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Hotels, Leisure & Entertainment - Applications

London’s Dorchester Hotel provides discreet, top-class security with future-proof Milestone IP video platform

London’s Dorchester Hotel
The Dorchester's surveillance security enhanced with Milestone, ACTi and Axis security products
The challenges

The constant traffic of guests, staff and deliveries demands vigilant attention. High-profile clients like celebrities, diplomats, politicians, royalty, business leaders and society patrons have heightened concerns about their safety. Paparazzi and fans, tourist groups seeing local sights, concerts in the park or demonstrations in the city streets can add more activity for the security team to be aware of. The construction of new hotel locations also demanded a security system that could grow with their requirements over time, allowing them to stay on top of new innovations in the industry.

The solution

TM Security designed and installed a new system using Milestone XProtect Enterprise IP video management software with ACTi video encoders to digitise data from a mix of analogue camera brands throughout the hotel and new Axis network cameras in the spa which is pure IP network technology. The ACTi encoders are fed through Cisco network switches into 5 servers running the Milestone software.

The advantages:

The Milestone IP video surveillance provides a future-proof platform for this hotel concern's expanding and varied needs. It scales up for new locations no matter how far, and allows integration with new innovations as they become available. The previous investments in analog cameras are leveraged by the ACTi encoders while newer technologies are easily added, like the cost-effective Axis H.264 compression-standard network cameras that give better system utilisation. The software's ease of use saves time for the operators, who can quickly search and produce footage to resolve matters.

When it opened, it was said that The Dorchester occupied the most prestigious acre and a half of real state in the world, in the heart of London. Today the hotel has undergone stunning renovations which add a new vibrancy and it continues to welcome celebrities, world leaders, royalty and society with the same gracious style that it has for over 75 years.

Andy Sloan, Security & Risk Manager at The Dorchester
Andy Sloan brought his vision to upgrade the surveillance system at The Dorchester to a future-proof digital one

Looking across the soft green swathes of Hyde Park, The Dorchester is one of the most desirable places in the world to stay. A luxury Mayfair hotel of great repute, it embodies the highest of traditional values, with spacious rooms and suites sumptuously decorated, delicious dining, and a new spa for exquisite indulgence. The Dorchester is the ultimate hotel with management that has a passion for excellence and innovation. That innovation also extends to its choice of leading technology for top-notch security.

When Andy Sloan became Security Manager at The Dorchester several years ago he brought his vision to upgrade the surveillance system to a future-proof digital one. They have now replaced DVRs with Milestone IP video management software. TM Security designed the new implementation and showed how the platform is also scalable for Dorchester Collection's new locations under construction at 45 Park Lane and further out in Coworth Park, which will give the security team central control and access to know what's going on at all sites.

"DVRs are hardware that goes down and we didn't want the risks of any cameras not working. We have some very high-level guests with more intense security needs, and our standards for all guests are to provide the safest environment possible," says Andy Sloan.

In January 2009 TM Security upgraded the system to the Milestone IP video management platform and built a new Command Centre - while keeping the hotel's surveillance operational. During one week, the G20 Summit was going on in London when media reported the client base in The Dorchester included five heads of state - more than any other hotel in the city.

Over four months, TM Security set up the Command Center and incorporated a new world-class spa that was added to the hotel. In The Dorchester Spa they installed all IP network surveillance cameras from Axis. Elsewhere, the analog cameras were utilised, running their video date through ACTi video encoders to the Milestone IP video management software.

TM Security has implemented a very discreet installation in tune with the hotel's fine decor and style. For example, the reception cameras are so small they look like tiny lighting fixtures. Small dome or fixed cameras cover corridors, underground parking, all entries, staff and delivery areas.

The Dorchester's Control Room
TM Security upgraded the system to the Milestone IP video management platform

Future-proof, scalable security investment and best practice

"The idea with our surveillance is to enhance the areas with most vulnerability according to best practice. We've kept most of the analog cameras but we'll replace those as they reach end-of-life, installing more of the Axis IP megapixel and dome models, putting the superior network cameras in the more highly sensitive areas. In this way, we continually build up the system over the years. The new system was also strategized to take into account the extra phases of the project we were already aware of: the 45 Park Lane and Coworth Park hotels in construction, due for operation in 2010 - just in time for the Olympics here in London," remarks Sloan.

