- Shocking incidents of retail crime have many companies getting creative with new anti-theft tech.
- One such system fills a space with a dense, dry fog to reduce visibility and disorient criminals.
- The technology is already used in more than 80 countries, and is gaining popularity in the US.
Confronted with rising concerns over smash-and-grab robberies, some US retailers are installing a literal cloud security system in their stores.
While police response times vary widely, one system made by a company called Density could put thievery on pause until they arrive. The security device emits a dry, dense fog that can fill a store in a matter of seconds, rendering visibility effectively to zero and disorienting would-be criminals.
"The Density Security Fogger is effective at stopping roughly 97% of burglary loss, versus the usual security alarm system alone, which is about 17% effective," said Mike Egel, president of DensityUSA, in a recent statement.
Egel was not immediately available for comment.
The fog is also made with the same chemicals as that used in concerts or theatrical performances, which is considered harmless to humans, merchandise, and property, and dissipates after about an hour.
The company has reported an expanding US presence this year, and says the technology has previously been deployed in more than 80 countries.
In particular, the system was so effective at curbing cigarette theft from UK convenience stores, the company said, that thieves began targeting stores without the tech. When those stores installed foggers, the thieves broke into warehouses, which were then fitted with the devices.
Large retailers including Target and Dick's Sporting Goods have blamed a rise in retail theft for taking a larger bite out of profits, as well as jeopardizing the safety of workers and customers.
Industry groups estimate inventory shrink costs companies more than $100 billion, with external theft contributing about 37% of that figure.
The baseline Density fogger unit is optimized for smaller stores — about 1,000 to 1,500 square feet — and demonstration footage shows a larger model clouding up the electronics section of a big-box store.
The company has 3,500 installations in the US so far, and a deal with a mobile phone carrier is slated to add 6,500 more, per the Washington Examiner.
The tech is one of several countermeasures companies are using to combat retail crime, including lockable displays and merchandise that won't work without proof-of-purchase.
A small business owner in Chicago told the local CBS affiliate she installed the Density system after her store was hit with a pair of robberies within one year.
"It just gives me peace of mind — I sleep better," she said.