A complete renovation of the Douglas Village shopping center in Cork County, Ireland, gave Shipton Group the opportunity to lift up their retail operations to the highest levels of customer service, thanks to IP technology from Milestone Systems and Axis Communications. Milestone IP video management software provides the open platform for integrations with analytics, access control, intercoms, and a sophisticated parking system. Several Axis HD cameras are installed with people counting analytics, as part of the surveillance system that has almost 200 network cameras altogether. All of these feed into the command center monitors for ultimate overview and control.
The 18-month project was completed at the end of 2009, a US$119 million re-build of County Cork's largest shopping destination by the Shipton Group, who owns other retail establishments in Ireland. Douglas Village shopping center was expanded from 90,000 to 230,000 square feet. The design and installation of the new systems were carried out by RPC Consultants and MasterClass Security, with systems equipment purchased through Anixter distribution.
The installation was achieved in phases with the video surveillance acting in differing capacities as the operations were completed and expanded. There are more than 190 Axis network cameras, fixed dome and megapixel models. Milestone open platform IP video management software with the smart client user interface provides the glue for all the system integrations, which are shown on an EyeVis command center with two 70-inch projection cubes mounted in Intech furniture. Full-time operators and a supervisor desk oversee the operations from the control room located adjacent to the car park: the Axis camera images are rotationally displayed by Milestone like a patrol of the entire center every 30 minutes.
"It's like having virtual eyes! It's about time management and getting the most out of your staff," said the center's Manager Bartosz Mieszala. "If we didn't have the surveillance, we would have to spend most of the day walking around the site and still wouldn't see everything. We have an electronic checklist that works through the Milestone software, which ensures that we are doing a regular check on areas such as trolley bays to make sure they are cleared and not blocking exits."
Alpha Vision Design Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) tracks and alerts after the 3-hour parking time limit, helping prevent abuse of the facility by non-shoppers and informing when special customers need assistance.
"The beauty of the Milestone open platform architecture is that it allows installing partners to integrate surveillance with any other system or devices for a more efficient, holistic approach to running operations. The smart client GUI provides the central user interface for viewing the camera results from the ANPR system, for example. The operators use the plate analytics to manage how long customers stay in the car park. With 3 hours of free parking and night-time closing, the system helps manage over-stays and security matters," said Alan Hudson from MasterClass Security. "The Parker Guidance system provides color-coded alerts for empty spaces and time of stay, and the operators use the Axis PTZ cameras to check these alerts. Customer flow is also monitored at the main entrances to the shopping mall where Axis 209 cameras are installed with the People Counting software."
This retail installation is clearly managing much more than just security with this IP video surveillance solution. During construction of the new shopping center, wireless and remote video showed the progress; the PoE Axis cameras provided the ability to move the cameras later to their positions in the completed center. The surveillance is used for security issues, but also for monitoring safety matters like making sure fire exits are clear and delivery areas are in order. Both pedestrian and vehicle traffic is watched inside and outside the buildings, with the license plate recognition also improving customer service for disabled patrons who need assistance.
Overall the integrated solution has raised operational management of the center, its staff and services to new levels of retail accomplishment. The Shipton Group has made a strong investment into video surveillance because they believe they leverage greater value out of the properties and the staff through technology. In all, 400 cameras monitor their five sites in the group.
Orla Lannin, the operations Director of the Shipton Group, finds the IP video system invaluable. "The first thing that would come to most people's minds when you talk about video is security, but that's not all there is. I would call it management by cameras," she says. "I find them particularly during the busier periods: you can see at a glance what's happening and send staff to alleviate a problem before it gets bigger."
Lannin can monitor the center from her office 9 kilometers away, and Mieszala even views the Milestone images via mobile access on an electronic tablet while roaming throughout the center. Such mobile surveillance flexibility is only possible from IP technology.
Bartosz Mieszala concludes: "We use the video all the time – it helps us to reduce our costs, which in turn allows us to reduce our service rates to tenants, which is very important. There are many good things about this system, and in six months there will be even more."