Inexpensive Sweethearting Solution (ScanCam)

By: Brian Rhodes, Published on Jun 25, 2012

Sweethearting is one of the most difficult types of theft to detect on video. Sometimes due to cashier error, other times due to deliberate pilferage, sweethearting on the checkout line can be a significant source of loss. In this note, we profile a straightforward and inexpensive device that indicates when sweethearting takes place.

Overview

ScanCam [link no longer available] is a simple electronic device that performs one function: flash a light when an item is registered by a barcode scan. In the case of 'sweatheart' scams, items are often passed over the scanner with the barcode obstructed, otherwise appearing to be a valid transaction but in reality amounting to product loss. The stereotypical 'beep' of the register is not useful when investigating these events, because the ambient noise level makes the location difficult to pinpoint. ScanCam acts as a visual indicator of scanner activity that is subsequently recorded by existing checkout stand surveillance cameras. Normally, this type of theft is challenging to detect without significant integration between the POS system and the Video Surveillance system, however ScanCam is a device that stands in the gap. See the rendering below for an image of the ScanCam as current production units appear:

When an barcode is read by a checkout scanner, an output port sends a signal to the ScanCam, which pulses an LED. This LED signal is 'seen' by a surveillance camera as indication that the item passing over the scanner was successfully read. The ScanCam unit is discretely mounted and 'aimed' so that adjacent CCTV cameras can observe the flash, but neither the cashier nor the customer is aware. In this way, 'good' scans get a flash, but 'not read' scans get no flash. The developer's promotional video below illustrates the product in action and illustrates how the product is installed and integrated into flatbed scanners:

ScanCam Specifications:

  • Requires existing CCTV to be installed and in use: ScanCam adds no video capabilities at all.
  • Size: ScanCam roughly measures 1" X 1" X 2"
  • Power: 12 VDC, phantom powered by scanner output port
  • Range: Impulse of high-intensity LED can be easily detected by color or B/W cameras hung nearest to checkout stand
  • Adhesive Mount: Lightweight, small size mean that ScanCam is adhesive fixed to mounting location
  • Price: A single unit sells for $199 USD, but must be purchased in minimum quantities of 10 units.

A strong advantage of the ScanCam is that beyond plugging the unit into a scanner's output port, no further video integration is needed. Other 'anti-sweethearting' solutions require API, manual integrations, or custom code to be written, but ScanCam does not use those methods. Once the unit is hung and positioned, it operates according to design.

Analysis

Installation: Because the ScanCam unit itself draws power from output ports on the flatbed scanner unit, no additional power supply is needed. The LED features a rotating ball mount, so that it can be precisely pointed at the nearest camera and not be observable by nearby bystanders. The type of interface cable required is the only differentiating piece among different ScanCam units. While not every scanner model has been tested, most major scanner manufacturers are currently supported. For a minimum purchase quantity, the developer will design custom cable assemblies.

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

Discrete Deployment: The small footprint of the unit means it can be mounted in unobtrusive areas not observable by either the cashier or customers. Common mounting locations are under the register keypad displays or pole camera mounts. The low-profile of the sensor is key to it's success so that it operates without observation.

Low Implementation Cost: No retraining of cashiers or video system operators is required for successful use. Cashiers do not need to be retrained on how to scan items differently than they currently are trained. Additionally, use of ScanCam is intuitive for video operators when reviewing footage. When the light is blinking, barcode reads are occurring. Reviewing video for sweatheart events is as simple as looking for the coinciding light when an item is scanned. No additional operator training is required.

However, the biggest drawback of the ScanCam is the requirement of active video monitoring by human operators to be effective. When comparing this offering to an analytic based solution like StopLift (see our full StopLift review for further details), advanced features like alarm notification or event logging is not possible, and forensic tracking of sweethearting events is a manual operation, entirely dependent on recorder capacity.

Realtime alerts are not possible, unless the specific scene is being manually observed for errors, and ScanCam is substantially a forensic/training tool as a result. 

Also, the device cost relative to product features appear to be relatively high. At a fundamental level, ScanCam is a serial connected LED light. Development and tooling costs aside, no new or unique technology is encorporated into the product, and it is built using common components. Endusers should not presume advanced features based on the price.

