Articles by Laurie Smock-Jackson
A systems integrator can guide the selection of appropriate technologies to accomplish set objectives, leaving nothing to chance In this article, Laurie Smock-Jackson, Vice President of Sales at North American Video, explains that an experienced and knowledgeable system integrator is a valuable partner who can help casino management make the best choices for security and surveillance and get the most from its budget. It used to be that closing a sale simply entailed conducting a site survey and needs analysis to identify security issues, followed by the formulation of a proposal addressing the customer’s security issues with specific products’ features and benefits. In today’s world, the process is considerably more complex with integrated and networked enterprise-wide system solutions replacing the product-centric approach. Nowhere has this change been more evident than in the gaming/casino market. Establishing the basics A thorough needs analysis is still an integral element in determining the particular details regarding a casino’s day-to-day security operations and processes. Surveillance requirements in gaming are driven not just by business and operational requirements but also by stringent regulations. Specifications are set on the monitoring of activities and the performance of video surveillance and security systems. Before any in-depth conversations begin, it is critical to know what regulatory requirements govern the casino in that jurisdiction and if the surveillance function will be a separate entity or combined with the security function. Answers to these questions can have a profound impact on the design of the system solution.Understanding how the casino operates with regard to staff, what other business systems such as point-of-sale or slot data need to be integrated, or any special needs (i.e. additional surveillance for food and drink areas) will assist the integrator in designing a security and surveillance system that meets the casino’s specific needs. And if third party technology such as people counting or valet documentation is needed or already in place, this discovery phase provides the system integrator the information they need to deliver the appropriate solution proposal. Understanding casino infrastructure The integrator’s experience and knowledge in products and system design is one of the most significant value-added resources available to the casino Once the specific requirements have been determined for the casino site, the system integrator can turn to more specific infrastructure questions. Cabling and network requirements will be dependent upon whether the project is a new or retrofit installation. New products and software are more frequently allowing legacy security and related operational systems to be deployed on network infrastructure without having to incur additional control, solutions incorporating systems such as point-of-sale, and other peripheral systems in the casino can be more easily added. Control of these applications can be centralised or shared for added convenience and efficiency. Considering options for the right security solution The integrator’s experience and knowledge in products and system design is one of the most significant value-added resources available to the casino. Advancements in video surveillance technology can deliver significant advantages for the casino market beyond core security operations, and the integrator can guide the selection of the appropriate technologies to accomplish set objectives. These latest developments, including megapixel cameras for greater resolution, more intelligence inside IP cameras, and greater capabilities to integrate multiple IP systems on a centralised network platform, benefit casinos in a variety of ways – but only if they are applied intelligently. Working with an experienced systems integrator yields better system performance and greater ROI For instance, 360 degree images provide full situational awareness allowing operators to view greater areas using fewer cameras with panoramic or multi-view modes. The integrator can offer sound advice on using 360 degree cameras for supplementary surveillance coverage or for installation at choke points. Or they can analyse and determine how many 360 degree cameras would be needed to capture the same view as an existing installation that uses multiple cameras or pan-tilt-zoom cameras. In another example, the system integrator can demonstrate how megapixel cameras installed on a rooftop can lower the number of cameras required compared to if conventional security cameras were used, whilst providing improved quality and image coverage.Tying it all together Whilst many casinos may clearly know what objectives they want to achieve with their physical security systems, an established systems integrator can ensure that users get what they need – and more. In addition to designing and implementing systems, integrators also offer expert guidance for decisions regarding repair or replacements assist security and IT staff with budgeting, provide predictable costs for support and maintenance through a single contract and help deliver a future proof investment to the client with scalable systems that can grow as budgets allow. The bottom line is that working with an experienced systems integrator can not only yield greater system performance, it can help maximise a budget’s potential to achieve the highest return on investment with the lowest total cost of ownership.
