Americas Largest Convention Center Hosts ASIS 2013
Tradeshow is a prestigious event for security professionals
- By Judy Jones
- Sep 01, 2013
McCormick Place, located minutes from downtown Chicago
on the shore of Lake Michigan, is the venue for the 59th
annual ASIS tradeshow. Billed as one of the security industry’s
most influential events, with 700 exhibits and 200 educational
sessions available to 20,000 security professionals,
ASIS 2013 promises top-drawer accommodations and plenty of information for
this year’s attendees.
Beyond the vast exhibition space, McCormick Place offers 170 meeting rooms,
six ballrooms, assembly seating for 18,000 and three theatres—including the Arie
Crown, which accommodates more than 4,000. Easy access parking, with more
than 5,800 spaces, is also available.
Security remains top priority at McCormick Place, since the original 1935 exposition
hall, once deemed fireproof, was destroyed in a 1967 fire. During the redesign
and rebuilding in 1971, McCormick Center planners were credited with
helping to reshape prevailing building codes, many of which are still in force today.
As the demand for bigger conventions grew, so did McCormick Place. The expansion
brought immense growth in stature, as well as size, enabling McCormick
Place to hold the distinct honor as the largest convention center in North America.
Securing the Tradeshow
Continental Access, a division of Napco Security Technologies, will perform double
duty this year by participating as a tradeshow exhibitor while working security
functions at McCormick Place. For more than 15 years, Continental Access has
provided the integrated, access control system at McCormick Place. It’s a huge
responsibility-McCormick Place covers more than two-and-a-half million square
feet, with half of that area on one level.
“What we’re most concerned about is providing reliable, efficient and secure
access control to all our exhibitors and their guests,” said Frank Solano, security
systems engineer at SMG, a management company that oversees some of the finest
convention venues, arenas and stadiums across the country, and McCormick
Place. “With over 2.5 million square feet of exhibition space, it is imperative that
we maintain the highest level of security, without sacrificing the flexibility our
exhibitors require for their events.”
Overall Facility Security
Since 1996, Continental Access’ CA3000 enterprise software and access control
panels have provided the solution for McCormick Place.
“McCormick Place is an important, long-time customer of Continental’s, and
in fact, just upgraded to our newest enterprise software CA3000 version 2.9,” said
Scott Schramme, vice president of Continental Access. “It enables them to get
more integration options including a choice of multiple video integration partners,
a richer feature set going forward and to get faster, super-optimized performance
from the large number of Continental Access Controllers they have in the system.
Our robust, scalable, enterprise platform provides an easy-to-use, easy-to-train
and easy-to-deploy solution for any size facility, and it will grow with them as they
continue to expand, both in square feet and in security requirements.”
McCormick Place security engineer Solano agrees with the software’s ease-of-use.
“What I most like about the Continental System CardAccess CA3000 is its interface,”
Solano said. “The program is very easy to learn, and navigating through
the software is simple. Access control operators in our control room can be easily
trained to perform the basic essential duties of an access control system within a
few days. The more in-depth, technical tasks that are usually performed by system
engineers are also easily mastered.”
Upon installation, Schramme said the initial security team at McCormick
Place took full advantage of Continental’s comprehensive Sponsored End-user
Training Program. This enabled the security team to become more autonomous
and capable of implementing system updates and routine maintenance.
Facility Transition and Expansion
Continental Access System’s flexibility and legacy of support helped the facility
transition its system topology from RS232/485 serial communications to Ethernet
communications, as LAN connections replaced many older-style, 422 communicommunication
daisy-chains on individual panels. Ultimately,
communications improved and the potential for future
McCormick Place also expanded its access system
hardware in 2006 by adding approximately 200 access
doors that roughly coincided with the opening of the
470,000 square foot West Building. Continental Access
System secured this addition with its Turbo Superterm-
8 panels, incremental to some legacy Smarterm
access panels. In a nod to budget concerns, the
original legacy panels’ firmware was upgraded to run
software alongside the new panels. This unique benefit
from Continental adds longevity to any installation.
System Upgrades and Integrations
Continental designs and builds its own access control
panels for easy upgrades and greater lifespan.
For example, speed can be optimized when teamed
with Continental’s CA3000 because the integrated
software boasts 10-times faster processing speeds, so
doors open in less than a 1/4-of-a-second. The 921
KBps are especially relevant to high-volume facilities,
where large numbers of people require simultaneous
access at peak periods and when management needs
to process a lot of data.
However, Solano says he finds the reporting features
most useful on a daily basis.
“The ability to run various reports has been instrumental
in maintaining the integrity of security
operations. With a few clicks of the mouse I can run
detailed reports of badge history, card reader usage
and access group auditing.”
McCormick recently upgraded the enterprise access
control software in its well-equipped security
control room. Version 2.9 features Milestone NVR
integration, as well as NEC failover server software,
for disaster recovery and redundant systems option.
“I was pleased to discover that CA3000 integrates
with my video management system,” Solano said.
“Control room operators at McCormick Place run
several programs from their workstations, with Card
Access 3000 being their main focus. Further integration
with other systems eliminates having to run multiple
programs and makes CardAccess 3000 a complete
security system solution.”
The new CA3000 software release offers the facility
some new options, including support for Continental’s
new Accelaterm 8- to 16-Door Controllers—
which preceded the convention center’s existing
Turbo Supergerms. These super-speed controllers
control twice the number of doors, completing full
downloads of firmware and data in less than 5 minutes
for tens of thousands of badges.
Additionally, the CA3000 supports wireless Trilogy
Networx Access Locks from Alarm Lock. Networx
PIN/Prox Access Locks can be wirelessly installed at
any door and run from the server. Retrofitting standard
knob-set locks, durable Grade 1 Networx locks
are intelligent edge devices, deployed in less than an
hour, that bring power, door-position information,
REX on the lever handle and built-in HID readers to
any door, while acting as single-door controllers on
the Continental system.
Networx Locks are seamlessly networked directly
into the CA3000 software and workstation environment
for real-time access reporting, audit trails and
Schramme believes product improvement leads to
“While other access control companies have been
busy building, buying and dropping entire product
lines, Continental Access has been continually refining
and improving our core hardware and software
for decades. You don’t have to buy new to increase
system size or get upgraded features with Continental...
that’s how we’ve kept valued customers like Mc-
Cormick, as well as top educational and healthcare
facilities for years and years.”
Award-winning McCormick Place reportedly
hosts nearly 3 million visitors annually, and their access
system and photo badging utility easily keeps
pace. More than 28,000 authorized cardholders are
assigned to multiple database partitions for different
segments of personnel and/or areas of the facility including
reception, security and human resources.
Door control is also offered for meeting rooms
throughout the facility. Access groups receive defined,
expiration dates based on the rental period booked
by the planner. This both simplifies and streamlines
administration, while providing a higher level of security
for corporate meetings.
In addition, contractors, trades and other service
providers receive specific area access with temporary
badges offering specific expiration times
and date. When the job’s done, the system automatically
terminates access, netting security with labor
The Continental Enterprise Security System offers
an interoperable security solution for security
and risk managers. With a robust combination of access,
video, intrusion/fire alarms and locking, Continental
Enterprise Security Systems grow with the
client. Based on open architecture with a Microsoft
SQL Server database, it’s easy on any budget, promising
no annual software licensing fees. Continental
plans for painless upgrades by offering a 3-year warranty
on field-upgradable controllers; new and optional,
yearly software upgrade opportunities
and an appealing retrofit
rebate program for conversions.
This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of Security Today.