Razors and Baby Formula?
Ever wonder why razors and baby formula and other random items are locked in cases in stores? What makes some items more valuable than others? Is it the price of the item? Is it because it is dangerous? It may not be what you think. Yes, certain items tend to be stolen more often than others – especially razors and baby formula – but it is the amounts and what happens afterwards that may be surprising. Would you be able to spot $2,000 of baby formula as it walked out of a store? Or an entire shelf of razors all at once? It seems like it would be obvious, but it is happening every day at major retail stores across the country.
A Public/Private Partnership
Enter the Cook County Regional Organized Crime (CCROC) Task Force, which was founded in 2010 to combat this type of theft colloquially dubbed "boosting". Boosters steal large quantities of desirable items such as alcohol, cologne, razors and baby formula. Even more important to CCROC is stopping what comes after the boost: organized crime. Those stolen razors and baby formula more often than not become part of organized crime via a "fence", which is an operation, either a brick-and-mortar store or online e-fence, that resells the merchandise for pennies on the dollar. CCROC is a nonprofit association (501c4) that is made up of law enforcement personnel (federal, state and local) and corporate retail partners (more than 200) whose goal is to "more efficiently and effectively prevent, investigate and prosecute these criminals."
Historically, communication among law enforcement and retailers, and retailers to each other, would be limited and reactive. With CCROC, retailers are talking to each other and to law enforcement proactively and regularly; this is crucial to putting a stop to boosting and fencing operations. Technology is the enabler in this case, for example: records management systems (RMS) keep track of incidents/offenders and help to identify patterns, video accelerates identification and apprehension of offender(s), solidifies successful prosecution and increases officer/retail investigator safety to name a few. Additional solutions for CCROC and similar organizations (there are more than 20 in the United States) include Real-Time Crime Center (RTCC), Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) and two-way radios.
Why should we care?
Per the National Retail Foundation (NRF), organized retail crime costs retailers $15-30 billion dollars a year. Yes – billions – which in the end equates to price increases for consumers. In addition, taxes are not being paid, which is a loss to that community. Most of the fencing operations attract gang members and drug users, thereby making the neighborhood less safe and more prone to crime, including violent crime. Many fences have been linked to sending money overseas to fund terrorism. So this isn’t just a law enforcement problem or a retailer’s problem; it affects residents and consumers alike.
Motorola Solutions is lending its public safety and retail expertise to help combat this growing problem – read more here in this solution brief: Police and Retailers Join Forces to Fight Organized Retail Theft, and stay tuned for more on our Organized Retail Crime (ORC) solutions.
Karen Bartuch has been in law enforcement since 2002 and still works part-time for a small county west of Chicago. She is the president and founder of the Women's Tactical Association, a charity that brings tactical training to female law enforcement. She joined Motorola Solutions in 2011 and is a Solution Sales Center of Excellence Team Leader.
Learn more about the Real-Time Crime Centers here.
Many retailers are exploring strategies around location-based services, or LBS, to engage with shoppers in their brick and mortar stores. It’s clear that understanding where a shopper is can provide significant benefit and value to both the shopper as well as the retailer. Self-service tools on the mobile smartphone, such as indoor mapping and product finder utility combined with navigation and directions, can greatly enhance the shopper experience. The retailer can use the location to understand where the shopper is and create context-aware experiences for them. This approach allows the retailer to add value to the in-store experience, leading to a greater total lifetime value (TLV) of the shopper.
With this objective of maximizing the TLV of the shopper in mind, what always surprises me is how fixated retailers get on getting the X and Y coordinates (or latitude and longitude) of the shopper. Different companies use their own unique approach to determining location using a combination of various technologies that offer LBS such as Wi-Fi, LTE, Audio, Bluetooth tags, magnetic fields - it’s easy to understand where the focus on achieving the highest and most consistent accuracy comes from. Unfortunately getting to the “X&Ys” is only part of the story around location, and more often than not it may not even be the most important part.
Surprisingly, location can be thought of in many ways that don’t involve a dot on a map. Confused as to how LBS can exist without location? It all depends on how one defines location: Location could be the moment in time a shopper is trying to make a decision about purchasing a product, thought process in selection of what store to go to, or a loyal customer browsing the ecommerce site. Location could be as broad as knowing that a shopper is physically at a store or knowing a shopper is near or interested in a specific product without knowing exactly where they are in the store. Location can also be as specific as pinpointing a specific location in the retail environment. Even with this broader definition of location, we still haven’t fully captured the entire location context.
