Security and Loss Prevention: The Future

29 February 2008 Philip P Purpura

Balancing loss prevention with retained employee privacy can be tricky for any business. Philip P Purpura explores the latest security technologies involved in attaining this balance and how robotic automation can aid in preventing losses.

Seeking to accurately predict the future is difficult and risky. However, a professional will consider many variables when making educated guesses to anticipate future events. What follows here are possibilities for the future to which the reader can apply critical thinking skills.

Periodically, we hear older, experienced folks speak about how much simpler life was years ago. However, this view is subject to debate because technology, for example, has made life and work easier in many ways. At the same time, security and loss prevention practitioners face numerous problems in their work today, brought about by numerous factors.

These factors include the needs of businesses as they seek to survive and return a profit, globalisation, an array of threats and hazards, limited security budgets, and government laws and regulations. Our world is likely to continue to be increasingly complicated, and as difficult as it may be at times, problems should be perceived as challenges that have solutions and/or present opportunities.


As we know, technology has enhanced security in many ways. We have 'smart cards' and 'smart cameras', and we will see many more systems and devices that contain 'smart security', which means that never-ending enhanced technology will be built into systems and devices. We will see increasingly 'smart' fences, contraband detection systems, WMD sensors, robot guards and cybersecurity.

"Future integrated security systems will perform an array of loss prevention activities beyond what is accomplished today."

Artificial intelligence will continue to surpass human capabilities. For instance, rather than security officers watching numerous CCTV monitors and becoming fatigued, the artificial intelligence that we have today will continue to help them to spot events deserving attention and response.

Facial recognition systems will improve and eventually be capable of identifying offenders wherever they may be while they are moving.

Future integrated security systems will perform an array of loss prevention activities beyond what is accomplished today. For example, if an intruder enters a building, not only will a system pinpoint the entry location, via a series of sensors, and activate CCTV, but it will also simultaneously dispatch a robot to apprehend the intruder and positively identify the intruder and his or her background.

Access control systems will no longer use cards. An individual will stand in front of sophisticated sensors, and positive identification will be made by the analysis of a number of biometric characteristics: bone structure, teeth and body odour, to name a few. It would be especially difficult for an offender to duplicate several of these characteristics. The same sensors could be placed at many locations to monitor personnel, such as car parks, building entrances, lifts, high-security locations, copying machines, lunchrooms and bathrooms.


Obviously, with such a system, it would be possible to know exactly where all employees are at every minute of every workday. If a fire developed or a crime occurred, the recorded location of everyone would aid loss prevention personnel. However, will employees welcome IT records revealing how many times and for how long they visit the bathroom or other locations? Suppose a system had the capability to record every conversation, every day, within a building. This could give management the opportunity to 'weed out' employees who are counterproductive to organisational goals.

In addition, because this system would be capable of 'recognising' any conversations pertaining to losses, the loss prevention department could review these conversations and investigate vulnerabilities. With these possibilities in mind, the blessing and burden of technology becomes obvious. Are such intense measures worth sacrificing privacy? Countermeasures must strike a balance between preventing losses and protecting privacy. In the future, as today, the courts will be watching and ruling as technological innovations and loss prevention strategies are applied.

"The Automatic Factory operates machines that transform raw materials into finished products with limited human input."


As we progress in the era of the automatic factory (AF), loss prevention methods will change to meet the new technology. The AF operates machines that transform raw materials into finished products with limited human input. Robots with self-contained computers are an essential part of the AF.

Activities such as material handling, assembly, inspection and quality control are automated. Human input comes from a computer control centre. Widespread use of 'just-in-time production' also contributes to manufacturing's need for fewer workers. Production is based on the needs of retailers, which avoids costly inventory holding and producing items that do not sell well (US Department of Labor, 2000: 31).

The future use of robots is promising. They operate 24 hours a day without a coffee break or vacation. A salary and fringe benefits such as hospitalisation and pensions are unnecessary for robots. Also, robots are immune to heat, cold, noise, radiation and other hazards.

Imagine loss prevention for a plant operated by only three managers and six technicians. If internal pilfering occurred, the number of suspects would be narrowed to nine, excluding robots. Parking lots, frequently a source of crime and requiring traffic control, would be smaller. Fires and accidents, which are often caused by human error, would be reduced.

Edited extract printed with permission from Butterworth Heinemann, a division of Elsevier. Copyright 2008. 'Security Loss and Prevention, An Introduction, 5e' by Philip Purpura. For more information about this book and other similar titles, please visit