Paul Smith Retail Shops Migrate Globally to Long-term IP Video
Paul Smith is an early adopter of IP and cloud-based services. In 2001 it was the first large UK-based company to migrate to IP telephony – installing a Cisco IPT network company-wide. Due to embracing the latest IT management approaches (including use of open-architected and Microsoft-based systems), the company has been able to maintain a relatively small network services team of less than 20 people, despite very rapid growth.
This approach means that when new IT challenges present themselves, Paul Smith’s Head of IT, Lee Bingham, looks for standards-based solutions that are capable of scaling quickly and effectively. He specifies that new systems and services must last a minimum of 10 years because he simply does not have the manpower or budget to support continual replacements of devices and software.
Paul Smith’s legacy CCTV had grown organically as the group expanded around the world. When the IT department was asked to take over running Paul Smith’s video systems, Lee Bingham insisted that it must be moved to IP video and be visible on the corporate network: “If it’s not IP then it’s not IT, and therefore it made no sense to move it from our Facilities Management team over to the IT department unless the CCTV system was going to be accessible on the network by authorized managers from their desktops.”
The company backed the IT department’s three-year global migration plan from CCTV-to-IP video surveillance. This is based on Milestone XProtect® Corporate video management software (VMS) and Axis network cameras and video encoders. The installation and networking of the new system is being carried out as part of a global IT infrastructure upgrade, with new retail Point of Sale (POS) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems also being rolled out.
Video system requirements
Paul Smith’s CCTV had grown in a piecemeal way as new stores were implemented over the last 20 years. Local security installers had been hired to install low-cost and stand-alone CCTV systems. There was no standard blueprint, and no maintenance agreements were put in place to keep the systems working effectively after installation. Naturally, failure rates were high. Many cameras never performed properly and video recordings were often too poor to use for evidential purposes. It was slow and difficult to move video recordings back to Paul Smith’s administrative headquarters for post-event analysis. Paul Smith’s Facilities Management department, as well as its store managers and Loss Prevention team, had become unconvinced of the value of in-store surveillance to reduce shoplifting and stock shrinkage.
Paul Smith’s IT department researched the market, looking for robust, scalable IP video hardware and software. After a painstaking evaluation process, the global retailer chose Milestone XProtect Corporate video management software and Axis network cameras. Axis video encoders were selected to bring some CCTV cameras onto the corporate network where there was an urgent requirement ahead of the full IT and IP video upgrade.
The fact that Milestone XProtect is built on an open platform architecture using Microsoft Active Directory makes rapid roll out possible, as well as cost-effective maintenance and support. Selecting Milestone XProtect enables us to migrate the whole CCTV estate onto a single platform to establish uniformity and consistency. Our objective, as soon as the new Milestone-based video systems have been rolled out globally, will be to build on this investment by extending its value beyond loss prevention. We plan to work closely with our retail management team to explore the power of the new IP video system – potentially deploying techniques such as facial recognition, heat mapping and dwell-time analytics that enable us to better understand and serve our customers. – Lee Bingham
XProtect proves perfect growth platform
Lee Bingham had to persuade retail managers of the value of putting in a new IP video system as part of the IT upgrade program because of their poor previous experience with legacy CCTV. They had to be persuaded that the new system was future-proofed for a minimum of 10 years, fully manageable and maintainable by IT, and capable of delivering loss prevention benefits immediately.
From an IT management perspective, Milestone XProtect fits our model perfectly. The open platform allows us to scale rapidly and add new services once all the cameras and servers have been installed, configured and networked globally. We can control which managers can see cameras from which stores through our standard technologies such as Microsoft Active Directory. This means we can ensure our UK Retail Territory Manager can see all the cameras in all the UK stores. Area Managers can see cameras in the stores they look after, and so on, right down to individual store managers who can log on via Milestone XProtect Smart Client from their store PC to view the cameras that are deployed store-wide. – Lee Bingham
“We can now log in via the Milestone XProtect Smart Client front-end and retrieve live and recorded video from all the cameras anywhere in the world. If there is a problem, we can generally fix it via the network from Nottingham without getting on a plane. This saves management time and reduces our company’s carbon footprint.