If we take a step back and think about use cases around LBS, almost all of them involve location as one aspect in understanding the context of the current shopper to become effective in growing the TLV. When thinking of a location as a point on a map without the other aspects of context, the value of the data becomes significantly reduced. Context is knowing and understanding the shopper’s past purchasing history, loyalty, segmentation, online activity and predicting their future needs. For example, just knowing a shopper is near a specific product but not knowing how interested they might be in that product would not provide sufficient context for an effective personalized engagement campaign. Alternatively, location context could be important in understanding that a shopper who spent time reviewing a product on the ecommerce site just showed up in the physical store. Location without the context of the shopper engagement would only be marginally more effective than standard broadcast-based marketing.
Clearly an effective LBS strategy would combine shopper context with some form of location to provide compelling experiences that would grow the shopper TLV. What is often not clear is how to get started and the fact that LBS strategy could start today with relatively little investment or new deployment in the store. For example, most retailers have the technological capability to understand when shoppers are in the store, or could provide utility in mobile apps to start getting some location context around the shopper. Getting started today provides immediate benefit and starts creating experiences that will only improve over time as refinements to LBS strategy and technology investments continue. Feedback, experience, and data gathered would be invaluable in building a solid business case to justify future technology investments.
Motorola Solutions is working on ways to help retailers seize the opportunity that location and context present for changing the customer experience. Read more about how you can connect with shoppers here.
Nathan Rowe is the Director of Enterprise Solutions in the Global Services and Solutions group at Motorola Solutions.
So this week in the United States, we celebrate our traditional Thanksgiving holiday. Besides stuffing myself eating turkey and all the trimmings, I usually watch my favorite sport football. My two sons enjoy the sport as well and I have the privilege of coaching them in their flag football league. The team is made up of 9-10 year olds and I usually have a few dads help me coach. We end up with several basic plays and then try to get the kids to run them. It gets pretty hectic during the game remembering who is playing what position and which plays we would like to call. Last year I ended putting together some PowerPoint slides for plays, which I printed along with small pictures of the kids with some Velcro to move them around a board so I had a pretty quick way to make sure I had a kid in each position. It worked out OK.
This season, however, I decided to go high-tech and write an app to help me manage the chaos on the field using my iPad. My kids laugh at me every time, because being I always say “there should be an app for that.” Being in the 'app' business, I try to apply my work to my home life. My last attempt was putting together an app to help me manage my saltwater reef tank - this time, the app would help me manage a “school” of little kids with a short attention span.
Canvas - The Unsung Hero
My first challenge was to come up with a way to not only visualize formations and plays, but to be able to design and draw out new plays while we were on the practice field. We end up tweaking quite a bit after getting to know the skills of the kids. Of course I was going to build this using RhoMobile, but I needed a way to draw diagrams with various shapes, colors as well as save the drawing as a thumbnail so I can quickly see the play later on. What a perfect fit for using the HTML5 Canvas feature. Yeah, Canvas has been around a while and you probably have never have used it, unless you are putting together some games. I started off just looking at the raw HTML interface for Canvas and then came across this library that did all of the hard work for me: KineticJS.
Within no time, I was able to add the features that I wanted to:
Turning a Picture Into a Model
So now that I had the basics of being able to draw a picture, I had to then be able to categorize them so I can easily find the ones I wanted to pull out in the middle of the game to give Johnny that magical moment of scoring his first touchdown. This time it was RhoMobile's turn to be the hero. I developed a 'Formation' model to hold all of this in Rhom:
Other fields allowed some other filters like if the play was pass, run, or one of my favorite plays.
I used other models as well to define the players on the team, as well as some play sequences that I wanted to remember to run.
Bootstrap - Not Just for Websites
I turned to my favorite front-end framework, Bootstrap for handling my entire layout. They have some easy ways to display media lists and a nice pilled tab look that I wanted to be able to list all of my plays with thumbnails. Then I'd be able to easily switch between showing only running or passing plays. FontAwesome is another favorite of my for all of the icons I used in the Navbar and throughout the UI.
Keeping Everyone on the Same Page
As I mentioned before, I had a few dads helping me and I wanted to be able to collaborate with them. Not only on the plays I created, but if they had good ideas, we should be able to easily share them. This time, I turned to RhoConnect for keeping all of our devices up to date. One dad had a Samsung 10" tablet running Android which worked out because I did not have to rewrite any of my code, it just worked. We were all able to tweak plays on each of our tablets and then sync everyone up so we were running the same plays.
A Winning Moment
So even though we ended up not winning the Pee Wee Bowl, we still had a great time playing. I enjoyed putting the app together and since I never had a reason to use Canvas before, this gave me the opportunity to learn something new and keep it in my toolbox for the next killer “personal world” app I'll work on. And using RhoMobile Suite proved to be simple and effective. What kinds of apps will you create to help you make a part of your life a little easier? Please let us know what you’re creating and using in the comments, on Launchpad, or tweet @RhoMobile with #MyRhoApp.
