South Africa Hotel Installs Country’s Largest High-Definition Camera System

Milestone Certified Partner Camsecure has installed the largest national implementation of HDTV video surveillance cameras at the award-winning Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa. Upgrading the hotel's security technology with the newest innovations is a continuous return on investment thanks to the Milestone open platform IP video management software.

The Saxon Boutique Hotel, Villas & Spa is an international award-winning hotel for top echelon guests such as political dignitaries, royalty, entertainers and other VIPs.  Such clientele demand the utmost in security and privacy.  The hotel's valuable original African art collection also requires top protection, and the surveillance system simultaneously provides constant overview of all staff shifts and activities to ensure the most effective operations. 

Camsecure installed Milestone XProtect Professional software in 2006 as the first stage in the hotel's security system foundation with future-proof adaptability provided by its IP open platform.  Upgrades were made in 2008 and 2009 to XProtect Enterprise and additional Axis network cameras.  In 2010, three new luxury villas were built after the hotel bought adjacent property.  Scaling the security solution to the expanded facilities brought the opportunity to leverage the advantages of high-definition video quality by installing Axis HDTV cameras.

Francois Malan, Technical Director at Camsecure, reports: "We now have about 150 HDTV cameras at the Saxon and 40 legacy STD resolution cameras, running them on H.264 compression at 8fps which does not use a lot of disk space or bandwidth.  In actual fact we are using less disk space with HDTV cameras on H.264 than we were using with STD resolution cameras on MJPEG. We are covering much larger areas with a single camera than ever before and recording more pixels for excellent coverage of all entrances for identification purposes."

Malan explains that they chose five Dell power edge servers with direct attached storage on a raid 5 configuration, "which is very fast performance, so we don't lose any footage. The trick is to have fast disks on your primary recording server.  We are using SAS drives with 15,000 rpm -- twice the speed of the standard SATA drives at 7200 rpm. Also, we use a Windows 64 bit operating system which the Milestone software supports (opposed to the standard 32 bit OS).  This gives us more available memory which helps with the read/write buffering process on the disks. We also group on servers the cameras that have lots of movement with cameras that have less movement to balance out the performance, a practical consideration in the design. The Milestone software also does the archiving process to the attached storage very efficiently and therefore does not impact on the CPU processing or disk speeds - this is very important when recording HDTV, also since we are recording for 3 months which produces a lot of video archives." 

Plans are to also use the Axis cameras own built-in motion detection in order to cut down on the processing power required by the recording servers, so the servers will barely be doing any processing work, just writing footage to disk. 

"This actually works very well with the Milestone software as you then record from the camera only on event.  You just set up the event in XProtect and you can still have a live stream for viewing the video.  At the moment the highest CPU usage is around 20 percent, which goes up some when the client does playback on a large amount of cameras at once," he says. "But Milestone has some clever settings in the Smart Client software which really make a difference when viewing in the control room and remotely."

Malan remarks that there are a lot of other factors that also impact HDTV surveillance design, such as switches and network infrastructure.  For example, the amount of clients and screens to be used, or the number of cameras displayed per screen will influence the system performance.  

Many of the Saxon Hotel's high profile guests also travel with their own security personnel.  Often these professionals will do pre-visit inspections of the hotel to review their VIP's specific protection requirements.

"Within the security industry, including foreign and police agencies, they know how state-of-the-art our operation is and that it is one of the best possibly available.  They are therefore very comfortable with our security measures," said Shaun Swanepoel, security manager at the Saxon Hotel. "We run our security preventively and proactively -- that's what it's about."

"The open platform network video approach with Milestone at the core allows the expansions over time to cover new property, but also to use new types of cameras that become available,” Malan said. “Taking advantage of the latest technologies keeps the business competitive and on the cutting edge to continue providing the best security and service levels for their important guests.”

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