Magazine Article | May 13, 2016

Security Starts At The POS

By Matt Pillar, chief editor

The POS holds a trove of information that, when appropriately leveraged, can help stop crime and aid first responders. One ISV’s idea to expose that data is getting lots of attention and fueling significant growth.

With the launch of Alert POS this year, Brad Jarrett is manipulating some impressive technology in an effort to inject security — of both life and property — back into the POS equation.

Photo By Mark Buckner

Retail can be a potentially dangerous business. From 2003 to 2008, the U.S. saw 944 homicides and 8,700 nonfatal assaults committed in the retail trade sector. In 2010, 110 of the 405 fatal workplace shooting incidents logged by the Bureau of Labor Statistics occurred in retail. Retail is home to more than one quarter of all workplace violence, more than any other single industry.

The threat of terrorism is also growing, as many radical groups have shifted their strategies from targeting airports and embassies to shopping malls and other public venues. A 2013 terror attack at Kenya’s Westgate mall left 67 people dead. Last year, 130 people were killed during a coordinated attack on cafes, bars, and other public venues in Paris. A January attack at a Jakarta Starbucks killed two and injured 24.

While terrorism hasn’t yet afflicted U.S. restaurants and retailers as profoundly, the industry is far from immune. Movie theaters, restaurants, bars, sports and entertainment venues, and stores both in malls and on “Main Street” open their doors each day in the face of constant risk.

Law enforcement officials call them “soft targets.” Brad Jarrett is determined to harden them, and his revolutionary ideas start at the POS.

“The cash register is the original piece of security equipment,” says Jarrett, CEO at Alert™ POS. True, the first cash registers were effectively safes — big, heavy, bolted to the counter, and kept under lock and key. “When the cash drawer opened, a bell rang. That was an early security feature to alert the store manager that cash was exposed,” says Jarrett. “Somewhere along the path toward the modern POS device, the industry lost sight of that.”

But how can the POS aid law enforcement when it’s not just cash, but life and limb that are at risk in a retail environment? With the launch of his new company this year, Jarrett is manipulating some impressive technology in an effort to inject security — of both life and property — back into the POS equation.

Hyper-Cloud Offers Always-On Access
Jarrett is best described as a security-guy- turned-POS-provider. With 30 years under his belt as a security consultant and POS developer for various retail brands such as Bloomingdale’s, Target, Jersey Mike’s Subs, and Mr. Goodcents, he’s been paying close attention to the evolving relationship between the POS and retail and restaurant security.

In 2003, Jarrett launched the hypercloud based POS application InfoPOS™, now called Crescive™ POS. While it’s a cloud-based solution, its architecture isn’t dependent on a “dumb” terminal that reverts to little more than a cash register when internet connectivity is lost. The hyper-cloud-based application is installed on the terminal or tablet itself, allowing the application to carry on with full functionality in the absence of connectivity.

Crescive has been a successful business for Jarrett; he’s doubled year-over- year sales repeatedly, selling the solution directly to the retail and restaurant markets, only recently making it available through the VAR channel. But the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino jarred Jarrett back to his security roots. “I began studying in great detail the flow of information that occurred in the immediate wake of these events,” he explains. “It became clear that in the immediate aftermath of a public emergency, the details shared with law enforcement and first responders are sketchy at best.”

When an emergency unfolds — be it an armed robbery, an active shooter, a medical emergency, a hurricane, or a terrorist attack — multiple and varying accounts pour in from a myriad of sources including 911 calls and social media posts from employees, customers, and their relatives. By the time first responders are on the scene, the level of misinformation often obfuscates their efforts to mitigate the risk and serve the victims.

Jarrett saw first responders’ need for immediate access to critical data, and he knew where to find it. The POS. That’s where the actionable intelligence necessary to aid first responders lives. In the cloud, it’s accessible immediately from virtually anywhere. With the growing demand for security-centric retail business applications in mind, Jarrett hatched an idea to build a security-intensive version of Crescive POS in 2015. In April of this year, the vision came to fruition with Alert POS.

Security-Centric POS: A Collaboration With Law Enforcement
Jarrett and company decided to leverage the security channel with its new Alert POS offering, unlike the Crescive POS solution, which is sold through traditional POS resellers.

The logic behind the sales strategy demarcation between Crescive POS and Alert POS is simple. Security resellers, says Jarrett, are already focused on loss prevention and risk mitigation. They’re installing cameras and alarms, and they have an established relationship with customers where security is already identified as a priority. “Most POS resellers who choose to offer LP and security solutions seek out the cheapest technology, offer it as an afterthought, and do a poor job integrating and maintaining it,” says Jarrett. “The security channel is unadulterated. They refer us, and in return we give them a residual based on our hardware, monthly service, and payment processing fees.”

"The cash register is the original piece of security equipment … Somewhere along the path toward the modern POS device, the industry lost sight of that."

Brad Jarrett, CEO, Alert POS

The solution is appealing to security solutions resellers not just for the income but because it dramatically enhances what Jarrett calls “actionable intelligence” available to security professionals and first responders.

That intelligence can include facility diagrams, on-site guest and associate headcounts, and the point of the emergency event. It’s all accessible to first responders on any internet-connected device via the cloud. “You obviously can’t add business-specific security applications to the 911 system, but every 911 operator can receive a link as long as it doesn’t install software on their terminals,” explains Jarrett. “They can click the link, go to our web servers, and get a real-time assessment of the facility and its occupants, as well as communicate with staff on-site.” Because it’s hypercloud-based, that access can immediately be shared with police and other emergency personnel en route to the scene.

To initiate that communication, associates launch their tablet devices and/or POS terminals into emergency mode by discreetly entering a code, which opens up a direct line of contact with first responders while simultaneously mitigating the likelihood of false alarms. Merchants can even drive a live feed from their surveillance systems to the Alert POS application, giving law enforcement and first responders a real-time view of events as they unfold.

"Most POS resellers who choose to offer LP and security solutions seek out the cheapest technology, offer it as an afterthought, and do a poor job integrating and maintaining it."

Brad Jarrett, CEO, Alert POS

Mobile Bolsters The Security Cause
For many retail LP professionals, mobile device deployment exacerbates security concerns. Mobile devices are seen as liabilities that are easily lost or stolen and invite fraud. But, Jarrett says, as long as the device is properly configured, the business demand for mobile POS outweighs the device security risk. “You’re seeing Breadcrumb, Clover, ShopKeep, Square, and other tablet-based apps bringing change to retail payment processing because merchants are seeking mobility for sidewalk sales, festivals, and trade shows, but they’re little more than a dumbed-down POS terminal,” he says. Still, merchant demand for mobile versatility, combined with a millennial workforce that’s at home on mobile devices, require POS providers to respond.

With Alert POS, Jarrett’s Windows mobile devices of choice are purpose-built to do one thing — run the POS application. Associates can’t get out of the POS to check Facebook or play games unless they have a code. “In a Windows tablet environment, we can apply controls that make it more difficult for users to access extraneous applications,” says Jarrett. “That’s not so easily achieved in an iPad environment.” The single exception to the sole use case of the mobile device is an event that requires the engagement of emergency mode.

Jarrett’s innovative approach to addressing retail security is timely. His company is in the process of patenting its “Actionable Intelligence” technology, and, in the face of growing global threats, he’s eyeing the European and Asian markets for expansion. Interest has been far more widespread than Jarrett anticipated when he pursued the vision. “I thought we’d see the most interest from schools and sporting venues,” he says, “but the deeper we researched, the more we realized just how rampant violence is in retail and restaurant workplaces.”