The rollout of vaccinations and a better understanding of managing Covid-19 means that people are starting to return to the high street.

Customers, having become used to relying on online shopping during the pandemic, are now relishing the opportunity to embrace the physical retail experience once more and to enjoy the newfound freedom that comes from the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions.

Yet, as more people flock to shops, restaurants, cafes and bars, the bustling high street and its many public spaces may also become a magnet for criminal gangs and terrorists.

Swiss security provider Morphean CEO Rodrigue Zbinden tells Retail Insight Network how the unmet need to better protect customers and retail premises “gives a green light to terrorists and criminal gangs”.

New protection strategies

Protecting against such attacks is a growing concern across Europe and demands new and improved strategies. This is where technology comes to the fore.

Modern physical security solutions, video surveillance as-a-service (VSaaS) and access control as-a-service (ACaaS) are the natural successors to the standalone analogue systems of the past.

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Traditional CCTV was extremely limited in its scope, while access control took the form of manually activated barriers and turnstiles. By contrast, today’s Cloud-enabled solutions are capable of the highest levels of security coverage while unlocking powerful insights from the data they collect, helping to improve our high street security.

Applying solutions for advanced protection

Businesses are under pressure to win back the footfall that will ultimately lead to much-needed profits, following the downturn in revenue caused by the pandemic and resultant periods of lockdown.

Ensuring that customers and staff feel safe is an essential part of achieving high street success. VSaaS and ACaaS can help operations managers and security teams by protecting their sites against a mounting threat with high-quality video surveillance, the ability to effectively monitor and control entrance and exit points, and by facilitating the addition of a wealth of sensors and devices using simple IoT connectivity.

Powerful analytics capable of producing key insights from the data that the devices collect can determine patterns of activity which can be used to better prepare teams and automate processes in the event of a crime.

As an example, a system configured to detect erratic or suspicious behaviour can deliver instant alerts to security personnel via a mobile device. These behaviours could be a precursor to escalating violence or indicate terrorist activity, so informed teams are better prepared to take instant action.

Similarly, detection analytics can be used to identify aggression, breaking glass and gunshots and, again, alert teams to a situation that has the potential to be a major incident.

Mitigating an attack

In the event of a violent criminal attack or terrorist activity, it’s important to remember that seconds save lives. Anything that can be done to slow down or disorientate a criminal can therefore have a huge impact on how a situation plays out.

As an example, a security system linked to a building management system can automatically lock down a site or specific zones in the event of an incident, sealing off an attacker and disorientating them by turning off lights and triggering smoke alarm systems and using network audio speakers to broadcast warning messages.

Networked speakers in other zones can also issue live or pre-recorded instructions to staff and customers, guiding them to safety via green-light lanes to a designated exit.

In the event of an incident, a cloud-enabled security system can facilitate the collection, analysis, and packaging of high-quality video data. This is crucial for briefing the security teams that are arriving on the ground; quickly alerting them to events as they unfold to allow appropriate action to be taken.

Video data can also be used for forensic review that can help the police identify the perpetrators of crime more quickly; with encryption making sure that no tampering can occur and is admissible as evidence in court.

Business model to benefit modern retail

VSaaS and ACaaS are fully scalable to meet the security requirements of retail businesses large and small. This is a benefit of the ‘as-a-service’ operational expenditure model on which the solutions are based involving regular monthly payments.

This represents a move away from upfront capital outlay which will be welcome to retailers, who will want to avoid any such expense at a time when they are trying to recover lost earnings.

Retailers will also take comfort in knowing that the solutions are always up-to-date with software updates and firmware upgrades included with no requirement for costly maintenance or disruption to operations.

As the high street opens, VSaaS and ACaaS have great potential to be implemented right at the core of a forward-looking retail strategy, offering enhanced security backed by powerful customer insights that will equip retailers to face the many challenges of the modern high street.