Vol. 5 Num 501 Sat. October 22, 2005  

Shopping centres stepping up security measures

IN the wake of rising terror threats, many shopping centres in the city are considering implementing the next generation of Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) systems to eyeball their customers' and employees' activities more closely, says Saiful Haque Kamal, managing director of General Automation Ltd., a large CCTV distributor in the city.

The Agora super store was the first to set up a fully fledged CCTV system three years ago. Other markets like Aarong and Meena Bazar soon followed.

"Since we implemented the system," says Tanveer Rahim, Head of Promotions at Meena Bazar, "shop lifting has dropped dramatically." He puts this down to the psychological effect of the screens. Walking into Meena Bazar, one cannot avoid noticing the screens and cameras recording one's every move. "People are aware that we are watching them so they don't even try to steal," says Rahim.

However, today he is no longer satisfied with the analogue cable system he purchased three years ago. "The security team cannot steer the cameras efficiently, one can only direct one camera to one monitor at a time and recording on tape uses a lot of space," says Rahim.

To come to the needs of Meena Bazar and many other super markets, especially in times of rising terror threats with managers wanting to know exactly who is coming in and out of their shops, the CCTV distributor General Automation Ltd. is promoting its IP based CCTV, a technology using digital video cameras and connecting these directly to the internet.

"Managers and security staff survey their customers or staff more efficiently and cost effectively," says Kamal of General Automation Ltd. The IP based technology is not new, but it has yet to be implemented in the country. This is surprising as the advantages of the technology are at hand.

The Meena Bazaar management is so impressed by CCTV that it will be needing approximately 40 new digital cameras for shops. At a price of Tk 1.25 lakh per camera, that's a total of Tk 50 lakh.

This does not, however, include the option of using a fibre optic connection, only the standard dial-up Internet network. General Automation Ltd. is currently working on a partnership with Metro Net, a company that has established a fibre optic network all over the city in the past years. This will allow video images to be transmitted at a much higher frequency.

"The Meena Bazaar is not the only customer interested. We are currently talking to a number of super markets", says Kamal of General Automation. He does not want to mention any further names yet, as the deals have not been finalised.

Aarong may be the next shopping centre to update its systems. Retail Manager Abu Sayeed told The Daily Star that "Aarong has plans to update the systems next year, creating a network of the 8 outlets all over the country."

He also sees potential for the government to update their systems. Currently 28 police stations in the city use analogue CCTV. But Kamal of General Automation Ltd. realises that stepping up CCTV systems by the government could take some time as the initial investment is very costly.

With analogue based CCTV, security can only survey customer's activities on one screen at a time