With the power of new technology and analytics, security systems could be used in other ways as well Security and surveillance systems are valuable beyond strictly providing compliance in the casino market. Even beyond ensuring physical security on premises outside the casino floor, systems are providing additional benefits including customer service, marketing and profitability, says Maureen Bruen, vertical market specialist – gaming, Honeywell Security Products Americas. Traditionally, access control, employee badging and visitor management have been a lower priority in casinos; however, they are essential to providing a total security solution, she adds. Combining departments for better business outcomes While surveillance of the casino floor is generally a separate department from physical security, with appropriate equipment selection and software partitioning, requirements of both departments can be met without compromise, says Bruen. Beyond simple loss prevention, combining people counting and point-of-sale provides invaluable information to marketing and finance, adds Bruen. By understanding the number of customers within any specific area of a casino combined with slot and point-of-sale data, these departments can better understand customer-to-cash conversion ratios. The level of success of any promotional activity can be easily measured. "While surveillance of the casino floor is generally a separate department from physical security, with appropriate equipment selection and software partitioning, requirements of both departments can be met without compromise" Bruen says point-of-sale (POS) is often overlooked in casino surveillance. Statistics show that internal theft is on the rise. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 75 percent of employees have stolen from their employers. Of those, nearly half will steal again from the same employer. An estimated 50 billion dollars is lost annually from U.S. businesses due to employee theft. Honeywell’s IDM (integrated data manager) for loss prevention Honeywell’s IDM (integrated data manager) can cut losses with the help of surveillance, loss prevention and food and beverage departments. IDM is a cost-effective solution that increases bottom-line profits through proactive loss prevention. IDM mines large amounts of data quickly and provides powerful customised reports with graphical results and instant video. Integrating video surveillance with data from point-of-sale, slot machines, cash counters, and ATM machines protects the casino’s bars, restaurants and retail interests against employee misconduct and internal loss. Physical security systems are often used to thwart the “bad guy” in the form of a breach, theft, or unwanted act. But with the power of new technology and analytics, these systems could be used in other ways as well, agrees Larry Wanvig, senior national account manager – gaming, Tyco Security Products. "Integrating video surveillance with data from point-of-sale, slot machines, cash counters, and ATM machines protects the casino’s bars, restaurants and retail interests against employee misconduct and internal loss" An example might be a system’s ability to notify management and hospitality teams when a VIP arrives so that they can ensure the VIP is taken care of appropriately. The notification could be based on an analytic rule or might also be accomplished by the unification of multiple systems, such as the surveillance and the loyalty/rewards program systems together, or the integration of surveillance and license plate recognition to notify staff as the guest arrives in the parking garage. Video and access control merger carries outstanding benefits The technology choices made by casino surveillance and security departments are typically made with compatibility in mind, as each department needs the capacity to share video and other information when needed, says Laurie Smock, vice president of sales, North American Video. For example, business operations often benefit from integrating a property’s point of sale system with the surveillance system to assist with reducing shrinkage. Access control is another vital security system element that is often integrated with surveillance, Smock says. When done properly, it provides a wealth of data that can be shared among multiple departments within the casino. NAV works with clients’ surveillance management to identify the video security technologies that will provide them with the functionality, scalability, and sustainability they meet. Once the technology has been identified, NAV’s design services configure the system layout for each individual property to ensure proper implementation and coverage. “We bring the same level of focus and individualisation to each casino we work with,” says Smock. “When the system design is complete, the NAV operations team installs and commissions the system. Once the system is up and running, NAV provides the customer with regular maintenance visits as well as any emergency on-site technical support that is needed.” "One consideration that is often overlooked is how the system performs and behaves, and how user-friendly it is on a day-to-day basis. It’s important that a solution can be flexibly and freely used for both monitoring and investigations, with easy-to-use playback operations, rewind, pause and so on of 24/7 recordings" Struggling with separation Based on DVTEL’s experience, the separation between the casino surveillance and security departments leads to separate decision-making, driven by different budgets and requirements. As a result, these can be seen as two separate sites/projects, says Ron Grinfeld, director, global vertical marketing, DVTEL. One consideration that is often overlooked is how the system performs and behaves, and how user-friendly it is on a day-to-day basis, says Grinfeld. It’s important that a solution can be flexibly and freely used for both monitoring and investigations, with easy-to-use playback operations, rewind, pause and so on of 24/7 recordings. For visibility into the entire casino, it’s also important that the system can easily display multiple tiles simultaneously. Furthermore, a customer should consider whether the solution has a single point of failure, how fast it recovers from breakdown and what would be the damage or loss of recorded video. DVTEL’s Latitude NVMS DVTEL’s enterprise-grade Latitude NVMS is a common choice for casino customers as it allows them to manage and monitor hundreds of cameras across the casino floor. Features such as failover and redundancy enable optimised viewing and help casinos avoid system downtime under any circumstances. Advanced add-on tools for the DVTEL system, such as camera stitching technology, maps, and POS, access control and other third-party integrations, are a common choice for the daily operations of casino customers.