Rob Galvin is the RhoMobile Developer Community Manager for Motorola Solutions.
Learn more about Motorola Solutions’ RhoMobile Suite: http://www.motorolasolutions.com/US-EN/Business+Product+and+Services/Software+an d+Applications/RhoMobile+Suite
Please visit our Developer Community, Launchpad: https://www.motorolasolutions.com/launchpad
See many apps created with RhoMobile on our Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/motosolutions/rhomobile-apps
See a video demo of Rob’s “Playbook” app in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-E_5jwWduOk#t=115
Recently, the security firm ESET Ireland commissioned a study about how computer users react to antivirus warning messages on their computers. They compared the results of the survey with those from a similar survey conducted two years ago. The results showed decreasing responsiveness from users to virus warnings. For instance, the number of users who admitted to ignoring warnings to run a file or program increased a full 10 percent. This is a trend noted by multiple researchers.
Obviously, to the information security community, this is alarming and frustrating. However, we’re also partially responsible. The news is filled with sensational stories about hacking and malware. People are tired of hearing about threats that don’t appear to affect them, so they’re paying less attention. UC Berkeley termed this phenomenon “warning fatigue”. Part of the problem are common misconceptions about what modern malware is and isn’t.
Malware today exists for several general purposes:
Many people still expect a virus to cause a noticeable disruption on their computer. For most of the purposes above, it’s smarter for the author of the malware to make it invisible. Like a disease, malware will spread and survive more effectively if there aren’t any symptoms. Malware writers go to a lot of work to conceal their creations. This means there’s a constant “cat and mouse” game between the bad guys and the antivirus companies. It also means that many people believe they have a virus when their computers malfunction, but few believe it when they see no visible impact.
Another common misconception is that malware is primarily written by bored kids or disgruntled employees. Computer crime is a billion-dollar criminal enterprise, which rivals any other organized crime organization. Some of the brightest computer science minds are employed by these organizations to write sophisticated viruses, often because they have no better employment prospects. Nation states purportedly now use malware like any other espionage tool. Hacktivist groups use malware to accomplish complex social and political agendas.
The last misconception I’d like to touch on is those people who are positive their computers are not infected because they’re using antivirus. As we’ve discussed, there is a lot of money to be made in infecting computers. This means that finding new ways to evade the security of operating systems, antivirus, and software is also worth a lot of money. Applying updates on a regular basis, installing antivirus, and following good computer security practices decreases the risk of an infection significantly. Unfortunately, it does not completely eliminate the risk. Even experienced IT professionals should still be paying attention to the messages their security software provides.
Malware continues to flourish in part because there continue to be vulnerable systems and complacent users. This means millions of credit card numbers and passwords stolen each year, billions of spam messages, and continual distributed attacks against websites. Instead of panicking about this, we should be routinely vigilant. Every computer user and organization has a reason to install and update antivirus. Any person’s computer can be infected, and antivirus warning messages should always be taken seriously.
Lesley Carhart is a Senior Information Security Specialist in the Motorola Solutions Security Operations Center. She has 13 years of experience in information technology, including computer networking and tactical communications. For the past five years, she has focused on security, specializing in digital forensics.
Read past blogs by Lesley Carhart here, including:
Secure Yourself, Your Family and Your Organization by Securing Your Photos
What’s Your Pa$$word? Secure Your Organization by Securing Your Accounts
Secure Your Organization by Securing Yourself: Beware the Removable Device
Secure Your Organization by Securing Yourself on Social Networks
Log Monitoring and Cyberthreat Detection
Anyone who's walked a plant floor can tell you there's a lot going on at once. Operators are monitoring machines, repair technicians are servicing equipment, supervisors are assigning tasks, and these disparate teams need to coordinate their activity and enhance their productivity – it’s a lot to manage all at once.
But what if you could link all those processes together and integrate them? Mobile technology has made a huge contribution in increasing the efficiency of the plant by allowing employees to be mobile while getting their work done.
We’ll be at Rockwell Automation Nov. 13-14 in Houston to showcase solutions that link automation and control systems with mobility. From plant communications, to mobile operator solutions and materials management activities, all these functions can be connected to synchronize visualization and control across the plant floor and drive intelligent production.
Tools like Motorola's Staff Communications and Management solution enable workers to use a variety of devices to communicate clearly and reliably with one another, especially when using digital MOTOTRBO™ two-way radios and smart devices running MOTOTRBO Anywhere. Productivity-enhancing apps such as Mobile Workforce Management provide workers with an up-to-the-minute prioritized task list.
