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Why Can’t My Surveillance Camera See Through My Plexiglass Screen?

By Tony Gallo and Haley Glover

While the United States is working its way through Phase 1 of reopening, there are many questions on how to protect your businesses and employees. As stated by the US Government, the guidelines that should truly apply to all phases, is social distancing and protective equipment, temperature checks, sanitation, use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas, limiting business travel, and to continue monitoring the workforce for indicative symptoms.

Specifically, in Phase 1 employers should be encouraging telework, returning to work in phases, close common areas where personnel typically congregate and interact, minimizing non-essential travel and considering special accommodations for personnel who are members of a vulnerable population.

While some businesses are considered essential like grocery stores, pharmacies, medical cannabis dispensaries, items like Plexiglass screens can be beneficial to protect the area between employees and customers. Plexiglass screens limit customer contact with staff by creating a physical barrier for sneezes, coughs, and other transmittable particles.

Observations about Newly-Installed Screens

One of the issues observed with having some types of plexiglass in particular areas is that it can cause a glare due to harsh reflection on screens affected by high ambient light and sunlight. Because original camera placement did not consider this issue, glares can cause complications with camera views of registers where cash is exchanged. In addition to glare, objects that are in close proximity to the glass can also produce a reflection.

Plexiglass needs to be kept clean due to substances such as dirt, dust and fingerprints. Small particles on the surface of either side will scatter light at all wavelengths. Even cameras with infrared sensing are not immune due to the IR (infrared) light scattering off of these items and bouncing back into the lens.
The introduction of reflections can be attributed to the phenomenon of total internal reflection. Because plexiglass has a higher refractive index than air, light incident to the plexiglass at angles of roughly 45 degrees will not propagate through the medium; rather, the light will fully reflect off the plexiglass, hit an object, and scatter off that object including either into the lens directly or off the plexiglass again and into the lens. So how do you fix these problems?

I See the Light!

Self-adhesive antiglare film can assist in minimizing reflection and glare across screen surfaces. It’s available to retrofit products such as hard acrylic or glass. The surface of this film includes a UV stable hard coating, forming an impact resistant shield that is anti-scratch, anti-graffiti, and chemical resistant, making the film easy to clean.

Camera placement can play a significant role on the view as well. Depending on your system, you may be able to relocate a camera or add a new camera to watch the register or location of interest. Placing the camera at a hard angle may increase glare ore reflection issues. The window glare or glass reflection is likely to cause images to whiteout or videos to be washed out by the overexposure of light at night, making it difficult to make out details in the camera’s view. If your cameras are motion-activated, this may be affected by improper placement with false activations. Aside from moving the camera, having proper lighting in place to provide constant illumination for the cameras can protect the view.

There are other solutions if you have this problem, e.g. maybe you can adjust camera settings. And you must decide whether this is a temporary or permanent fixture at your registers. Your salesperson is likely a great resource for information. Don’t let your cash handling security suffer unnecessarily during these cash-squeezed times.

About the Co-Author: 

Haley Glover has several years of experience in the security industry developing and managing security integration projects for Cannabis, Jewelry, Pawn, and the Department of Defense clients. She is currently a business development and account manager for Sapphire Risk Advisory Group. Haley has also received her Level 1 Alarm Technician License from ESA.

Tony GalloTony Gallo

Tony Gallo

Tony Gallo is the Managing Partner for Sapphire Risk Advisory Group with over 30 years in the Loss Prevention, Audit, Safety, and Risk/Emergency Management fields. He is a published author on cannabis security and has spoken at numerous cannabis business conferences across the country. Tony is considered one of the leading authorities on cannabis security programs.

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