As the world enters its third year of dealing with COVID-19, the U.S. seems to have turned a corner in learning to live with the virus. Shutdowns are a thing of the past, mask mandates have been eased or lifted altogether, and theaters, restaurants and offices have been reopened to the public. Unfortunately, the pandemic has left its mark on the American labor force and created a new series of challenges for the nation’s economy.
Forced to stay away from the workplace, people had time to reassess their personal and professional priorities, leading many of them to change jobs, take early retirement, or quit to start their own businesses. “The Great Resignation,” as it’s been dubbed, has changed the employment landscape across the country, leaving many companies in a wide variety of industries struggling to find staffing and stay open. More recently, rising interest rates, high inflation and huge spikes in energy and gasoline prices have stretched people's budgets to the max.
Fewer employees on-site and intense financial pressures on consumers are the perfect combination for potential theft. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2021 Retail Security Survey, 57% of businesses cited the pandemic and its aftermath for a rise in organized retail crime, while 50% blamed the virus for an increase in shoplifting.
“We learned from micro market operators that their biggest challenges were theft and lack of labor resources to deal with it effectively,” said Mac Bolak, the founder and chief executive officer of Panoptyc. “If there’s no one there on the premises, people feel more inclined to take things when they think no one is watching. Operators were also dealing with outdated camera systems that couldn’t be reviewed remotely, meaning they had to drive potentially long distances to retrieve footage manually. So, we came up with a solution to help fill the gap."
Founded in 2019 with headquarters in Michigan and Washington, Panoptyc has quickly become a leader in the security and surveillance industry. Using a combination of smart cameras, artificial intelligence technology and human review, Panoptyc’s goal is to take care of theft detection so operators can focus on running and growing their business. “Our software is always looking for suspicious incidents,” Bolak explained. “Once something happens – if someone grabs an item and walks out or pretends to check out and doesn’t pay – that activity gets flagged automatically. We then have human verification to ensure accuracy prior to sending out a dossier with all needed information to the operators.”
Although the primary purpose of Panoptyc’s system is to give operators their profits, time and sanity back from theft, there are other benefits that can be useful. “The camera and software solutions also address quality control monitoring like detecting stock outs and driver performance,” Bolak added.
Utilizing technology to catch thieves in unattended locations is a powerful tool, but for many people, theft prevention often begins and ends with the type of locks installed on the machines. From vending and ATMs to amusement games and gasoline pumps, Lock America has been protecting assets in a wide range of industries for over 40 years. Founded in 1981 and based in Corona, California, the company tries to stay ahead of criminals by talking to its clients and hearing their concerns.
Many of the headlines these days involve historically high gasoline prices, making service stations a prime target for theft. “Many gas pumps still rely on a generic lock with thousands of duplicate keys in circulation,” Morahan explained. “Lock America security locks are pick-resistant, with each key code registered to an authorized person at each client company, which provides key control as well as hardware barriers for individual locations. Our customers can keep track of each key for overall operation security.”
Some owners only need to worry about control of a few locks, but for those with larger operations, Camlock Systems has developed a solution. A family-owned business with a history spanning 100 years, the organization – headquartered in Southington, Connecticut – has evolved from a single locksmith in England to a multi-national company with customers in over 140 countries. Its newest product is the ACS-200, a Smart Integration Hub that enables the user to control up to 10 locks.
“Thanks to the engineering of the ACS-200, it’s compatible with a variety of programming languages and operating systems,” said Steve Martin, head of product development, Camlock Systems. “The installation is quick and easy, and simple software integration cuts down the setup time.”
Remote digital security is an incredible weapon in the fight against theft, but its only as good as the network it runs on. OptConnect is one of North America’s leading providers of managed wireless service connectivity for micro markets, kiosks and ATMs. Founded in 2009 and based in Kaysville, Utah, the company provides a secure and reliable monitored wireless connection to the internet for unattended equipment that is easy, low-risk and convenient.
“We have spent over 12 years perfecting managed wireless services so that customers can focus on their core business strengths without having to deal with the delays, complexities and frustrations of typical cellular deployments,” said Kevin Dalton, OptConnect’s chief experience officer. “Ours is a complete plug-and-play solution so that operators and deployers don’t have to manage security updates, patches and firmware updates on their own. We take care of all that for the highest level of security possible, and all the customer has to do is plug in the device and start using it.”
To address security concerns at unattended or remote locations, Dalton recommends encrypting data before sending it over any wireless connection. “In the event that unauthorized access is gained, OptConnect has data usage triggers that will set off internal protocols within the system to contact customers,” he said. “Our technical teams will then investigate the high data usage.”
With the country in an era of economic uncertainty, one thing is for sure: Criminals are constantly looking for ways to enrich themselves at the expense of others. Thanks to companies like Panoptyc, Lock America, Camlock Systems and OptConnect, owners and operators can stay one step ahead in securing and protecting their assets.