Americas Largest Convention Center Hosts ASIS 2013

Tradeshow is a prestigious event for security professionals

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 adjustments eased.

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 personnel updates.

System Success

Schramme believes product improvement leads to success.

“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 cost savings.

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.


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