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From Home Furnishing Business

Mission Possible: Thwarting Thieves Through Technology

By Home Furnishings Business in Furniture Retailing on April 2007 S

ecurity is one area of retail that€™s typically benefitted from technological advances, and this has never been truer than right now. There are a number of new products and methods that have been developed in recent years to help prevent theft of your home
furnishing goods. Keep in mind, however, that in the post-911 world, the word €œsecurity€ is no longer just about protection from thievery€”modern security products are also intended to help guard against acts of terrorism.

Some of today€™s security measures are already used daily in the retail world, while others are gaining acceptance gradually. And as we all know with technology, the more it€™s used, the better€”and cheaper€”it gets. Here are some of the latest and greatest technological advances in retail security.

€˜Smile! You€™re on Caught-Red-Handed Camera!€™

It€™s a sad but true fact: retail stores are frequently plagued by theft€”not just by outsiders, but also sometimes, unfortunately, by in-house staff. A whole industry has cropped up to offer tools that help stores prevent such thievery. While some products have been around for decades, the security industry is constantly developing new products that take advantage of modern technology.

Many of these new tools are actually revamps of traditional crime-fighting tools. For example, there are a number of new spins on that timeless classic, the security camera. This new breed of camera is typically smaller than conventional wall-mounted units, allowing for easy concealment, all the better to catch would-be thieves in the act.

One such product, the Mini USB digital video spy camera ($100) is about the size of a credit card, but can record about 3 hours of video, thousands of still shots, or up to 256 hours of audio onto the same SD cards used in digital cameras. This unit€™s size makes it very handy in capturing proof of robbery from a storage space or store floor. Its USB output enables easy loading of digital media to a computer for secure storage and back-up.

The MicroEye hidden camera ($280) is a motion-activated all-in-one recorder that was developed as a €œnanny cam€ to enable parents to keep an eye on their children€™s caretakers. But it€™s proven useful in the retail world due to its small size (3-3/4€ x 2-1/2€), which allows it be mounted on a wall unobtrusively so it can capture time-delayed video or up to 16,000 continuous frames when set off by motion. It reportedly has better picture quality than wireless units, and has a direct video out connection for TV or VCR hookup.

The Black & White Stealthcam Clock Camera ($500) offers the advantage of camouflage€”it appears to be an ordinary clock radio, but is actually a self-contained camera/digital video recorder that doesn€™t need to be concealed. The B/W Air Purifier Stealthcam ($500) works the same way, only it appears to be an everyday table fan. Each of these products is available from online retailer BrickHouse Security (

The Next Evolution of
Security Cams

The aforementioned video devices may seem cutting edge, but they could soon become antiquated with the emergence of a new breed of surveillance cameras currently in development. These €œintelligent video€ cameras would not only watch your store, but only interpret what they see. For example, they could analyze the way someone walks to determine if they are hiding something.

€œIntelligent Video€ cameras could also detect facial features, so they could flag returning problem browsers as soon as they enter your store. The devices use computer algorithms to interpret what their cameras record. The systems can be programmed to watch out for particular things, such as unauthorized people in secure areas of your store.

These cameras could someday enable you to create a €œwatch list€ that recognized the walks and facial features of certain people. This sounds promising, but such systems have their potential drawbacks€”for one thing, they€™ll need people to help interpret their findings so innocent customers and staff aren€™t misidentified or wrongly accused. You can read more about these cameras at

Weighing in on Theft Prevention

While much of the new development in store security revolves around digital recording units, there are other new products approach theft prevention from different angles.

For example, Ohaus Corp. ( has developed a new counting scale to facilitate more accurate weighing of bulk products. While counting scales traditionally used in warehouses and stores aren€™t necessarily pinpoint-precise, Ohaus€™ product can reportedly differentiate weight discrepancies as small as .0002 pounds. This could be a big help when weighing bulk quantities of products to determine if something is missing. With this scale, your stock personnel can set a weight based on an individual item and then determine exactly how many of that item you have. If the count isn€™t what it should be, they can follow up on the discrepancy.

Security systems have often revolved around store access€”and the new generation of products offers its spin in this area, as well. EarthTech Products ( offers a fingerprint door lock system ($259) that replaces conventional lock-and-key systems with a keypad that reads each individual€™s index fingerprint, letting you know exactly who entered an area and how long they stayed.

Having such a system in place, besides providing records of who was where (and when) can act as a deterrent. Put simply, when your personnel know you€™re on the case, keeping a close eye on your merchandise and store activity, they may be less likely to develop sticky fingers.

There are Other Ways

Of course, theft prevention entails more than just keeping tabs on your goods while they€™re in your store. Ensuring that your products are secure before they reach your store can be key in protecting your interests. There are a number of new advancements in shipping security that are worthy of note (see €œSecure Shipping the New-Fashioned Way€ following this story).

In addition, there are also tried-and-true practical methods of theft prevention that cost little or nothing. For some ideas on these low-tech strategies, go to €œLesson Learned€ on page 74. HFB

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