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The Perks of IP Video

With more than 20,000 stores globally, Starbucks Coffee Corporation has grown enormously since it opened its first store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market in 1971. While the company has excelled at turning out perfect cups of coffee and expanding its empire across the globe, making sure that its video monitoring system keeps up with company needs has been more challenging.

“We went through a pretty rapid growth curve at Starbucks, where we were opening [around] 1,200 stores a year,” says Sean Dettloff, senior manager of physical security solutions for Starbucks. Each new store received new equipment, but over time it became outdated because there wasn’t a life-cycle-management program.

The older equipment didn't allow for multiple users to access cameras in stores for review or automatically notifying the Starbucks security team if a camera wasn’t functioning.

“We were only as aware of our system as what was being reported to us in the field,” Dettloff explains. “So if a store manager said ‘I have a broken DVR, or a broken camera,’ then we’d be able to fix it.” But the system did not make it easy to monitor which cameras were offline in a proactive way through central reporting. The issue was brought to management’s attention, and it was agreed that a new solution was needed, Dettloff says.

Security began reaching out to vendors to learn about their video monitoring systems. They were looking for a product that could handle a large enterprise like Starbucks, that had excellent central reporting and enterprise management capability, and that was scalable. After getting information back from numerous providers and testing products, Starbucks chose the Security Center with Omnicast IP video management system (VMS) by Genetec, Inc., of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Security Center manages video surveillance on a single open platform that allows users to incorporate solutions, such as video analytics systems and business management systems, from other vendors who’ve formed partnerships with Genetec. This open platform can then be accessed by authorized users from a main security center or remotely from any device through an Internet portal.

What really sold Starbucks was the system’s ability to handle up to 150,000 cameras and an unrestricted number of workstations, says Traegon Hon, business system analyst at Starbucks. While Starbucks is initially using the system in its North America locations and other regions separately, it would eventually like to be able to integrate Omnicast globally.

Also important to Starbucks was Omnicast’s ability to work with legacy equipment. “One of the nice benefits that we ended up with is that we had the ability to leave our existing cameras and recorders in our stores and integrate those into our platform,” Hon says. “So we didn’t have to rip out every product that we’d ever installed over the last 12 years but were actually able to integrate our existing product line into our solution.”

Starbucks currently has a blend of IP and analog systems with about one-third of the roughly 30,000 deployed cameras recorded directly with Genetec products. All of the cameras feed into the Omnicast system.

The system also allows for watermarking the video to ensure authenticity, encryption of video files to limit access, uninterrupted video streaming, and real-time system-health monitoring, which has already paid off for Starbucks, Dettloff says.

“Just through system-health monitoring, we’ve been alerted to sites that weren’t configured properly, and we were able to address those in real time,” he explains, adding that the system has also helped Starbucks identify the cause so security could address the issue before it became a recurring problem across hundreds of stores.

Omnicast also gives Starbucks the ability to manage system updates in a reasonable manner because Genetec allows upgrades to be phased in. That means that Starbucks can have stores using multiple versions of the software since they are all compatible with one another.

Also, as new camera technology becomes available, Starbucks will have the option of upgrading to those cameras still using the existing system.