In casino surveillance, there must be an understanding of the behaviour of thieves and cheats. In particular, casinos must understand how the behaviour of a casino adversary differs from that of a legitimate guest. The end result of the understanding is that only threatening or fraudulent behaviour is challenged, leaving other guests free to simply enjoy their visits to the casino. Responding to behaviour anomalies requires understanding that comes from analytics capabilities emerging on the casino scene. Behaviour monitoring and analysis Technology provider Oncam, for example, can monitor for card counters who exhibit specific behaviour patterns. Once alerted to those variances and nuances, Oncam’s cameras can probe further to track, interrogate and verify, which means delving into previous behaviour in earlier video frames to confirm or challenge the findings of the cameras using analytics. From an analytics perspective, facial recognition capabilities are being watched very closely by the casino surveillance market, says Laurie Smock, vice president of sales, North American Video (NAV). As analytic algorithms and analytic delivery technologies improve, casino surveillance systems will be able to implement systems such as facial recognition to identify subjects and cross reference them with a consolidated database that can be shared by multiple properties. This will dramatically improve efficiencies across multiple organisations, says Smock. Barriers in analytics adoption The adoption of analytics has been limited by the current state of the technology, says Smock. Current analytics technology limits its deployment on a broad scale in any application. As a result, those casino operators who do choose to deploy analytics are doing so on a smaller scale in order to utilise the technology properly. As analytics technology advances, and large-scale deployment become feasible, the adoption rate among gaming properties will increase significantly, she predicts. "As analytic technology continues to improve and more market-specific rules are launched, operators are becoming more efficient with their investigations" says Larry Wanvig of Tyco Security Products Analytics for crime analysis “One of the biggest technology changes I see gaining ground is the adoption of analytics within the casino surveillance operation,” says Larry Wanvig, senior national account manager – gaming, Tyco Security Products. “As analytic technology continues to improve and more market-specific rules are launched, operators are becoming more efficient with their investigations. This will obviously be of great benefit to casino operations, as they are better able to understand trends and patterns in events and their business operations.” Analytics have the ability to bridge the gap [between casino surveillance and the physical security department] by allowing business groups to take full advantage of the video analysis, says Wanvig. For example, analytics can help casinos understand the foot traffic patterns within their retail stores to better position displays, to validate credentialed employees in the facility’s private areas, and to better manage lines at the hotel front desk. The analytics offered by the surveillance system can be reviewed for specific trends and used to spot incidents of concern or to correct procedural problems. Challenges of big data analytics Another trend is Big Data analytics. As the amount of data that casinos gather each day increases exponentially, operators will need to rely on analytic technologies to help them make sense of all the noise, says Ron Grinfeld, director, global vertical marketing, DVTEL. Tools like video analytics, license-plate recognition, heat mapping and other applications will be increasingly useful for larger casino customers. Facial recognition also will change everything, from surveillance on the gaming floor for player identification, to customer check-in for VIP experience, Grinfeld says. More cameras will be put in places that haven’t been thought of before. Customers are also interested in video analytics for physical security needs (such as protecting the perimeter or securing the parking lot area), as well as business intelligences applications that use heat maps, movement patterns and other tools to analyse trends and behaviours, he says.
