Small Business Owners Need To Work Smarter, Not Harder
Automation and smart security can be a game changer for small businesses.
Now that security cameras have become standard in almost all businesses, it’s time for the next step: benefiting from advances in smart automation.
From locks that provide access only to authorized employees, to temperature controls and alarm systems that turn themselves on, reasonably priced automation is now within reach for small business owners. These advances can make businesses more secure and productive while freeing up time for business owners and staff to focus on their most important tasks.
Calgary-based TELUS Secure Business business sales representative Muhammad Alam says one of the most powerful tools businesses can use to secure their spaces is access-card based locks. “We design a security system based on the customers’ needs and program it to control who they want to allow and who they don’t want to have in certain areas.”
“We can actually partition your business into different segments, so for instance, an employee may be given access to the front and back office but not the liquor cage,” explains Neil Jones, National Operations Director for TELUS Secure Business. “You could put a lock on the manager’s office and assign a user code to the cleaners that only gives them access between 9 PM and 11 PM – you can program all those parameters in the portal.”
But that’s just the start.
There is an array of smart devices small businesses can access. Jones mentions a commercial-grade thermostat that can learn a business’s habits and set temperature accordingly. “How many businesses have their heating running all night?” he asks. “This thing learns when you open and when you close, so even if you don’t program it yourself to turn down at night the thermostat recognizes when the alarm system is armed and there’s no movement, and then it can lower temperature accordingly.”
A feature recently available in the TELUS Secure Business system is its ability to recognize behaviour patterns and actions. This allows the system to alert the business owner when something unexpected happens. It takes about 30 days to build the knowledge base – how many times a day fridge opens, or how often employees access a store room and at what time – and then sends notifications if it senses activity out of the ordinary.
Jones says one of the advantages of these systems is their flexibility. Each one is individually tailored and can easily be reconfigured. “When I first started in the security industry there was no such thing as wireless, or if there was it was very expensive.” Now, Jones says, “With everything being wireless, components are easy to install, more affordable and easy to move – you can put a sensor in a different place if you want to.”
He points to the example of a pharmacy that was concerned about possible inventory loss. There was a new employee on staff, and the owner wondered if he might be responsible. “This was a small local pharmacy and every cent counts,” Jones says.
The owner set up a camera pointing at a shelf and a motion sensor so that “every time there was movement, a video clip would be sent to him. Every time that cabinet was opened he could see that, and then go to his point of sale system and see if everything was in order,” Jones says. “And it turned out he was wrong – there was no shrinkage. And that gave him peace of mind too. He knew he could trust the employee. Now he’s moved the sensor to his back room and re-positioned his camera so he can see how many times people are going to the back room and what they are bringing up.”
Because these sophisticated systems can generate a lot of data, Jones says it’s important to set up notifications only for events that are out of the ordinary – otherwise “you get numb to the number of texts or emails.”
Jones says, “Don’t tell me that my store opened on time. Tell me if it didn’t. Don’t tell me every time something happens that’s supposed to happen.”
And customers have the ability to control the messages they receive. “When interactive systems first appeared on the market, you were notified of every little things and it became frustrating and overwhelming,” Jones says. “Now we’ve changed it so the customer is only sent what they want. Nothing gets pushed to you unless you ask for it.”
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