Betting on Video

What you should know about video surveillance storage in Casinos

It can’t be argued: Video surveillance is a mission-critical system in the gaming sector. Casinos leverage video technology to stay vigilant against a wide variety of risks, such as fraud, crowding, loss and other issues that impact the safety of employees and customers. Surveillance solutions not only help ensure security and fraud reduction but can be useful in other uses, such as tracking advantage players, identifying lost items and reducing employee theft. But system uptime is critical as downtime can lead to operational interruptions that require costly guard oversight or even, shutting down revenue-generating tables and games.

Today’s modern gaming facilities are blanketed with video surveillance, and many casinos have bought into the benefits provided by network-based surveillance solutions. Digital technologies deliver significantly enhanced capabilities, which is a virtual boon for the gaming market. One high-definition or 360-degree camera can replace two to three analog models, reducing costs, while providing higher image quality.

Industry regulations, passed down by various gaming boards, often drive the adoption of technology. Although these standards may vary from region to region, nearly every casino must adhere to some type of minimum standard as it relates to the operation of its surveillance system. (Whether it is in regards to minimum resolution/frame rate requirements, the number of cameras watching a gaming table or video retention times.)

Building Intelligence

The simple truth is that today’s gaming leaders seek more advanced levels of business and security intelligence than ever before. Casinos of all sizes and types want to gain increased situational awareness and targeted intelligence from their technology investments. Connected devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) further drive the capability to collect actionable information.

As noted previously, the value of video reaches far beyond investigative and security purposes. Casino marketing teams use video to determine the success of promotional and marketing campaigns, while front-desk staff leverage video to identify top-tier guests. These new use cases are only the tip of the iceberg, but demonstrate the growing benefit of video surveillance as a security and business optimization tool. Capturing, protecting and mobilizing this data is paramount, and a very challenging task for traditional surveillance storage methods.

As the value of video increases, ensuring the investment is secured becomes of even greater importance. System failures are not tolerable because it opens the door to increased risks, new vulnerabilities and potential operational interruptions. None of these are viable options for any casino, regardless of what sector it operates in. Video needs to be protected just as an enterprise would protect corporate and IT data. Therefore, gaming environments require enterprise-class storage and data management platforms that are proven to secure data and the solutions most well-suited for this task are those proven within the rigorous walls of the IT world.

Evaluating Storage Options

Performance is the single most important aspect of delivering highquality video. The ability to store large amounts of video without dropping frames (which leads to image quality degradation) is of utmost importance — especially when having to meet regulations passed down by gaming boards. Resiliency is also critical as it eliminates system downtime and data loss. Live and recorded video must be available and accessible even when hardware fails. Scalability is also a big requirement for casinos because it allows facilities to start small and grow as needs, technologies and budgets change over time.

To address the needs of the gaming market, new technologies and infrastructure platforms are being introduced. Flash technology — while still cost prohibitive for primary video storage methods — can be used strategically to improve video capture performance and prevent image quality degradation.

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is another solid option because it eliminates complexity and cost, and brings enterprise-class technology to gaming environments. At a very basic level, HCI combines highly sophisticated data storage and server hardware together through software into a simple appliance-based solution. HCI leverages software-defined storage and server virtualization, deployed on industry standard, off-the-shelf server hardware.

HCI is gaining traction in security and surveillance environments because of the significant limitations of other systems. NVRs and DVRs (DAS) are no longer solid choices for storing critical surveillance data because they are very difficult to manage when used in larger video deployments. Traditional IT systems either don’t work well with intensive surveillance workloads or they can be prohibitively expensive.

As more gaming entities look to adopt IP technology and new innovations, such as high-resolution panoramic cameras and video analytics, more traditional IT storage solutions will be challenged by the write-intensive nature of surveillance. Storage and data management platforms that deliver robust enterprise-class IT capabilities, advanced levels of video and data protection, and higher system performance are the future of video storage. Only then can casinos realize the benefits of highly efficient storage and built-in failover without the complexity or cost typically associated with infrastructure based on separate servers and SAN storage.

Casinos need to closely evaluate how they can incorporate more advanced IT platforms into their video storage infrastructure to be able to address the needs of today as well as the dreams of tomorrow.

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Security Today.

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