“Right now the system is only used if there is a known security incident. But in the future we expect different managers in specialist areas like Visual Merchandising will want to proactively access the cameras to view stores and assess whether agreed store layouts are being observed and working well for customers. When we get to this stage there will be a higher demand for mobile device access to the video which Milestone Mobile can provide.”
Loss Prevention in Action
Just days after the Milestone system was installed in Paul Smith’s new store in Beak Street, London, there was a case of someone buying goods with a fraudulent US-based credit card.
Lee Bingham said: “Because the credit card was not ‘Chip and Pin’ they were able to complete the transaction but when we were alerted by the bank that this was fraudulent, we were able to go to XProtect and quickly retrieve the HD-quality images identifying the suspect and showing the fraudulent transaction in progress, including detail of the relevant receipt on-screen. This irrefutable evidence was passed to the authorities for prosecution.
“Incidents like this are helping the IT department justify to senior management the case for continued investment. Every year between now and the end of 2015 we’re aiming to refresh at least 15 existing stores, as well as manage installations in up to five new stores.”
Potential Integrations with New IP System
Once the new IP video system is globally implemented, Paul Smith will have a cost-effective platform for integrating facial recognition capability into its operations.
Lee Bingham said: “Applications like this could be uploaded to local cameras or servers to monitor facial reaction in customers’ interactions with new merchandise or staff. Facial recognition could also be used to detect and alert store managers if known shoplifters enter the store.
“We see specific value in knowing our best customers wherever we are serving them. We also want our best online customers to be recognized when they come into store. There would be some logic in being able to integrate our CRM system with an IP video-based facial recognition system to ensure high-value customers have the best possible experience in-store.
“You have to remember that it is five times more expensive to attract a new customer than retain an existing one. It is worth investing to ensure that customers get a seamless, high quality experience when they make trips to one of our stores.
“We know video analytics can be used to study how customers walk through a store. Heat mapping and dwell-time analytics software could be used to analyze which displays are working best to attract and retain shoppers. Software can analyze dwell-time alongside images of customers actually picking up products and putting them in their baskets. Managers can use this business intelligence to make improvements. It is this sort of capability that we will be looking to offer Paul Smith managers in the coming years.”
Milestone XProtect®Corporate VMS sits on an HP Proliant™ DL380e Gen8 server which holds up to 12TB of data, allowing for 30 days of 15 frames per second HDTV images collected on motion detection. Live and recorded video images can be viewed from each store’s PC which holds all in-store business applications. The typical Paul Smith store is fitted with a PC, IP telephony, 2 switches, a voice gateway, a CCTV server and eight to 12 AXIS M3014 720P POE Mini Dome Network Cameras. AXIS M3005-V Fixed Dome Network Cameras are being installed in some outlets’ store rooms to monitor stock movements.
Area managers responsible for several stores, and territory managers above them, are now able to access live and recorded video via Milestone XProtect®Smart Client. Their authorization levels are controlled in the VMS through Microsoft Active Directory.
Paul Smith’s global IP video upgrade will be carried out alongside its IT upgrade of stores. This includes a move from a CAT 5 to a CAT 7 Ethernet cabling infrastructure using the latest Cisco networking infrastructure and a BT MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) IP VPN (Virtual Private Network). This delivers 10GB per second connections to all store-based desktops as well as providing IP-based voice, video and data services via a mixture of private and public cloud infrastructure.
Lee Hayden, managing director of Paul Smith’s video system installer and Milestone Advanced Certified Partner and Milestone Platinum Partner, A1 Data Communications, said: “Paul Smith is using us for all installations around the world to ensure total consistency of quality of installation to ensure that if there are problems on any sites they can be managed more easily from its IT headquarters in Nottingham. We are roughly a third of the way through implementing IP video through all stores, and the benefits are already starting to flow in.”