Conclusion

While more sophisticated detection methods exist, ScanCam is an inexpensive entry into a complex detection problem. The low acquisition and installation cost of ScanCam enhances the value of existing video surveillance. ScanCam is worthy of consideration for those not requiring a deep level of 'sweetheart' detection.

Comments : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

HID Releases Lower-Cost Signo Readers on Mar 06, 2020
HID Global is releasing a new line of readers called Signo they claim read farther, are mobile-ready, and automatically adjust for better reads on...
New: Mobile Access Proxy Releases 'World's Smallest Mobile Reader' on Mar 04, 2020
Mobile access provider Proxy claims its new Nano is 'the world’s smallest mobile reader' that can be installed into nearly all existing access...
Vehicle & Long Range Access Reader Tutorial on Jan 21, 2020
One of the classic challenges for access control are parking lots and garages, where the user's credential is far from the reader. With modern...
Directory of Access Reader Manufacturers on Nov 27, 2019
Credential Readers are one of the most visible and noticeable parts of access systems, but installers often stick with only the brand they always...
Hidden Camera Detectors Tested on Nov 18, 2019
Hidden cameras are a growing problem as cameras become smaller, cheaper and easier to access. However, some companies claim to be able to detect...
HID Fingerprint Reader Tested on Oct 09, 2019
HID has released their first access reader to use Lumidigm optical sensors, that touts it 'works with anyone, anytime, anywhere'. We bought and...
Fingerprints for Access Control Guide on Sep 09, 2019
Users can lose badges, but they never misplace a finger, right? The most common biometric used in access are fingerprints, and it has become one...
How To Troubleshoot Wiegand Reader Problems - Inverted Wiring on Jul 16, 2019
Wiegand is the dominant method of connecting access readers, but problems can arise for installers. In fact, one of the most difficult reader...
OSDP Access Control Guide on Jun 04, 2019
Access control readers and controllers need to communicate. While Wiegand has been the de facto standard for decades, OSDP aims to solve major...
Startup GateKeeper Aims For Unified Physical / Logical Access Token on Apr 04, 2019
This startup's product claims to 'Kill the Password' you use to keep your computers safe. They have already released their Gatekeeper Halberd...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Embedded Logix Thermal Temperature Detection System Examined on Apr 08, 2020
Embedded Logix has been producing thermal temperature measurement systems for industry and fire detection for over 10 years. Now, they are entering...
Micron 1 TB SD Cards Aim To Eliminate NVRs on Apr 08, 2020
Micron has boldly proclaimed their latest 1TB microSD "eliminates the need for network video recorders", targeting the growing market of...
US DoD Declares "Can No Longer Do Business" With Contractors Using Dahua, Hikvision, Huawei on Apr 08, 2020
The US Department of Defense has confirmed to IPVM that they fully support and intend to proceed with the NDAA 'blacklist clause' covering Dahua,...
IPVM's 12th Anniversary - Thank You! on Apr 07, 2020
IPVM is proud to celebrate it's 12 anniversary expanding our commitment to providing the industry independent and objective information on video...
Mobotix Thermal Body Temperature Detection Examined on Apr 07, 2020
Mobotix has jumped into the Coronavirus temperature detection market, but how do they compare to thermal incumbents like FLIR or ICI who have been...
Verkada Coronavirus Response: Free Temp Systems For Government and Health Care on Apr 07, 2020
Verkada has built a reputation on giving away things for free - free Yeti Tumblers, free trial cameras and now free temporary systems for...
Hikvision USA Refuses, Dahua USA Drives Forward With "Coronavirus Cameras" on Apr 07, 2020
Both have been federally banned, both sanctioned for human rights abuses but only one - Dahua - is taking aim at the booming "coronavirus cameras"...
China Surveillance Vulnerabilities Being Used To Attack China, Says China on Apr 07, 2020
While China video surveillance vulnerabilities have been much debated in the West in the past few years, China is now saying those vulnerabilities...
USA ICI Elevated Skin Temperature Detectors Examined on Apr 06, 2020
Infrared Cameras, Inc. (ICI) is aiming to help slow the spread of COVID-19 with "pinpoint accurate skin temperature measurement" using their...
Trade Groups Request NDAA Blacklist Delay Citing Coronavirus on Apr 06, 2020
Two trade groups representing government contractors have asked Congress to delay implementation of the NDAA's 'blacklist' clause from this August...