The 2013 Motorola Solutions Manufacturing Barometer survey uncovered that almost 60 percent of manufactures use portable two-way radios in their plants, making it a common method of communication.
Through integration with PLCs (programmable logic controllers), two-way radios can receive alarms and alerts, allowing workers to know what is happening, why it is happening, and where it is happening the moment unplanned downtime occurs. Industrial wireless solutions can now be integrated with these two-way radio systems to provide local application hosting, allowing for real-time collaboration.
Another important emerging capability is having a unified view of the plant floor at your fingertips. Entire, plant-wide human-machine interfaces (HMI) dashboards that are accessible to operators anywhere in a plant on a durable tablet, such as the ET1, give operators immediate access to critical information, alarms, alerts and automation control with mobile HMI.
Fixed line-side terminals can also be remotely connected to durable tables on the plant floor. This level of visibility lets operators know when something is wrong and coordinate work ticket escalation and resolution with repair technicians. With some PLCs, you can also interface with fixed RFID readers and enterprise-grade mobile devices through Ethernet/IP and other standards-based protocols, allowing operators to gain the benefits of direct interfaces for RFID and mobile computers without requiring additional computers or technology. That means better tracking and more intelligent production at a lower total cost of ownership.
We’ll be discussing these solutions in our presentation entitled “Innovations in RFID, Mobile HMI and Supporting Infrastructures” at Automation Fair on Wednesday and Thursday, from 10:00am – 11:00am in Room 332AD and will be showcasing them in Booth #1303 all day.
You can also learn more about these solutions by visiting our site at
See you in Houston!
Mike Wills is Vice President, North America Manufacturing Sales, Motorola Solutions.
Read another blog by Mike, “Growing Economies Inside and Outside Organizations with Efficient Manufacturing.”
During the development of a new product, we frequently visit future users to immerse ourselves for a day in a worker’s life. This helps us better understand their needs – we can hear from them about problems they’ve identified, but then by watching closely, we can sometimes pick up on problems they might not be able to see. High-noise facilities are among the most challenging environments for two-way communications equipment. A sugar mill is no exception.
In August, a sugar processing mill in the southern United States can easily reach 100 degrees. There is no reprieve from the heat and humidity inside the mill where it is equally as hot as outside. The extreme humidity leads to condensation on the machinery and radio equipment, making them susceptible to the sugar particles floating in the air. By the end of a shift, everything is coated in sticky, sweet sugar particles — the machines, the radio equipment, even the workers themselves. These fine particles are particularly adept at finding their way into remote speaker microphone speaker grills as the workers wear them, which significantly impacts speaker performance.
Within a few days, the audio performance on the RSMs is so bad that workers are outside hosing down their microphones. Traditional noise-canceling RSMs are designed with felt behind the speaker, which causes the water to be absorbed like a sponge. Not designed for that kind of abuse, the microphones fail within a few months. If a plant has 100 workers and has to replace 50 percent of their RSMs every two to three months, it can cost up to $30,000 every year in just RSM replacements.
In addition to the challenges with humidity and sugar debris, the workers struggle to communicate in a very loud environment. Traditional noise-canceling RSMs are designed with a directional microphone. This means that workers must remove the microphone from their shoulder and hold it directly in front of their mouth in order to be heard clearly. Busy operating heavy machinery, this is nearly impossible for them. This results in countless requests to repeat messages, impacting productivity. Again, this hurts the sugar mill’s bottom line.
We have designed an RSM that addresses three common issues found in difficult manufacturing environments to help overcome these challenges:
(Images courtesy of Motorola Solutions, Inc.)
How does Dual Microphone Technology Work?
We have placed two microphones side by side on the front housing of the Remote Speaker Microphone (RSM). Using “microphone beam forming technology,” one microphone can focus on the individual speaking while other microphone captures ambient noise sources. As long as the voice has a higher signal to noise ratio, the ambient noise will be virtually eliminated in the radio transmission.
Advantage: Dual microphones allow the DSP to process the microphone signals, obtaining the best voice audio quality while suppressing the interfering background noise outside the audio beam. This is especially beneficial for workers that are in loud environments, like the workers we visited at the sugar mill. There are many other customers that can benefit from dual microphone technology, including but not limited to food processing or manufacturing plants, airports, as well as large venues such as concert and sporting events.
We continue to speak to our customers to better understand the challenges they face so we can best meet their needs. From a sugar mill today to an oil refinery or any enterprise tomorrow, our mission is to understand their environment and work together to solve their problems.
Nick Candotti is Director of Global Accessory & Energy Business at Motorola Solutions.