Orlando Eye - Multi-vendor integration observes the highest standards

Orlando Eye

Multi-vendor integration observes the highest standards

Merlin Entertainment needed a full-scale security solution for its new central-Florida triple-attraction complex: The Orlando Eye, Madame Tussaud’s Orlando and SEA LIFE Orlando. Their chief security concerns were focused on ensuring a good flow throughout the property for guests while keeping unauthorized personnel out of restricted areas. They also wanted extra tight access control of the ride area, garage parking and electrical rooms.


To help choose the right security solution, Merlin Entertainment enlisted Signature Systems of Florida, a long-time provider of Milestone Systems Video Management Software (VMS), Axis Communications network video cameras, and Open Options access control products.

Merlin Entertainment Security Manager Phillip Wallinger, along with Signature Systems of Florida President Phil Lutes and his team, decided the best solution for the video surveillance component of the project would be to deploy 250 network cameras operating Milestone XProtect Enterprise VMS. The solution uses a majority of Axis cameras.

The VMS solution worked best for this vast entertainment complex because it was developed for large, multi-site installations. Its comprehensive features help operators view many locations with an unlimited number of cameras, allowing them to react quickly to incidents and efficiently export video. The software includes configuration wizards and automatic hardware detection, which significantly reduce the time and cost of installing surveillance systems with many cameras. The software provides exceptional situational awareness with multi-layered, interactive maps, sophisticated alarm handling and a unique Camera Navigator for tracking moving objects.

Daily operations at the Orlando Eye complex are controlled and viewed with the Milestone XProtect Smart Client. Non-stationary security staff can also access live and recorded video via supporting applications on mobile devices.

For access control, Merlin and Signature Systems of Florida selected Open Options’ DNA Fusion software. The sprawling complex in Orlando can be managed via a regular client, the web, or Apple and Android smartphones. It provides a complete access control solution including door control, visitor management, and photo ID management in an open platform.

As a true open platform system, DNA Fusion interfaces seamlessly with other security systems such as video, biometrics and wireless locks. In fact, DNA Fusion has integrated with VMS products for years.

This provides end users such as The Orlando Eye security team a simple yet powerful way to deliver access control events and data, which expands integration benefits for the customer by giving them a choice in where they monitor and manage their unified security system.


The DNA Fusion software, which provides access control for all the doors to the facility, makes it very easy to control access levels for the more than 500 employees throughout the Orlando Eye entertainment complex.

“You come to the drop-down menu, and it’s just a matter of choosing which doors you want for which access levels,” Wallinger said. “In addition, once everyone has the assigned access, it’s so easy to go into their profile and add or subtract access levels.”

Ridanpaa says that Signature Systems has long recommended Open Options and DNA Fusion.

“We have been using Open Options for many years,” Ridanpaa said. “We have such a great relationship with them, and have confidence that any issue we might have will get resolved immediately with minimal hassle.”


Merlin Entertainment chose this threepronged security solution with present and future needs in mind. While Merlin was impressed with Milestone’s wide array of feature sets and open platform, a critical selling point was the system’s deep, seamless integration with Axis cameras and Open Options DNA Fusion.

Using the three together provided a top-quality, cost-effective solution for the present while offering more integration features for the future. Merlin found the technology easy to train on, appreciated the flexibility and quality of cameras as well as features like autofocus that save time and manpower. Merlin was also impressed with the access control software system for door monitoring.


Wiljo Ridanpaa, project manager for Signature Systems of Florida, said that open architecture technologies provide a big advantage over competitors.

“It’s a no-brainer to use these three security platforms,” Ridanpaa said.

Phillip Wallinger, security manager for Marlin Entertainment said that the ability to autofocus the cameras was an important factor when choosing a camera vendor.

“Axis has gone above and beyond in their arena,” Ridanpaa says. “The ability to autofocus may seem like a simple tool, but it’s absolutely essential.”

Ridanpaa says he loves the processing power of the cameras and the convenient feature sets, like the ability to rotate views and set up hallway views with the Corridor Format. Ridanpaa also appreciates the ability to change image resolutions which improves how video gets streamed across the network, as well as tweaking the format for exporting and sending photos and video.

“I can put a low-level technician on a camera installation,” Ridanpaa said. “They’ll scan the network, see the IP address automatically picked up in the Milestone wizard and license the camera. The default settings give you everything you need.”


Wallinger says that Merlin Entertainment had a certain comfort level with Milestone from prior uses at other places such as Legoland and their Michigan SEA LIFE facility.

“This solution is extremely easy to use,” Wallinger says. “We have all of our internal security trained on it, as well as our dispatchers and some of our administrators. They know how to change settings from 4:3 to 16:9 and how to have one camera on a view or 100 cameras.”

Training is helpful and quick and is usually finished within a few hours.

“It’s very dynamic when we do training,” Ridanpaa says. “In this instance the main security officer (Wallinger) was well versed in the software so it was just introducing him to new features. For others, it can be one to three hours. This covers everything from turning the computer on to rebooting the entire system.”


Wallinger says there are exciting future prospects for the system, especially involving further integration of the Milestone video interface and Open Options’ DNA Fusion access control.

“One thing we’re really excited about is integrating the ID verification option,” Wallinger says. ”It would allow us to see an employee’s photo as soon as they swipe their badge and make the cameras shift to show video of the door they’re going through simultaneously. That way you’re able to verify the picture on the badge with the actual image of the person who’s going through that door.”

Ridanpaa says he is excited about expanding features available to Merlin through the joint integrations of Axis, Milestone and Open Options.

“We have a great starting point with the Milestone platform,” Ridanpaa says. “It gives us the benefit of using mapping features in the XProtect Smart Client, which lets you quickdraw a camera or event and hover over it to get a preview. With Open Options, we also have mapping ability. You can click on the door and actually put a highlight on it to see if it’s being held or being forced. All these features are in the planning stages but we are excited to have them at our fingertips.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Security Today.

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