Acceleration of IP Technology

Gaming industry showing growing acceptance of IP-based video surveillance

The gaming industry is experiencing an accelerating trend toward network-based digital video surveillance solutions. Advances in video hardware and software technology; intelligent and flexible integrated system solutions designed and built by experienced systems integrators; robust networks; and the long-term downward cost of surveillance equipment seem to be driving the trend. Lower prices have finally made the adoption of new technology supportable by a solid business case.

Getting the Most for the Money
Technology advances have improved overall performance, optimized functionality and confirmed return on investment. Concurrently, innovative and flexible design/ build solutions offered by a new breed of IP-savvy systems integrators have helped to maximize usage of the various new technologies throughout the casino without abandoning solid and still viable legacy solutions. From the casino’s perspective, advances in network technology and infrastructure have reduced issues with bandwidth and quality, and these more robust networks enable the casino to sustain and improve defined video performance parameters.

Gaming regulations of video surveillance systems in casinos are subject to stringent regulations that govern deployment in such matters as frame rates, retention time and camera positions. To address these issues, manufacturers have responded with significant improvements in their next-generation IP-based imaging, recording and information management technologies and, together with more favorable pricing, the changes have mitigated many of the barriers to widespread adoption of networked systems.

System response times, 100 percent uptime, image and quality are critical for gaming security and surveillance applications, and the innovative technologies found in second- and third-generation IP-based cameras and other network devices are providing results that are superior to analog systems. Even some of the original digital systems suffered from technical issues that limited their suitability for many gaming applications. In particular, early DVRs quickly ran out of recording space while the first IP cameras could not function well in low light conditions. PTZ camera functions suffered from latency not present in analog cameras.

First-generation IP products were often prohibitively expensive for deployment in the quantities required by casinos.

Camera efficiency. Manufacturers have addressed performance quality issues in part with high-resolution megapixel cameras that provide greater detail for viewing such activities as bets made and chip, cash and card values played, along with the outcome of each game. The high efficiency of the megapixel chip allows for more advanced video analytics and push technology in addition to other advanced capabilities that are possible only on a networked platform. Megapixel cameras currently augment rather than replace existing camera setups even though it is technically possible to install fewer megapixel cameras to capture the same views as comparably positioned analog cameras.

Other high-performance features proving their worth to security include optical zoom lenses, day/night operation and on-board analytics such as auto-image stabilizers and motion detection.

Imaging technology. The gaming industry was one of the first markets to recognize the advantages of color images for surveillance purposes and was quick to adopt color cameras into new and existing video surveillance systems. While black and white camera technology provided more lines of resolution, color provided crucial identification information.

The ability to identify and track suspects by the color of their clothing was more important to casinos than the fact that color cameras provided lower resolution specifications, early on. Similarly, casinos were quick to adopt dome style cameras because of their aesthetics and the all-in-one functionality that the models offered.

Today’s casino security management can select from a broad range of camera technologies, including fixed, dome, PTZ, vandal-proof, megapixel, panoramic 360-degree, infrared and high definition to meet the needs of the specific application. Resolution is now measured in pixels and sophisticated sensors, and algorithms process the image so that moving subjects can be viewed in real time with no lag or jerky movement.

Recording and storage solutions. The same exacting standards of quality and high performance applied to imaging devices also apply to recording and storage devices, because video that is of poor quality, has missing frames or is processed slowly is simply unacceptable. Gaming regulations require 100 percent storage of surveillance video for regulated activities for a given period of time.

Rooms full of video recorders have been replaced by newer, automated high-quality video recording and storage of video. In a digital environment, space is measured in terabytes and gigabytes rather than numerical hours found in analog systems, and recording/storage configurations are infinitely more reliable than VHS tapes and libraries.

Integrator Solutions
There is no doubt that IP-based systems provide expanded capabilities over those offered by analog technology, but the integrator must have a greater technical knowledge to deliver the highest system functionality. A part of this expertise is the knowledge of and attention paid to a seemingly endless stream of variables related to the specific system design and installation needs of a casino. Only integrators prepared for and capable of making significant investments in training, engineering and technology can offer clients the level of expertise required to maximize the benefits of these technology applications.

The new systems integrator. Working with the casino’s security and IT management, the systems integrator designs, delivers and supports a sustainable security system that fits with the client strategy with maximum ROI.

In addition, the initial responsibility for system deployment and proper connection and management lies with the systems integrator.

Well-designed systems will support standardization of key technology applications that can help create simpler, more robust systems that are easier to maintain, upgrade, expand and manage. This standardization can be driven by the casino’s requirements, generally accepted industry standards or the system integrator’s internal controls. Design solutions that adhere to emerging industry standards such as ONVIF and PSIA ultimately will yield higher levels of integration for clients.

Integrated systems. Historically, security and video surveillance functions in a casino were related but separate operations. The widespread adoption of open architecture methodologies by manufacturers has begun to enable various technologies to be seamlessly integrated for more effective control, protection and asset management. It is quite common now for casino properties to incorporate gaming activities, life/safety systems and food/beverage areas into their overall security system solution. On a tactical level, this design allows the operator to access and control everything from a single console.

On a strategic level, these consolidated software platforms capture data that enable casinos to reduce costs, increase efficiency and drive revenues.

As networked security applications continue to gain traction within the gaming industry, the demands for higher levels of integration with related systems, such as access control and point-of-sale systems, continue to grow. A systems integrator’s expertise in these various technologies can help the casino establish parameters on a new system build or existing system revision, and, in turn, will help maximize interoperability for more comprehensive integrated operations, often with the lowest total cost of ownership.

Managing and controlling the system. The benefits and value of system integration are further enhanced with the use of video management and control software and the more complex and advanced physical security information management software solutions, which enable intelligent and ef ficient control of data and video. The video images, analytics-event forensics as well as license plate recognition and people counting-building management, access control and business applications such as point of sale can all be integrated to constitute knowledge management in a way that has never been possible.

Legacy systems. Enhanced system integration is a prime driver for casinos to upgrade their systems but not at the cost of abandoning an analog investment. Continued use of existing analog equipment can be accomplished using hybrid video strategies to provide a phased migration from analog to digital systems.

Hybrid systems incorporate encoders and other transition devices that allow the continued use of the original analog cameras. Over time, new digital cameras can be added to the system as old cameras come to their end of life or as facilities expand or reconfigure. For casino video surveillance where the use of analog cameras may be governed by regulatory authorities, the ability to seamlessly blend the two technologies is another value-added benefit.

This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Security Products.

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