Turn Your Video Surveillance System into a Triple Threat

Astute cannabis business owners are improving loss prevention, operations and performance with integrated video, POS and fixed RFID data

Filed under: Retail, Cannabis Security

Like most business owners, cannabis operators have a thousand items on their ‘to do’ list each day, and reviewing video from their video surveillance system is probably not one of them. But expect that to change soon.

Certainly, video surveillance is part of an operator’s world – with cameras recording activity in cultivation facilities and dispensaries, and even as product is transported from one to the other. Most of these systems are designed to provide video evidence following an incident and to ensure compliance with mandatory security regulations in the various US states and countries where cannabis can now be legally sold.

While both evidence and compliance are critical, the truth is that unless an incident occurs, recorded video is most often not used – leaving your video system running somewhat passively in the background.

What cannabis operators are realizing, however, is that they can leverage their video investment proactively to safeguard assets and run their business more successfully. Whether applied in a cultivation facility, a retail dispensary or in transit, astute cannabis operators are using video combined with other business data to cut losses from theft and fraud, enhance seed-to-sale tracking and compliance, improve customer service, and ensure that the business is running as it should – even when they aren’t physically there to oversee operations.

Here are just a few examples of how video combined with fixed RFID data, point-of-sale (POS) transaction data and analytics is being used for more than physical security to deliver a true competitive advantage.

In Cultivation Facilities

Cultivation operators are well-versed in the many stringent regulations governing cannabis cultivation, from cloning and vegetation through to flowering, harvesting, drying/curing and packaging. Each stage is closely monitored, and in several U.S. jurisdictions operators are also required to assign a unique RFID tag to each plant so they can be tracked more easily throughout the process. If a plant goes missing, or is not where it’s expected to be in a cultivation facility, an operator could face stiff fines.

This is where a video solution integrated with RFID tags and fixed readers can make a real difference, providing tracking automation as well as visual record of each plant’s location. Not only can the technology tell an operator when and where a plant was last detected, the associated video can also reveal how the plant was removed or misplaced and who was involved. Synching up RFID tags with surveillance video makes it easy for operators to find that important video clip quickly, and provides a historical record for future review and assessment. The video might reveal that more staff training is required, or that a theft has occurred (or been attempted), in which case being able to share video and RFID data evidence with law enforcement is also imperative.

Operationally, a video solution combined with RFID data, as well as access control systems and analytics, can help cultivation operators analyze how efficiently their business is running. By setting up regular, automated reports complete with video snapshots and convenient links to recorded video, operators might discover that certain shifts aren’t starting as scheduled, or find out why it’s taking an unusually long time to dry product in one cultivation facility compared to the rest. These reports can also highlight problems that can easily be corrected, such as employees not wearing proper protective clothing or a secure-access door that’s not locking properly. In my experience, once an operator understands the power of their video solution, they immediately think of other applications that could help them solve a particular challenge.

In Transit

This is the stage in the seed-to-sale process where video is most often overlooked. Keeping an eye on inventory as it moves from a cultivation facility to one or more dispensaries is a smart security precaution, which can also save cannabis operators considerable time and frustration.

Imagine that you get a call from a dispensary saying that they didn’t receive all the inventory expected. Not only can you review recorded video of the product being loaded onto a truck at your cultivation center, you now have the ability to see the inventory in transit and as it was unloaded at the dispensary location. Maybe too much product was left at a different location, or – worst case scenario – there’s been a theft somewhere along the line. With video, you can visually verify what’s occurred and provide evidence to help resolve the incident.

Some video solutions will go a step further and integrate the video system with vehicle data, such as GPS location or speed. Called geofencing, this search capability makes it easy for operators to see information on the transport route from start to finish. If there’s a question about a vehicle accidentally crossing into a U.S. state where cannabis sale is still illegal, for example, a system with a geofencing search tool can help an operator quickly determine if a boundary was actually crossed.

If you are considering adding video to transit vehicles, a last tip is not to underestimate the wear and tear the system will undergo in a mobile environment. Operators should look for ruggedized video recorders and cameras built to withstand dust, vibration and other factors. They should also be able to download video from the recorder remotely when a vehicle comes into range of a wireless hotspot, which reduces the need for manual intervention and keeps vehicles in service.

Finally, operators should be able to manage the mobile video surveillance system with the same software being used for the ‘fixed’ video systems in their facilities, and ideally the solution should provide constant system health monitoring complete with alerts, so operators can address any potential issues (e.g. a failing hard drive) before video is lost.

At the Dispensary

The applications for video at retail dispensaries are varied and perhaps the most exciting.

Here’s where video can really help dispensary operators assess and improve the customer experience they are providing. Using video and analytics like people counting, queue length monitoring or dwell time, operators can quickly call up charts and graphs to see how long their customers waited in line, if they spent more time in front of a certain marketing or educational display, or if they left the dispensary without making a purchase. They can set up automated reports that include snapshot images of different areas of the dispensary, or images from different locations, to check for things like store presentation and cleanliness, stocked shelves and correct signage.

All of this information helps operators quickly identify areas for improvement in their dispensaries. It enables them to gauge the success of promotional displays, compare customer service and conversion trends at one or multiple locations, and recognize where more employee training is needed. Ultimately it helps them make the adjustments necessary to improve sales, using the surveillance video they are already collecting for security and compliance.

When it comes to inventory security, video integrated with POS data can help dispensary operators cut losses significantly. It enables them to setup alerts triggered by unusual or suspect transactions, such as voids over a set amount, and investigate incidents faster by tying receipt data to the recorded video. Operators can use their video system to run searches on a wide variety of data, including bank card number, employee number, transaction data and time etc. across multiple locations simultaneously.  And again, they can easily review the associated video to see exactly what happened.

A Triple Threat

Video can provide cannabis operators with a unique view of their business, especially when it’s used in combination with other types of data. An excellent tool to help enhance security and required in many regions for compliance, it also provides operators with a great tool to gather valuable business insights.

Rather than take a ‘set it and forget it’ approach to your video surveillance, I encourage you to imagine how a video-based business intelligence solution could help your cannabis business. Turn your surveillance investment into a triple threat by using video and data to drive significantly better loss prevention, operations and performance success.

Article originally appeared on the Cannabis Business Executive website in September 2018

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