Andy Rawlinson, Technical Manager from TM Security, adds: "The Milestone open platform provides a huge degree of future-proofing. Whatever happens down the road, we've got an open pathway. It allows integration of other innovations to always be at the top of their game."

"They may want to include video analytics like behavior analyis or license plate recognition with guests' vehicles, for example," comments Keith Askham, Consultant from TM Security. "There's so much available to them now that was restricted or just not possible with the old DVRs."

Increased expectations for security are met

"Besides The Dorchester's own high standards for VIP security requirements, The Dorchester also recognizes that other guests of the hotel have increased their expectations for safety in these days of terrorist threats and political unrest. We are fully aware of our responsibilities to the community and to the metropolitan police, with whom we work hand in hand. Should it be necessary for an outside agency to see something from our front cameras, we want to be in a position where our coverage is good enough and the images clear," states Sloan.

"We have a lot of vehicle traffic in this busy location; Buckingham Palace is just around the corner. On the one hand, we have the registered guests staying here but there are also lots of people from the city environment whom we don't know coming in to our bars, restaurants and functions. We are mindful of this with the goal to be discreet while providing high-profile security, and that's what The Dorchester prides itself on. We've earned our place in the top hotels of the world and we now have the security system deserving this standing," he asserts.

The Dorchester has a ten-man team for security matters, and Sloan may use up to 15 or more supplemental professionals for special functions, big events, or known demonstrations in the area. They work round-the-clock. Outside security teams attending VIPs are also made aware of the surveillance system's availability.

The Dorchester's world-class spa
The Dorchester Spa installed all IP network surveillance cameras from Axis
Streamlining the system setup and operations

Sloan describes the before-and-after scenario in the network server room where the DVR hardware craved much space with sprawling analog cables connecting disparate sequences of cameras from mixed locations, compared to today's ultrastreamlined set of servers in neatly shelved racks in a cool, minimalistic space-saving and high-tech haven. The current setup is also sequenced by server for logical camera location groups, and to continue operation even if a hardware device were to fail. In addition to live views or recorded archive searching and export, Milestone alerts to cameras that go out of operation and need attention. At no time will the security team lose sight of any key zones of the building.

"We have made sure that any sensitive areas of the hotel are covered so if there were to be an incident, we've got it on CCTV - all the entrances and exits are covered. I can go back in the system and share evidence or resolve any issues that might come up," affirms Sloan.

Certification training ensures top expertise

The hotel's IT Manager, Mark Campbell, has been actively involved in the plans for the Milestone installation, completed in four phases. Sloan's security team is computer literate to begin with but also had training from TM Security. They found the Milestone software intuitive and easy to use.

"Especially on weekends or nights, the inclination was to play around with it," remarks Sloan. "But I wanted the pre-set views that were determined between TM Security and Rob Pomeroy, our Security Supervisor, so we'd always know what we have to work with at any time. If they have other suggestions, we further develop the system configuration accordingly."

Pomeroy was very instrumental in the design of the system, working with TM Security to determine what the hotel wanted to see and do with the Milestone setup. He arranged the training with TM Security that awarded certificates for specific levels of competence.

Sloan says: "I wanted them to have that training so there'd be no question of capability. Our entire team had the required expertise in the day-to-day running of the system from the outset."

Pomeroy attests to the Milestone usability: "The use of this system is far easier - not just the playback and finding footage but in the flexible use of it. The security team includes different skill levels; some are younger and keen to play with it. We've got far more detailed recordings and playback options than before, which help us perform much better investigations, faster."

Rob Pomeroy, Security Supervisor at The Dorchester
Pomeroy worked with TM Security to determine what the hotel wanted to see and do with the Milestone setup

He especially likes the Milestone print reporting facility where operators can type onscreen the relevant information like ‘parked vehicle damage' to be printed out with the image. "With the DVRs we had to copy and paste an image into a Word document to add the report description and facts. So Milestone makes our job really easy."

Security Command Center with fast response

The Command Center was first set up with 46-inch plasma panels but the operators quickly discovered that made looking at the surveillance video too difficult - they had to stand at the back of the room to get a good overview. So they opted for many smaller monitors instead, where the operators sitting right in front can see everything at once.

