Public view monitors are normally suspended from a ceiling and face retail customers as they enter a store, reminding them that surveillance video is being used.


Little kids wave when they see themselves. Women take a moment to fix any hair that’s gone astray. And would-be shoplifters, robbers or slip-and-fall artists may opt to hit a different store instead.

Each person has a different reaction to seeing his or her likeness prominently displayed on a public view video monitor as he or she walks into a retail location. But as Gary Clinton, vice president of Loves Park, Ill.-based public view monitor manufacturer Clinton Electronics notes, all users gain an “awareness that a security system is in place — more than they would with any kind of signage or simply making a camera visible.” The net effect for shoppers and employees, he says, is a “sense of well-being.”

Sales of public view monitors have increased substantially in recent years, driven by advances in technology that have improved image quality, while at the same time decreasing overall system cost. As any good photographer can tell you, shooting from an indoor area toward an outdoor one is not recommended because the subject typically ends up looking like a silhouette. But wide dynamic range cameras available today can overcome the backlit image problem — and in combination with thinner, lighter LCD displays, have created the public view monitor opportunity.

As Rich Morgan, general manager of St. Matthews, Ky.-based public view monitor manufacturer Pegasus Products notes, “The price of security technology follows the consumer market — and as the price of consumer LCD products comes down, public view monitors become more affordable.”


One of the first steps to selling more public view monitors is to pitch them regularly — and not to limit your thinking about which customers might buy them.

The earliest adopters of public view monitors were large retail locations, such as “big box” discount stores and supermarkets. But today, Clinton says the top 30 retailers of any type of product are the best prospects for public view monitors — and dealers shouldn’t stop there. “We’re seeing the use of public view monitors trickle down into smaller companies,” Clinton says.

Adding public view monitors when bidding on video surveillance systems can be a great way to stand out from competitors, Morgan comments. “If a company gets six quotes on an eight-camera system and I pitch a public view monitor, it’s a great way to differentiate my offering,” Morgan says. “Don’t be afraid to offer something different.”

Loss prevention managers for the largest retailers have a high level of awareness about public view monitors and their capabilities. But as interest in such solutions trickles down to smaller companies, it may be worthwhile for salespeople to review some of the key benefits of public view monitors with potential customers.

As John Iozzi, regional sales manager for Long Beach, Calif.-based Tatung Company of America, explains, the ability to capture a clear image of every person as he or she enters a store is key to the power of a good public view monitor. “The photography is extremely clear upon entering,” Iozzi describes. “Any other activity they may engage in will be captured on other cameras throughout the store, whether that activity is theft, assault, or a slip and fall. You have an image not only in the aisles but a clear shot of the person’s face entering the premises for a positive ID.”

Potential perpetrators often scout out stores in advance, including taking a close look at surveillance monitors. “If they realize they are unrecognizable, they will attack a location more readily,” Iozzi says.

Some retailers that have been using public view monitors for a while have seen impressive results — and sharing those success stories can help seal a deal. “One large retailer saw that its shrinkage went down half of 1 percent from using public view monitors,” Morgan notes. “They had security cameras already. This was the only thing that changed.”

Clinton cites the results of other studies. “Companies have compared using public view monitors versus dome cameras versus chaining products with a leash,” he says. “Public view monitors consistently outshined other options, both for loss prevention and for keeping sales up. If you chain your products, nobody steals them but nobody buys them either.”


Salespeople should think beyond simply selling a single public view monitor for the front door. “We’re starting to see them used in key aisles in liquor and drug stores,” Iozzi observes.

Some public view monitors also have the ability to display promotional messages, shifting into surveillance mode when a person enters the store and is detected via motion detection. “We’ve been building more public view monitors with flash card players that can show a bit of advertising or a message,” Clinton describes.

Dual-purpose public view monitors may be easier for a loss prevention manager to justify from a cost perspective, notes Rich Anderson, chief technology officer for GVI Security, Carrollton, Texas. “It gives the loss prevention manager the ability to go to the operations people and say, ‘This expense will improve sales, not just loss prevention,’” Anderson notes.

At an installed cost in the range of $2,000 per public view monitor, such installations can be a nice upsell opportunity for existing video customers — particularly if they want to enhance the ability of their existing system to deter crime. There is also an opportunity to generate recurring monthly revenue through maintenance and service agreements.

Anderson cautions, however, that managing customer expectations can be critical to a successful sale. Loss prevention management should recognize that a public view monitor does not replace the need to apprehend or prosecute shoplifters. “Some companies hang a public view monitor and connect a bunch of cameras into a DVR and don’t do anything with it because they think it will scare people away,” Anderson relates. “But word gets around pretty quickly that nobody’s looking at those cameras.”

As they quote jobs for public view monitors, security salespeople also need to be cognizant of the unique challenges of installing such systems. “In a big box store, you could have 16-foot ceilings, so you’ll need a lift in there,” notes Morgan.

5 Tips for Design & Installation

• Consider a single-piece public view monitor that has the camera built into the monitor, creating a tidier and more aesthetically appealing appearance — and generating a better first impression as customers walk into the store.

• Make sure the camera used has a wide dynamic range. This is critical to ensuring good image quality as people walk in from a brighter outdoor setting into a less bright interior setting.

• Make sure cameras are well-secured to the ceiling. “Be sure to have a good anchor point in the super structure,” advises Rich Morgan, general manager of Pegasus Products.

• Consider a system with a flash card and motion detection that can display promotional messages, then switch to a surveillance view when motion is sensed — maximizing the value of the equipment investment.

• Make sure the public view monitor is connected to a digital video recorder and recording at a high frame rate. “One of the most important images to capture is a good crisp image of everyone who walks through the front door,” comments Rich Anderson, chief technology officer for GVI Security. “You should use the best camera the customer can afford and use a high frame rate on the DVR so you’re capturing a fair amount of information.”