In Part 1 in this series, we explored the humble beginnings of department stores, supermarkets, and the first use of a barcode in a physical store. In Part 2we have expanded our innovation journey to discover the evolution and success of e-commerce, smartphones and robots.
Part 3 focuses on technologies that were originally invented to secure profits (cash register), high-risk goods and areas (CCTV cameras), and consumer products (Electronic Article Surveillance or EAS ).
Many of these originally envisioned security technologies have been transformed into powerful data collection tools that optimize and increase the profitability of in-store operations. It is a great pleasure in one of my current roles to work on the next generations of most of the solutions in this series.
First use of a cash register
It may come as a surprise, but the original purpose of the cash register was to prevent theft. The inventor was James Ritty, a saloonkeeper in Dayton, Ohio.
Watching his employees in 1879 take money from customers, Ritty began to wonder how they separated what belonged to the business from what they were potentially stealing for their own profit. After observing counters on a steamboat indicating the number of revolutions of the propeller, he patented the first cash register with the help of his brother in 1883.
John H. Patterson, a trader, bought the rights to Ritty’s patent for $6,500 in 1884 and founded the National Cash Register (NCR) company. His interest in technology was sparked by the losses of one of his most senior retail clerks, who favored friends by selling goods below regular prices.
Patterson was also a master salesman, and at NCR he brought highly professional business education (later even adopted by IBM) that included loss prevention concepts that are still used today.
At the forefront of the cash register sales process was the theft triangle which focused on the balance between risk, opportunity and need/rationality. The cash register decreased the possibility of theft by accurately counting transactions, and the loud noise (by design and later with a bell) it made during a transaction increased the risk of being caught.
In 1973, IBM developed the first computer-assisted cash register. It was also the first networked point-of-sale solution allowing the consolidation of data from 128 cash registers.
The following decades introduced touchscreens, personalized variations in industries such as fast food, and in the early 2000s cloud-based POS emerged. Today, you can pay on your smartphones at several retailers, but the ultimate evolution of the cash register was delivered by Amazon when it opened its first fully automated payment store to the public in 2018.
Over 40 Amazon Go stores are now open in the US and UK.
First use of CCTV cameras
The first recorded use of CCTV technology was in Germany in 1942. The system was designed by engineer Walter Bruch and was set up for surveillance of V-2 Rockets, the world’s first long-range ballistic missiles launched from mobile platforms during World War II. The German military used the cameras to observe the rocket launches from inside a bunker from a safe distance.
Commercial use of CCTV cameras for basic live surveillance of public and domestic security emerged in 1949. In 1953 CCTV systems were used at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in the UK.
Cameras also began to appear on the streets of London and New York around this time. London is now the second most monitored city in the world with 1,138.48 cameras per square mile.
Fast forward 72 years since their first appearance in 2021, when the world passed through over 1 billion CCTV cameras installed worldwide.
Thanks to computer vision, the CCTV camera has become one of the most powerful data collection and solution execution solutions.
First use of Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS)
EAS began in 1964 when Ron Assaf (later the founder of Sensormatic), a store manager in Ohio, became frustrated with the ongoing problem of shoplifting. The idea for a technology to fix it was sparked by the unsuccessful â or one might say cautious â pursuit of a spirits shoplifter. With the help of his cousin, a few weeks later the first cardboard mock-up of an alarming label was brought to the store.
Two years later, the official honor of inventing EAS security tags goes to Arthur J. Minasy. Manasy’s system was based on radio frequency (RF) technology and became the basis of his company Knogo. By the end of that year, security tags were widely marketed to retailers. Â»
On many levels, EAS was truly the first item-level technology applied to consumer products. As with CCTV video, it was a fundamental technology whose evolution towards greater intelligence continues today. Billions of EAS tags continue to be applied worldwide.
It comes full circle here, because at the heart of EAS’s success is the theft triangle first introduced with the cash register. People will steal consumer goods if the opportunity arises and they can justify their need for it. This EAS alarm on exit through multiple variations of EAS technologies increases the risk of you getting caught.
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