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Security, Safety, and Shrink: Using Artificial Intelligence to Protect Your Employees and Your Assets

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Contributors: Joe Hinrichs, John Sullivan

January 17, 2023


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You've heard the phrases before: "The customer is king." "The customer is always right."

It's true, customers are crucial to the success of any business—which is why we've dedicated an entire blog post to how artificial intelligence (AI) can improve customer satisfaction through efficiency and engagement—but they are just a piece of the puzzle. Equally important are your employees and your assets, which every C-suite executive should have a vested interest in protecting from theft and physical harm.

Of course, you need data in order to pinpoint where your biggest threats are coming from and to mitigate risk. That's where AI can play a role in your strategy. With the support of Bailiwick Integrated Intelligence—a service delivered in a partnership with Realwave, that uses AI to analyze data from common area cameras, sensors, and other infrastructure technology—you can efficiently monitor all of your brick-and-mortar locations from a single dashboard. In turn, increasing security, improving safety, and preventing shrink.

Increasing Security

When you think of video surveillance, increased security is likely the top benefit that comes to mind. But for many companies—especially those with thousands of locations—physically being present to review camera footage 24/7 is unrealistic. Instead, let intelligent video surveillance be your eyes and ears.

Security camera looking over a retail store

"Let's say it's after 9 p.m., closing time for a retailer," says Joe Hinrichs, Bailiwick's vice president of IT and product development. "There shouldn't be any motion or activity in the store room until the next morning. With either motion sensors or with cameras, we have the ability to identify what should or shouldn't be happening in that space. If activity is detected, the AI technology would trigger an alert to be sent to the store manager or a support team to review and respond appropriately."

Increasing security to protect employees and merchandise was a challenge presented by one of Bailiwick's customers, a national mobile device retailer. The retailer stored its high-value devices in technology-enabled vaults, but the doors were not always closed and locked, leaving the shops vulnerable to theft. Bailiwick created a solution that could integrate a cloud-connected locking mechanism with the existing vault and camera system to send real-time alerts if vault doors were left open, allowing the retailer to immediately assuage threats and better train employees for the future.

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Improving Safety

Employee safety is non-negotiable—there's even an entire office within the U.S. Department of Labor dedicated to it: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which will dole out hefty fines to companies that don't comply with safety standards.

Case in point: One of Bailiwick's national retail customers was getting hit with millions of dollars in fines annually because delivery folks and employees weren't keeping-up with the vast amount of product delivered every day. The path to the emergency exit door wasn't always free and clear of objects. Without real-time data to help store management pinpoint when these violations were occurring, it was impossible to combat the issue.

"One of our clients is very much space-constrained, and at any one time, they've got a ton of boxes in front of an exit door," says John Sullivan, Realwave's CEO. "That's a problem for OSHA because employees and customers have to be able to get out in the event of a fire."

To solve the problem, the retailer wanted to point a camera at the back door that would generate an alert whenever it was blocked. Using AI, the camera could be trained to identify when boxes were present and send an alert to a video surveillance platform, prompting store management to fix the violation before the next surprise visit from OSHA—and, more importantly, before a preventable accident occurred.

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When something or someone deviates outside of protocol, you'll be notified.

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Where there's a better way to do something, you'll see it.

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When stock and inventory don't align, you'll know why.

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When customers engage and buy more, you'll be able to replicate across your brand.

Preventing Shrink

No matter what safeguards your business has in place to prevent loss of products and money, you will likely, at some point, experience shrink, which occurs when a store has fewer items in stock than what's recorded in its inventory.

This can be attributed to innocent mistakes like administrative error or product damage, but can also point to more serious issues such as vendor fraud, employee theft, and shoplifting. If shrink is a recurring problem for your business, it can ultimately become a blow to your bottom line: In 2022 alone, the National Retail Federation reported $100 billion in retail shrink from employee theft and shoplifting.

With Bailiwick Integrated Intelligence's video surveillance service, AI can be tapped to curb instances of inventory loss and protect your profit margins. "We have the ability to integrate with a point-of-sale device or a register," says Hinrichs. "When someone opens a till without ringing up anything, or they have a voided transaction or a return, that can trigger an alert for management to review video clips that correspond to the time that the event took place."

AI-powered video surveillance can help you identify patterns and pinpoint where shrink is occurring, but there are also steps you can take to prevent retail loss in the first place:

  • Use signage to warn customers—and employees—they are being recorded.
  • Require a receipt for cash returns. This can hamper return fraud, which happens when someone tries to return stolen or used merchandise for cash.
  • Cultivate a positive workplace culture that discourages employees from taking advantage of their access to inventory and cash.
  • Train employees to be vigilant about shoplifting and return fraud.
Taylor Hugo profile picture Written By Taylor Hugo
Taylor Hugo is a freelance writer and editor, and owner of Taylor Hugo Creative, a content marketing agency based in Denver, Colorado.

Curiosity and creative problem-solving.

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