See larger image The 4K pixel density allows two times the digital zoom of a full HD 1080p camera CCTV cameras with higher resolution have proven their worth in casino settings. Now, 4K security cameras are gaining ground thanks to their ability to achieve full frame rate, which is required by many gaming jurisdictions. 4K is definitely the next resolution standard for casinos in the coming years, says Ron Grinfeld, director, global vertical marketing, DVTEL. DVTEL 4K cameras DVTEL offers full-frame-rate 4K cameras with wide focal range suitable to monitor gaming tables, says Grinfeld. DVTEL’s 4K cameras with powerful sensor-based wide dynamic range (WDR) are well-suited on the casino floor – a challenging environment with diverse and intensive light sources. DVTEL’s 4K cameras are being used to monitor gaming tables, with customers benefiting from superior image quality and detail. The 4K pixel density allows two times the digital zoom of a full HD 1080p camera, whereas on a 1080p monitor, digital zoom crops are made while maintaining 1080p pixel density. This is allowing casinos to reduce the number of cameras required to monitor a single table – including both the gaming surface and the players’ faces – from two or three cameras to a single camera. 4K camera with telephoto and wide-angle lens option A telephoto lens option (9-22mm) on DVTEL’s 4K cameras provides evidentiary detail of cards and chips even in the lowest lighting conditions. A standard wide-angle lens option (3.5-8mm) allows capture of the full scene of players from chair-back to chair-back while capturing individual facial details in full HD with digital zoom presets, all without losing any card or chip details. Quad HD resolution and wide dynamic range For full situational awareness of the casino floor, HD cameras deliver surveillance in sophisticated lighting environments, such as dark ambient lighting combined with flashing lights from slot machines and other signs. DVTEL’s cameras support 1440p quad HD resolution, P-iris, and true wide dynamic range. DVTEL 4K solutions are available in both mini-dome and bullet form factors. A smoked bubble option conceals the direction the camera is facing. "4K is definitely the next resolution standard for casinos in the coming years", says Ron Grinfeld, Director, Global Vertical Marketing, DVTEL Video surveillance solutions DVTEL is a provider of open-standard, end-to-end video surveillance solutions. In addition to 4K cameras, DVTEL’s enterprise-grade CCTV software, Latitude NVMS, allows management and forensic capabilities, and supports key functions in the casino environment, including unified management of multiple sites, failover, redundancy, ease of integration with third-party products, and Web-based and mobile clients. Also, DVTEL’s video encoders are a necessity for casinos that rely on legacy analogue cameras and are looking to transition cost-effectively to IP. 4K adoption challenges Laurie Smock, vice president of sales, North American Video, sees some hurdles to greater use of 4K cameras by casinos. One is not enough video storage. When storage becomes more efficient and requires a smaller footprint, the casino video surveillance market will no doubt begin to adopt ultra-high resolution 4K technology, she says. While 4K resolutions in both cameras and monitors are readily available now, most VMS manufacturers have designed their products to manipulate 1080p video as a maximum. As the technology to support 4K catches up, the VMS manufacturers will follow suit. High-density flash storage will become increasingly popular in the near future among gaming entities, says Smock. Currently, industry standard storage solutions still utilise spinning disc technology that has been readily available for decades. Flash storage technology eliminates many of the spinning disk drawbacks including higher failure rates, heat generation and power requirements as well as a larger footprint. Several manufacturers are in the process of developing flash storage products that will be as cost-effective as spinning disc options, but without the drawbacks.
