Q&A: Alasdair Field, CEO, Reveal Media
Reveal are the market leader in body worn camera systems and our revolutionary tech is used by the majority of UK police forces, as well as in prisons, local government organisations, private security firms, healthcare and increasingly, retail outlets.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I worked in music, TV and sound production for 15 years and often turned my hand to inventing various devices during that time. One of which was a first-of-its-kind software system that allowed users to digitally store videos on the web and search through it at speed to identify specific sections of footage. The software was incredibly popular with TV and video editors such as the Channel 4 Big Brother production team.
I then spotted an opportunity to build on this platform and address the lack of real-time digital evidence management within the police force. Together with three other co-founders, we started approaching various police constabularies to educate them on why such systems could totally transform their approach to evidence management.
My true lightbulb moment came when I saw the first body worn camera used by police – a rudimentary design that I knew could be improved. Despite having no idea how to physically build a better version, I refused to let that put me off so I jumped on a flight to Hong Kong where I started working with manufacturers to build my first batch of 200 cameras. The rest is history!
What does your company do? / What is your USP?
Reveal designs and manufactures body worn cameras and evidence management software to support and protect frontline workers.
We’re the market leader in body worn camera systems and our revolutionary tech is used by the majority of UK police forces, as well as in prisons, local government organisations, private security firms, healthcare and increasingly, retail outlets. We’ve seen an 80% rise in new retail customers since the beginning of the pandemic.
What’s special about the platform and your approach?
When we started Reveal, body worn camera technology was typically bulky and cumbersome equipment worn by a small handful of police officers. But we’ve seen this evolve over the past decade into a true wearable with proven value-add for workers and managers across a number of other industries, such as retail.
Key to this is the front-facing nature of our body worn camera screens, such as Reveal’s Calla camera. When aggressive or abusive individuals can see themselves and their behaviour, it often deescalates the situation. Furthermore, if an altercation does take place, cameras can record accurately what happened. And importantly, footage can also be used as a training tool for staff, as they learn how to deal with difficult situations.
What advantage does it add?
Our cameras are proven to reduce complaints and increase safety by de-escalating confrontational situations and limiting the use of force, providing support and reassurance to both staff and the public.
Working in retail, hospitality and other customer-facing roles has never been easy, but increasingly, these jobs have started to look worryingly unsafe due to the unacceptable levels of abuse and aggression facing staff. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial that protection from abuse is a top priority.
For example, we recently carried out some research that showed two thirds of UK shop workers fear abuse from customers if they try to implement Covid-19-related regulations. That’s a really worrying statistic so we’ve been working really hard to ensure our partners in the retail space have enough of our technology to support their teams. Staff are trained to manage these situations and reduce the risk of any tension but complementing that training with body worn technology gives retailers confidence that conflicts can be appropriately managed.
How does a product/service implementation actually look like and how do you measure success?
Many of our customers are completely new to body worn cameras so it’s really important we work with them and their staff to support training and engagement with the technology during their implementation. This includes surveying staff to capture anecdotal feedback that will further guide the roll-out of cameras across an organisation and provide key learnings for other customers.
In terms of measuring success, the key elements that we look for is whether there has been a reduction in incidents as a result of the cameras as well as staff satisfaction – how much more confident do they feel carrying out their day-to-day role as a result of wearing a body worn camera.
How are retailers using your systems to gain competitive advantage and what does best practice look like? Can you share a case study with us?
The retailers we work with tell us that their staff are more confident in handling difficult customers when wearing body worn cameras. During trials over 12 months, employees at one big brand retailer went from initial cynicism to saying that they couldn’t do their jobs without them.
The retailer found that, before cameras were provided, three quarters of staff felt moderately unsafe or very unsafe when dealing with disruptive customers. This fell to under a quarter feeling moderately unsafe once cameras were in use, and no one felt very unsafe. Instead, staff say they now feel ‘empowered’ when they wear their cameras – better protected and better able to do their jobs.
Are there other companies you partner with?
High street brands using Reveal’s cameras include Matalan, Dunelm and JD Sports, and we have trials currently underway with Boots.
What challenges and opportunities do you see in UK retail for 2021?
Aggression towards retail staff has been rising since before the pandemic and there are some really shocking statistics out there on the dangers workers have to face on a daily basis. The potential for staff to have to manage aggression and the risk of verbal or physical assault is now so culturally accepted that it has been legislated against in Scotland. Many retailers are now campaigning for a specific offence against assaulting or threatening staff to be introduced in England and Wales too.
But the focus must be to prevent abuse in the first place. People should be able to go to work without the fear of being abused or assaulted, and ultimately it is employers, not the courts, that are responsible for protecting their staff.
How will you address these challenges and turn them into successes?
Our body worn cameras have huge scope to address these challenges by protecting those key workers. It is already positive that many leading retail employers are stepping up and no longer dismissing incidents as ‘business crimes’ or ‘part of the job’, but proactively putting in place measures like body worn cameras that prevent crime against their workers.
What is on the horizon for you as a company?
Building our presence in new industries is very important. As with retail, workers in the healthcare sector are experiencing an unacceptable level of aggression so we’re seeing strong growth in this sector too.
International expansion is also very much a part of our plan. We currently have clients in more than 40 countries worldwide, as well as offices in the USA, Germany, China and Hong Kong – and there’s definitely opportunities for us to grow further.
Any final thoughts?
Covid-19 has reminded employers everywhere of the duty of care they have to their teams. So whatever happens to people’s behaviour as we emerge from lockdown, it is time to take action to protect workers that serve the public, with new solutions that deescalate these kind of situations before they occur.
To find out how Revel can help your retail operation keep it most valuable asset – it’s people -safe, click here.
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