By Tiffany Rider - Assistant Editor
August 13, 2013 - When Joe Jost’s owner Ken Buck first decided to install a surveillance system at his business a decade ago, he did not know what a difference cameras could make for both security and operations.
“I installed it and realized that it was a great tool for keeping an eye on my business,” Buck told the Business Journal. “Having a cash business, I ended up using it in a way where I would monitor employee shifts and talk to them about things I saw.”
Ken Buck, owner of Joe Jost’s on East Anaheim Street, displays footage from his surveillance system on his mobile tablet. Buck is able to access both live and recorded footage. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville)
In just a decade, technologies have advanced and systems have become more affordable, leading to increased demand for surveillance at small businesses. Buck’s first system was videotape; everything was done with videocassette recorders (VCRs). “I would monitor it by going upstairs where I kept it, or I could take the videotapes home and play them back on a specialized machine,” he said.
Buck added new equipment over the years and now has a completely digital setup. “I can pull it up on my computer, or my iPhone or iPad,” he said. His system stores the information for up to three weeks on a digital video recorder (DVR) before rewriting over it, allows for video playback and will begin recording if anything moves in an area by picking up the changing pixels seen through a camera. “It’s very sophisticated,” Buck said.
Luis Orbegoso, senior vice president of small business for ADT, told the Business Journal that the sales of the company’s premier solutions security package for small businesses has doubled in just the past year. “It’s all about providing the customer with the choice that works best for their situation,” Orbegoso said.
“When you take a look at a security system, the brains of the system are taking input and transmitting output,” Orbegoso explained. “They take input from a lot of different devices and process it in different ways to provide an output.” With today’s surveillance systems, the output collected wirelessly through the cameras can be stored on a DVR or in the cloud or can be viewed on mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets in real-time.
“From a security perspective, a lot of new technologies are out there today,” Scott Harkins, president of Honeywell Security Products, told the Business Journal, noting that most systems were hard-wired in the 1990s while today’s motion sensors and surveillance cameras are built with wireless technology.
As technologies have become cheaper to produce, the cost of these systems has decreased and thus has reduced the barrier to entry for small businesses to install surveillance. “As technology has advanced, as things have gone from analog to digital, the cost has come out,” Harkins said. “Having said that, performance has increased incredibly,” noting that high definition provides exceptionally crisp pictures compared to old cameras with grainy footage.
“What’s really different is how you can interact with that system,” Harkins explained. Like ADT’s mobile application, called Pulse, Honeywell Security’s mobile application allows users to connect to their security systems and look at live video or stored video. Employers can also use this technology to connect to, for example, a wireless device connected to an electronic cash register to track things like a “no sale” ring up. “They can tie that data together and audit how a team is performing,” Harkins said.
The benefits to this connectivity are many. Harkins provided one example of someone at a tradeshow who was able to look at his mobile device and check in on one of his franchise locations. The franchise owner was able to notice an employee improperly dressed for the job. He was able to call the location and have the on-site manager address the problem immediately.
“I don’t think most people understand the different ways they can use a security system to their benefit,” Buck said. “It’s not only to have it, but to use it. Use it to monitor your employees so it becomes a tool, not just to catch somebody doing wrong but to reinforce good behavior.”
In addition to internal surveillance, Buck has several cameras installed on the outside of his business to monitor the frontage and parking areas. The entire system is connected, so he is also able to review and monitor the outside of Joe Jost’s in the same fashion as with the internal system.
“It’s nice to have exterior cameras,” Buck said, noting that they have been useful to customers as well. When a customer’s car was hit by another vehicle that left the scene, Buck was able to tap into his surveillance system and identify the driver at fault.
Joe Jost’s on East Anaheim Street has security cameras placed on the outside of the building. These cameras constantly survey the frontage and parking areas around the business, and are accessible by owner Ken Buck via a wireless connection. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville)
The cameras Buck has outside of his business are accessible by the Long Beach Police Department through its city surveillance program, Long Beach Common Operating Picture (COP). “If something were to transpire within the range of those cameras, the police have access to the footage,” Buck said.
In addition, cameras set up along East Anaheim Street, put in place by Platt Security through an effort by the East Anaheim Street Business Alliance, are also accessible by the police department. There are other efforts across the city to install more cameras that may be accessed by COP.
Considering how far surveillance technologies have come in terms of quality and affordability, it isn’t hard to comprehend that there are very few places today where there isn’t some sort of video surveillance.
“As long as the cameras are in places where the public would not expect to have privacy, then they are legal to have them anyplace in the bar,” Buck said. “You go into the market or department store and they have them for the security of employees, the security of customers, for a lot of different reasons. All are good reasons; it’s almost crazy not to have them.”