Is surveillance limited to the interior area of the market or did you also install cameras outside?
Hanekamp: It was especially important for us to make our associates feel safe when we selected our safety equipment. This is why there is a camera at the employee exit, which shows the entire front end on a monitor inside by the door. Employees see unauthorized persons in front of the door without having to open it.
Do the cameras also assume other tasks such as analyzing videos to count customers and manage waiting lines for example?
Hanekamp: Those are possible features, though they are not used at the moment in this particular store. Video analysis per se is definitely being utilized in the form of cross line detection in the entrance area of the store. We already had a great experience with video analysis in this area. When a customer walks back to the produce section near the entrance area, associates at the information desk receive a brief acoustic signal and can subsequently check customers, who want to leave the store with a full shopping cart through the entrance versus the checkout area. We have already identified several shoplifters, who wanted to steal items worth more than 1,000 Euros in some cases. What’s more, the camera automatically processes the alarm signal; if required, you can immediately access the matching image sequence and identify the perpetrator.
Siegfried: We are using two parallel video streams in this case, of which one is used for video management and the other for analysis. Each camera can produce any number of video streams. This saves bandwidth of course, because you only need a relatively low resolution for a simple video analysis.
Do your employees respond accordingly to the alarm signals?
Hanekamp: Technical security solutions can always only be a tool. Ultimately, it still depends on the people, meaning the response time of employees to the alarm signal. Our employees are urged to respond to any alarm. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen, but usually our employees are very attentive.
What were the special challenges of the project here at the E-Center Lustfeld?
Siegfried: Compared to other retail projects, there were relatively few technical problems here in this market. The lighting conditions are very homogeneous and there are only a few dark corners in the store. This is why you can achieve a comparatively high level of standardization for the installation and don’t need to work with different camera models within the market. This has advantages for maintenance of course and also simplifies the configuration of the video management system. The layout of the store with its high ceilings has also enabled very discreet camera mounting. The cameras are very small and were deliberately placed next to the light sources so they are rather difficult to spot. A regular customer is usually barely going to notice the cameras. At the same time, they are still visible enough for experienced eyes so that they still provide an effective deterrent.
In which areas do you place the most surveillance emphasis?
Hanekamp: We tried to realize comprehensive surveillance of course. We specifically monitor the “usual suspects“ of course, especially spirits, drugs and cosmetics and the Tchibo display. However, we haven’t installed many cameras at these spots, but rather positioned the existing cameras so that they are especially close to the premium products.
What have been your experiences with this video surveillance? Are you satisfied with the result?
Hanekamp: Overall, we are very satisfied. There were several initial quirks of course, but we were able to eliminate them by now. The system is also being further optimized in collaboration with the installer based on our experiences. When it comes to this type of installation, I would definitely always choose IP cameras again, because their advantages are obvious. If there is an alarm for instance, all images are automatically being recorded and the search mechanisms are technically more mature. These are all features that I don’t have with an analog system.
Was this type of comprehensive video surveillance also well accepted by the employees or where there issues?
Hanekamp: Many store operators worry that their employees respond negatively to video surveillance, because they feel they are being watched. In our case, the opposite is actually true, because our employees know that the video surveillance is also for their own protection. An employee dares to address a thief, because he or she knows that the whole situation is being recorded. Thanks to outdoor surveillance, employees can also feel confident that nobody is waiting to ambush them if they leave the building late at night after the store is closed. A feeling of security is clearly outweighing everything else with our employees.
Are you planning to also install IP video surveillance systems in the other three EDEKA Lustfeld stores?
Hanekamp: This is presently not planned for our existing markets, but it always depends on the situation at the specific store. At the moment, we see no compelling reason to install a new system in the other stores. Our market in Rehberg for instance is comparatively small; 32 analog cameras are being used there. We are not going to replace the system in the near future, since the analog cameras actually continue to be reliable. Should this change some day, we are definitely going to install IP video surveillance there.
We have found a reliable partner with the SichTel installation service that has not just setup video surveillance in this market, but also the access control and burglar alarm systems. We emphasize long-term collaboration, since we are planning to link the different security systems together in the future. We will then be able to utilize other additional functions, such as automatically showing the corresponding video for each entrance with the identification chip of an employee for instance.
Mr. Siegfried, is this combination of different security systems a general trend in the area of safety technology?
Siegfried: In safety technology today, you typically still have a large separation between the individual systems such as access control, article surveillance and video surveillance. Each of them works well on its own. However, there are good reasons why you should integrate these systems better. The interaction between these different technologies offers great potential. And since more and more systems are IP-based today, this link-up is naturally becoming easier and more sensible.
You can also find examples of this in this store. It might make sense to directly link the alarm system with the video system. Or take the checkout area – you can especially see the benefits of integrated systems here: just one camera performs several different tasks at once, when you link the video surveillance with a holdup button for example and run the different analyses of algorithms for the waiting line management at the same time. The prerequisite for this however is integration between the components.
One great option at this store to achieve an additional benefit through video technology is the monitor in the entrance area, which shows the image of the video camera that’s directly next to the entrance. On the one hand, this alerts customers to the fact that the store has video surveillance – but an additional digital signage function is also conceivable, which offers leftover products at the end of the day for instance at reduced prices via the monitor. Several of our customers have already had great experiences with this function.
Axis is certainly going to try to introduce these advantages in future projects to retailers to make them aware that they underutilize lots of potential, if they don’t consider an integration of the different technologies.
Author: Daniel Stöter; EuroCIS First published at iXtenso.com