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Cloud security: why retailers need to unlock the long-term gain of VSaaS

Andy Martin, Morphean’s Retail Segment Leader, discusses how Video Surveillance as a Service can transform the way retailers use video and show immediate ROI, as well as why reservations such as cyber security should not hold the industry back.
The need to drive efficiencies and deliver greater business value out of existing services has never been higher for retail. Changes to the way customers transact and the shopper experience creates real challenges for retail operations and loss prevention teams.

CCTV systems have long been an essential part of physical security for stores. But now they can be improved upon to start delivering extra value beyond their primary function of spotting potential thieves and forensic examination of other in-store incidents. The industry should think of the systems as business rules platforms, allowing them to use sensors and IP devices to provide real time prompts and provide data for analysis.

Last year, Morphean commissioned an independent survey of 1,500 IT decision makers across the UK, France and Germany in order to understand attitudes towards cloud adoption. What we found was that retailers love the cloud. More than 92% of respondents from the sector are using some kind of cloud service, the highest level of adoption after IT firms. Similarly, 92% also believed that IP solutions should deliver added value and provide data.

The security industry needs to engage better with end users and meet these challenges. Retailers are not spending capital in the way that they used to. OpEx (operational expenditure) is only attractive when an immediate improvement in efficiency can be illustrated. Software as a Service (SaaS) is common for functions such as email, CRM, finance, HR and payroll and ERP. Outside of those core applications, however, very few businesses have adopted cloud solutions. This will almost certainly change in the next stage of bricks and mortar’s evolution.

The rise of Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS)
You can do a great deal with video surveillance in this day and age. Smart analytics, tracking the movements of people around a store, even using machine learning to recognise suspicious behaviour. However, all these things have historically required a substantial investment in on-premise appliances that can handle the real-time computing power to make them possible. In a model where video surveillance is sold “as a service” (VSaaS), image processing and storage happens in the cloud. This means retailers pay only for the service that they are using, and the technology can be flexible to meet the needs of the business.

Just like cloud accounting software, store owners always have access to the latest features without having to upgrade hardware or make capital investments. Essentially retailers will always have a cutting-edge analytics system working on their video data, and it can be procured on a “per use” basis.

What’s more, the beauty of the cloud is that it enables applications to interface with each other seamlessly. Images captured from the same cameras used to watch shop shelves can be integrated with HR records, for example, or to provide facial recognition as a second form of access control for secure areas. A similar integration could spot queues forming and alert shop staff that more points of sale need opening, or alert warehousing staff when stocks are low. The potential is limitless.

A lack of VSaaS adoption
So, what’s holding retailers back from making these choices? The primary concern, expressed by 73% of retail respondents, is around cybersecurity, and it’s understandable that there’s caution around adopting VSaaS – after all, if your physical security gets hacked the consequences for the organisation would be severe.

In reality, however, cloud services are demonstrably safer than many on-premise solutions, especially when they are configured for end-to-end encryption and logging. Someone who might tamper with a local file or tape will be quickly detected if they try to alter data stored securely in the cloud.
What’s more, in the VSaaS model, the provider is directly responsible for ensuring camera and device firmwares are updated against the latest cybersecurity threats. There are many well documented instances of malwares taking over internet-connected devices – including IP CCTV cameras – and using them to infiltrate a business or launch “botnet” attacks.

Cloud services can also offer better guarantees when it comes to compliance with legislation such as GDPR. Cameras, by their nature, capture personal data about customers which needs to be anonymised and protected. Blocking out faces before files are passed to long term storage, for example, could be one effective compliance measure. As GDPR matures and more evidence of how it will be enforced appear, a VSaaS service can be updated to the latest requirements.

There are other challenges. The reseller business model needs to change in order to incorporate VSaaS, for example, as does the buying cycle for end customers. But these are measures that can be addressed to unlock substantial long-term benefits that VSaaS will deliver.

You can read more about our research and analysis around VSaaS in retail in our white paper:

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About Morphean SA
Morphean is a Swiss technology company with a strong presence in more than 12 countries worldwide. Founded in 2009 and with over 60 partners across Europe, the secure Morphean platform informs decision making and drives efficiencies for all organisations by generating unique and actionable insights from a multitude of data sources. With expertise across retail, transport & facilities management, among others, the company is recognised as a leader in secure service platform delivery through the use of cloud and AI technologies. The platform helps firms prepare for the future by keeping their ‘Eyes Wide Open’ to the intelligence gathered from a variety of network connected devices.