Large busy casinos must maintain continuous surveillance of multiple tables and machines High-definition (HD) cameras are a perfect fit for the casino market. HD security cameras provide six times the resolution of analogue cameras, supplying images with sharper edges that easily identify faces, cards, dice, chips, currency, and fill slips. In addition, high-definition IP cameras can reduce camera count. A single, 1080p camera can effectively cover poker, roulette or craps tables where traditionally two to three analogue cameras were required, says Maureen Bruen, vertical market specialist – gaming, Honeywell Security Products Americas. Evolution of video surveillance technology Combining high-definition cameras at choke points with 360-degree cameras to provide extreme overviews of the entire casino floor is also a powerful combination, says Bruen. When an incident occurs, a person can be tracked to a choke point where they can be positively identified. Video surveillance technology evolves rapidly, and HD is just one of the factors in play. Honeywell works with its largest gaming customers to ensure future products are designed in accordance with their requirements. Honeywell’s security product portfolio Honeywell Security Products Americas has provided surveillance and security solutions for the gaming market for over 20 years. Honeywell’s product portfolio consists of video management systems, hybrid and network video recorders, IP and analogue cameras, access control, point of sale, video analytics, visitor management, intrusion and building management systems, all of which can be integrated. Honeywell’s surveillance products are designed in consultation with customers to ensure requirements are accurately met. Honeywell trains, certifies and supports casino customers directly. A casino surveillance customer can take advantage of Honeywell’s variety of solutions and product offerings. Enterprise digital video recorders can be expanded, refreshed and sustained over an extended life cycle. Migration to IP can be achieved economically by upgrading work stations and software. Honeywell’s MAXPRO VMS video management system and Ultrakey keyboards fully control all digital and analogue monitors. Combining the MAXPRO VMS and Pro-Watch access control systems, any alarm or access event can automatically call up any number of video selections. Doors can be controlled directly from Pro-Watch or the Ultrakey CCTV keyboard. Honeywell’s integrated data manager (IDM) point-of-sale solution provides data mining with customised reports that can be scheduled and emailed including graphical results with instant video. Wide area people counting solutions are suitable for marketing departments and can determine the effectiveness of promotional campaigns or merchandising, reduce costs and increase customer service. The major factors affecting the conversion to IP casino surveillance video systems are money and infrastructure High-definition IP camera benefits North American Video (NAV), a leading systems integrator serving the gaming market, also points out that IP video security has ushered in dramatic improvements in image quality and resolution, which allows surveillance operators to extract more visual information from each camera shot. Additionally, with the improved image quality and resolution, a single HD camera can cover an area that previously required multiple analogue cameras to cover effectively. As an optimal result, the increased visual information and lower camera counts lead to dramatically improved operator and surveillance room efficiency, says Laurie Smock, NAV vice president of sales. Analogue-to-IP conversion challenges While analogue-to-IP conversion is mostly impacted by budgetary considerations, regulatory restrictions are a limiting factor when IP-based systems are incapable of meeting certain requirements, says Ron Grinfeld, director, global vertical marketing, DVTEL. When regulations are met, budget is the only shared impacting factor in the decision to remain analogue, adopt hybrid or transition to all-IP, especially considering the huge installed base of legacy analogue equipment, specifically surveillance cameras. Grinfeld says the situation helps to differentiate a company such as DVTEL, which is capable of providing an all-IP system while meeting the above restrictions, and at the same time offers video encoders (also called video server appliances) that allow the development of a hybrid system. In addition, each component of the DVTEL solution is open to third-party integration through ONVIF and open API. Having a wide range of certified integrations with most of the major players in the market allows DVTEL’s casino customers to enjoy the benefit of all worlds, whether they want to transform their systems to all-IP, move to hybrid or even maintain legacy third-party equipment while advancing their core management servers to DVTEL’s enterprise systems. "Regulatory restrictions are a limiting factor when IP-based systems are incapable of meeting certain requirements", says Ron Grinfeld, Director, Global Vertical Marketing, DVTEL The major factors affecting the conversion to IP casino surveillance video systems are money and infrastructure, according to Oncam, which designs, delivers and deploys IP video solutions that leverage 360-degree fisheye cameras and other technologies. So many resorts and casino operations have anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 cameras on property, and the investment to replace these may not provide the return on investment (ROI) for the capital expense. When the service costs from system failures or end-of-life product support exceed ROI, then making the conversion to a hybrid IP system becomes more viable, according to Oncam Gaming industry regulations The gaming industry is heavily regulated, including strict data protection controls. These regulations help maintain the integrity of gaming operations, which is why large, busy casinos must maintain continuous surveillance of multiple tables, machines, sports pools, cages, vaults, count rooms, records and the security room itself. A thorough understanding of these laws is necessary when selecting a security solution for a casino setting. The two mandatory regulatory requirements shared across all jurisdictions are full frame rate and complete failover, says Grinfeld of DVTEL. Other requirements apply to specific regions and involve various aspects around time synchronisation of video playback, fast rewind, and so on.