The security team is very experienced and have developed their own ideas as to what system setups work best for The Dorchester. Milestone software allows the configuration flexibility to do just that. Pomeroy explains that the night shift operators have different needs as to which areas to watch, for example, so they concentrate more on external camera views.

Sloan says: "The system works specifically for us and that's what we've wanted - we didn't just buy something pre-determined out of a box from a brochure. We got a system that works for us and is very user-friendly. That's vital for our performance, especially under pressure when there are a number of things happening at one time."

The video feed is viewed through two operator Smart Client machines and the monitor wall is set up from that with pre-determined views from the cameras from which they select any number of view combinations. The software also allows operators to run a mouse over all of the Command Center monitors to click on any view and zoom in for more detail. A Carousel feature rotates between cameras and there are pop-up HotSpot windows for chosen close-up views, as well.

"Previously it was all done on a CCTV keyboard and we had to bring up server 1 or server 2 separately - now it's much faster and easier," confirms Sloan. "Including the building's IT administration, guest key system, and 5 emergency telephones, things can get quite busy and stressful. So it's important that the security here works quickly and efficiently without holding anything up, and we can do that now with the Milestone system; for example, when they're on the phone, they can say ‘let me just look that up' and find it right away."

Pomeroy explains: "When someone in the video moves from one floor to another, and we type in the time of the event, we can see any views for that timeframe, all over the building, without having to re-type the parameters in the system to look at another floor or area. We also don't have to stop the live cameras and close down live view to go look at playback like we did with the DVRs - with the Milestone overview we have all the information at our fingertips immediately, seeing Live or Browse recordings anytime.

The previous CCTV system was also separate from the IT network which meant the operators had to leave those keyboards and go across the room to do anything with their IT systems on a computer. With the Milestone IP video interface that operates on standard computer equipment, they can simply toggle between the Smart Client with the XProtect surveillance to any of their business programs."

The Dorchester's Network Server Room
Ultrastreamlined set of servers in neatly shelved racks in a cool, minimalistic high-tech haven
Advantages in storage and remote connectivity

"One of the big differences now is that we can store and keep images for 30 days - we couldn't before with the DVRs. With the police or outside agencies we deal with, part of their investigations might take several weeks before they come to us to ask if we have footage from the street that could be pertinent. Before I had to say no, but now I can say yes we do. They only have to let me know the date and time," says Sloan, who notes that they may get such external requests about once a week.

"Remote connectivity is the other big advantage for The Dorchester," points out Keith Askham. "The new sites that come online will be routed by the IT department back into the main server room. For the external sites, it is proposed to integrate another row of monitors above the current ones in the Command Center to easily manage those installations, both from here and with local access there. The future scalability is really unlimited."

Smooth, efficient operations

"Internally the new system helps us comply with the hotel's policies and procedures. It's handy in resolving issues with staff and things like delivery questions. There's no dispute when it's all recorded and it helps us keep things running efficiently and smoothly, ensuring optimal operations," adds Sloan.

"If you want to keep ahead of the game, you need to be doing innovative things - especially from a security point of view. The days are gone for just having four heavyweight bodyguards in the lobby: Security today is much more sophisticated. With the technology we have now, we are both more discreet and more secure," concludes Sloan.

"The role of security has evolved so much in recent years - 10 years ago traditional security used people who came from the police or military, but the demand has now changed to professionals who make a career solely out of security, who have been to college or university to get special degrees in it," comments Sloan, who has such an education himself.

"But here at The Dorchester, we're not just in security although it's our prime function - we're also in the hotel business which is a service industry. So we need to be involved in both the day-to-day running of the establishment and in making decisions about long-term strategy. We do our part to ensure the hotel remains attractive to guests, who need to feel safe, so they will continue to come back here. Security people in the industry, including embassies, recommend us for their high-profile clients because they know the top quality of our security team, the system we have and its benefits."

In summary, Sloan asserts: "People expect perfection when they come to The Dorchester and their expectations of our security are just as high. We can only live up to that by having the correct systems - the locks and access control, the fire system, the video surveillance - they must all be absolutely top-of the - range. That's what we have now."

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