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Store Security: Options and Functionality

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Shoplifting is the cause of billions of losses in retail every year. Popular targets for shoplifters are items of clothing, electronics, jewelery, cosmetics and perfume. Proper security tagging can limit the economic burden for retailers. Along with adapted store facilities and regular employee training, electronic security systems are important for effective theft prevention.

Adapted store facilities and employee training as a preventive measure

A store with an open plan, low shelving, ceiling and wall mirrors, good lighting and video surveillance cameras has a deterrent effect on shoplifters. Particularly valuable goods can also be positioned in the cash register area, presented in a display case or protected with security tethers. Employee training includes detecting shoplifters by means of body language and behavior. In addition, employees can be trained in acting correctly during a theft and handling false alarms in the friendliest way possible. These measures can, however, only supplement electronic security systems.

How electronic security systems work

Electronic security systems are based on the identification of security labels by antennas at entrances and exits. The goods are supplied with special security tags. These could be soft labels, adhesive labels or hard tags which cannot be removed or deactivated easily without special aids. The security feature of labels is deactivated by counter personnel after a sale. This means the customer can leave the store without triggering an alarm. If the security labels are not deactivated, they will trigger an alarm when nearing the antennas. There are three different technologies used in electronic article surveillance or EAS for short: electromagnetic, radio frequency and magneto-acoustic.

Electronic security gates, by being visible at the entrances to a store, also have a deterrent effect on shoplifters. Nevertheless, these gates can also be of a restrained design, with transparent frames that are adapted to the store aesthetic, ensuring a wide, inviting entrance area. In such cases, the antennas are embedded in the floor, ceiling or overhead area.

An overview of electronic security systems

Radio frequency technology involves the generation of a radio frequency field by emitter and receiver antennas. We can draw a line of distinction between single- and multiple-antenna systems. Multiple-antenna systems, with separate emitter and receiver antennas, allow for larger entrances than the 2.40 m or so allowed by single systems. One disadvantage is that they cannot be used to secure metal goods, as the material eliminates radio waves. Electronic goods are also more difficult to tag in this way. Aside from this, all other groups of goods can be secured with radio frequency technology. A further characteristic is the relatively large size of radio frequency identification tags.

Magneto-acoustic technology uses the antennas to generate ultrasound vibrations that resonate in the metal strips in the security tag, something which the system can detect. If the antennas are embedded in the floor, any width of entrance can be covered by magneto-acoustic technology. This technology is also perfect for metal objects and thus can be used on all product ranges. An important advantage is that the security tags can be reactivated, something which makes sense for returns.

Electromagnetic security systems involve metal strips embedded in the security tag which are recognized by the detectors, which then trigger an alarm. Electromagnetic tags are often used to secure books, media and small items. Electromagnetic labels are insensitive to bending. One disadvantage is that a single system can only cover an entrance of 1 m in width, which contravenes escape route regulations. Only the combination of several antennas can widen the entrance.

Important performance characteristics of electronic security systems

The right electronic security system for you depends not only on the individual product group, structural situation and operational processes, but also on performance characteristics. The detection rate is obviously very important, as it shows how reliably the labels are detected by the antennas – particularly in realistic conditions.

To avoid false alarms, security labels on products need to be successfully deactivated. False alarms interrupt operational processes, are unpleasant and reduce confidence in the security tag. Cashiers do not always know how and where items are tagged. The deactivation rate thus shows how reliably labels are deactivated during scanning. Deactivation must also be successful during rapid scanning and not reduce scan speed.

In addition, false alarms can be triggered by the reactivation of the security tag after successful deactivation during scanning. Movement, for example, can reactivate a security tag. For this reason, the reactivation rate should be suitably low. Security tags can also be deactivated during automatic labeling by electrostatic discharge and thus be rendered useless. Control systems to check the quality of security tags are a helpful tool for smooth operation.

Picture: Burgess Milner via Unsplash

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