Video surveillance systems are extensively used in the casino market, but ironically casinos are more often than not behind the curve when it comes to installing newer security systems. Video technology adoption in the casino market has recently slowed down because of the economy. Analogue to IP migration The economic downturn slowed the analogue-to-IP transition process of video surveillance technology used in the gaming market, says Laurie Smock, vice president of sales, North American Video (NAV). As a result, casinos across all North American gaming jurisdictions, for example, have elected to transition slowly from analogue to IP – using IP video management systems (VMS) that enable them to leverage existing analogue cameras. This hybrid approach has become a common solution for existing properties. Conversely, newly constructed properties almost always choose to install all-IP systems. Smock says the migration to IP has accelerated recently as economic conditions have improved and the U.S. gaming market has seen business levels increase. New construction and technology-refresh activity have continued to accelerate in 2015. “When migrating from an older analogue system to a new IP platform, it’s important to plan a strategy that incorporates cost-effective updates when the budget allows,” says Smock of NAV. Here is a hybrid example: “For companies that are replacing their VMS and storage, but continuing to utilise their existing analogue cameras via encoders, we often recommend additional storage and a larger network that will accommodate HD IP cameras in the future,” Smock says. “This simplifies the transition from analogue to HD IP cameras; when an older analogue camera fails, it is simply replaced with an IP HD camera with no additional storage and minimal infrastructure changes needed.” Security systems integration "When migrating from an older analogue system to a new IP platform, it’s important to plan a strategy that incorporates cost-effective updates when the budget allows ", says Laurie Smock, VP of Sales, NAV North American Video is a leading systems integrator serving the gaming market. Its primary focus is on designing, selling, installing and servicing enterprise-class video surveillance and management systems that are tailored for casino applications. System designs include the integration and installation of access control, point-of-sale (POS), building control and alarm systems in order to provide a complete security and surveillance solution for NAV customers. North American Video works with many of the leading corporate and tribal gaming entities that operate multiple casinos across the United States. Clients take advantage of NAV’s full range of integration services, from delivery of a single camera all the way up to the design, build, service and installation of systems with thousands of cameras, integrated access control and other technologies. Impact of budget Other companies active in the casino surveillance market also point to the economy as a factor in slower technology adoption. Lack of budget still seems to be one of the biggest factors impeding more rapid adoption of new technologies, says Larry Wanvig, senior national account manager – gaming, Tyco Security Products. Generally, IP technology is more expensive than its analogue counterparts, although the technology often pays for itself with the efficiency offered by IP, Wanvig notes. Another security solutions manufacturer, Honeywell, sees an impact of budget on determining the speed of migration to HD IP video. “Most of our customers migrate to HD IP video in a phased approach, starting with high-priority shots such as table games, cage and cash, and choke points,” says Maureen Bruen, vertical market specialist – gaming, Honeywell Security Products Americas. Budget is the single greatest barrier, she adds, and leasing is one option to overcome it. Technology decisions are usually ROI-driven, adds Ron Grinfeld, director, global vertical marketing, DVTEL. Casino customers must see that an investment can provide return on investment (ROI) and add value, such as improved quality of service, greater business intelligence, global awareness applications, more efficient and secure transactions (through analytics and POS integrations), people counting, crowd management and so on, he says.