Here Comes the Sun
Megacenter harnesses solar power to illuminate parking lot collections
- By Rebecca Overton
- Jun 01, 2013
Lady Gaga, the Dallas Stars, the Dallas Mavericks
and parking lots might seem like
strange bedfellows, unless you’re heading
to the American Airlines Center to watch a concert
or game. By the time the striking, high-tech facility
with the signature arches in downtown Dallas celebrated
its 10th anniversary in July 2011, 26 million
people had gathered at the world-class facility to see
their favorite athletes and entertainers.
Most of those guests and attendees of events held
since then drove to the arena, so they required a safe,
convenient place to park. The center obliged by providing
approximately 9,000 parking spaces at eight
lots and a garage within walking distance, where drivers
have two payment options: buy pre-paid parking
passes or pay cash. At parking rates of $10 to $30 per
vehicle per event, that’s a significant revenue stream.
Fast forward to 2012. While the center had a mechanized
system to count cars as they enter the garage
and parking lots, it was difficult to compare the number
of vehicles with the amount of revenue that arena
employees collected. Joe Heinlein, American Airlines
Center’s IT director, turned to perimeter security to
illuminate the problem and determine whether all the
cash collected was accounted for.
“We just wanted to get a better handle on what was
going on in those lots,” Heinlein said. “There’s a lot
of cash out there, and the parking areas are spread
out. We wanted greater security for both customers
and venue employees, while gaining better visibility of
parking lot collections to compare vehicle counts with
Heinlein called Rick Matoy, CEO of Global Security
Integration, which had worked on an inside
security project at the center three years ago. After
researching products on the market, Matoy recommended
MicroPower Technologies’ Helios solar wireless
surveillance system to provide parking lot and
Based in San Diego, Calif., MicroPower Technologies
Inc. is a privately financed, solar-powered, wireless
“I had just heard about this new product. It seemed
to fit the bill for the center by providing answers to
questions that I call “the weird and the wonderful,”
Because the peripheral parking lots for American Airlines
Center are not owned by the facility, their availability
can fluctuate like Dallas weather in winter. For
example, Lot F won’t be available after construction
begins there this summer, so it was critical to have
a solution that was mobile and easily adaptable if a
parking lot could no longer be used.
“Because the parking lots are covered in asphalt
and cement, trenching and running cables was extremely
cost prohibitive. That was one of the things
we really had to take into account,” Heinlein said.
“Did we want to dig up the ground? Did we want to
run power? Did we want to run Ethernet to these locations,
only to find out that in six months everything
is going to change?”
After moving from Southern California to the Dallas
area nine years ago, Matoy recognized a need for
solar wireless surveillance in the deer hunting community.
“Deer hunters wanted cameras with solar so
they could look at deer while they were feeding, but
there was nothing available,” he said.
By the time American Airlines Center contacted
Matoy, there were some solar wireless perimeter security
systems on the market. But he concluded that
many were too complicated because they were comprised
of products from different companies.
“It was much too involved,” Matoy said. “What
l liked about Micropower is that they’re building everything.
It’s a complete system designed to work
end to end.”
“We basically go from camera to the VMS,” acknowledged
Aaron Tankersley, MicroPower Technologies
CEO and president. “We’re still the only
company that I’m aware of that actually has an entire
system that is designed at the system level and
works. It’s not cobbled together from products from
A camera that requires a low amount of power is
key to creating a successful solar wireless surveillance
system, according to Tankersley.
“If you’re putting together your own solution, you
can take a typical camera and add a wireless transmitter
to it,” he said. “The camera is 3 to 5 watts and the
wireless transmitter is 3 to 5 watts, so you’re somewhere
in the 5- to 10-watt range. Our system, which
has been designed from the ground up, is half a watt
for camera plus the transmitter. The camera is designed
to be ultra-low power.”
That allows a MicroPower camera to use a small
battery and solar panel to power it. The charged battery
is effective for five days, which enables the camera
and system to be used in locations that have cloudy,
“We see cameras charging in the rain with no problem,”
Tankersley said. “We have seen the cameras work
through December and January in Massachusetts.
Dallas can have pretty severe weather, but the system
works through the winter months there, as well.”
In April 2012, GSI and MicroPower began installing
13 Helios solar wireless cameras at access points
around the American Airlines Center parking lots.
The system includes five hubs that run the cameras
and a main monitoring station in the garage, where
the director of parking can keep an eye on security
and revenue collection.
The system had its challenges, which included
cell phone interference from thousands of guests using
their mobile phones simultaneously. “When you
have a camera that is 500 yards away from the building,
and 25,000 people arrive at a parking lot with
all their mobile phones looking for a Wi-Fi signal,
you have a very challenging, noisy RF environment,”
Since installing the system, American Airlines
Center has seen its parking lot revenues increase.
“It certainly changes behaviors when employees
know there’s a possibility that their actions are being
watched,” Heinlein said.
The system has also increased security for guests
and employees of the center. Let the sun shine in.
This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Security Today.