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  • Writer's pictureGreg Ayres

Can AI Cameras Prevent Crime at Shops and Dealerships?

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

By using surveillance cameras empowered by AI, companies housing multiple vehicles may be able to put a dent in the vehicle crime epidemic by detecting theft in real time.

Because their assets are stored out in the open or in vulnerable buildings, truck dealerships and fleet maintenance facilities have become prime targets for criminal activity. Vehicle theft is rising and nationwide surpassed one million stolen vehicles for the first time since 2008, according to statistics by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). Parts were also pinpointed for black market resale: Catalytic converter theft ticked up 1,200% over the last three years.

Commercial criminal activity is also on the upswing: in 2019, there were an estimated 340,857 non-residential burglaries, according to FBI figures. That equates to nearly 1,000 per day.

Fleets, trucks and autos aren’t the only hard targets. Shop equipment, tools, diagnostic technology, replacement parts, batteries, tires and wheels, radios and other materials, supplies and even fuel and oils are increasingly at risk of theft or sabotage. Fleet maintenance encompasses a wide range of expensive assets which require protection beginning at the very edge of the property—preventing intruders from gaining access and stopping them in their tracks before a loss occurs.

The old ways of hiring a night guard to walk the property or alternatively installing a legion of cameras and contracting a video monitoring service to watch for suspicious behavior are over. Guards cannot be everywhere and monitoring services are dependent upon police response time. Operator fatigue is real and it’s impossible to watch hundreds of cameras effectively.

The new way, which is by far more secure and cost effective, is deploying technological guardian units rooted in high-definition video surveillance embedded with artificial intelligence (AI) and mounted on buildings and light poles to provide real-time security against unwanted intrusions. Time matters! Damage and theft occur in seconds. Technology now enables these fully automated guardians to protect property proactively with incredible accuracy and speed.

Protecting customer assets

MDI Truck Parts and Service, Colorado’s largest Cummins dealership, installed an AI-based, active deterrence system from iDter called Niō Guardian at one of their fleet and service locations. The Niō Guardians features AI deep learning and infrared night vision to detect crime in real-time and can deter intrusions within seconds via bright flashing lights and alarms.

“We installed intelligent Niō Guardians to protect our client’s trucks while parked at our service center, as well as our fleet of trucks,” said Ted Flageolle, MDI Truck Parts and Service Support. “The system automatically detects trespassers and takes immediate deterrence actions to stop intrusions. We receive notifications with video clips on our phones when there is activity on our property and iDter live monitors the site which gives us confidence that we are being protected.”

DTI Trucks, in the greater Denver area, installed smart guardian nodes on buildings and on commercial light poles to cover areas where property was targeted by trespassers. According to Owner Todd Carlson, thieves historically targeted catalytic converters, truck parts and entire vehicles.

“These smart guardians detect intruders and send stern warnings including red and blue strobes and 120 dB alarm sounds," Carlson said. Thieves don’t stick around long when immediately confronted within seconds of trespassing on the property. Once we understood the effectiveness of the protection, we installed additional solutions at our second dealership.”

New era in intrusion detection

Video surveillance technology continues to improve dramatically--turning the remote video monitoring category into a proactive tool that stops unwanted loitering, vandalism, theft and other unsafe intrusions that lead to property loss, increased insurance premiums or even loss of business continuity.

At the heart of this shift to camera-based devices as a proactive deterrence system is continuing advancements in AI, machine learning and computer vision. The results of this combination of technology delivers the capability of security guards and covers every square foot at a fraction of the monthly cost for outsourcing labor.

AI in surveillance has changed dramatically since its early stages as simple motion-based detection. In its beginnings, algorithms would compare pixel changes in video frames to assess the presence of motion in a defined detection area. Innovation in deep-learning, neural networks has improved the technology using datasets of video recordings of people and vehicles which resolve problems or shortcomings in computer vision. Deep-learning, neural networks are essentially trained with these large data sets to make objects and their specific attributes detectable with high degrees of accuracy.

Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) algorithms within the AI application recognize intrusion and take immediate and fully automated deterrence actions that surprise intruders and defy predictability—yielding over 98% success rate in deterring unwanted intrusion within seconds. Proper application of CNN also determines the success of the automated deterrence, focusing human operators on real threats and safety concerns that require intervention and possibly 911 dispatch. In the event the automated deterrence is not successful, video monitoring personnel are notified to dispatch the authorities and to manually engage the intruders.

Video surveillance advancements have made cameras a cost-effective way to bring immediate detection and deterrence to fleet maintenance facilities and commercial businesses. It’s turned the product category into a proactive tool that can be leveraged for safety, security and operational control. The result of this technology evolution is lower costs for both the service provider and property owner—driving higher market adoption and ultimately a significant decline in burglary trends.



Greg Ayres is the Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for iDter, a San Mateo, California based technology company focused on proactive deterrence of criminal activity and protection of open-air assets.

This article appeared on July 21, 2023 in Fleet Maintenance

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