SKYCITY Casino Darwin trusts in Dallmeier - Seamless transition from analogue to digital technology
When the SKYCITY Casino in the Australian city of Darwin modernised its video surveillance system, the project managers called it the `big bang´ because as one of the first casinos worldwide, the system migration was not carried out across several stages but in one step. German security and network expert Dallmeier and its Australian partner C.R. Kennedy made it all possible.
Darwin is the capital of Australia's Northern Territory and an ideal basis for exciting excursions into one of the many national parks. Anybody who prefers staying in the city itself does not have to go without excitement and thrills though. SKYCITY Casino Darwin offers first-class entertainment 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With games including Baccarat, Caribbean Stud Poker, Roulette, Blackjack amongst many others, there certainly won't be any boredom.
Embedded in a wonderfully beautiful tropical garden on the beach, SKYCITY offers its guests not just the casino but also a luxurious five-star boutique hotel, modern conference facilities and exquisite restaurants and bars. A high-value video surveillance system by German CCTV/IP expert Dallmeier ensures undiluted joy of gambling.
From analogue to digital in one step
Up until 2007, SKYCITY Darwin had been relying on analogue equipment. Yet, particularly in regard to performance and user-friendliness the system had reached its limitations and thus the casino decided to modernise. A high-value digital surveillance system was to be installed, however not by using a time-consuming intermediate hybrid solution but in one step. That makes SKYCITY Darwin one of the first casinos in the world to migrate their complete analogue system to digital technology without switching off the analogue matrix prior to the live cutover. The change could be made without any downtime. That is a crucial economic point for a casino because without a running surveillance system the casino would have had to close and thus accept considerable declines in sales.
Benefits of digital technology
When the former analogue system was installed in 1995, it was among the best systems money could buy. ”However, the analogue system was extremely high-maintenance”, Greg Bretag, the casino's security manager, explains. ”The VCRs needed to be maintained by technicians the whole day. And the video tapes which were used to store the data streams coming from 300 cameras had to be exchanged regularly. You can probably imagine how costly the administration and archiving of the old tapes was.” ”Additionally, we had to cope with the enormous amount of time needed to search for a specific sequence. We personally had to watch the video tapes, so our staff was busy fast-forwarding and fast-rewinding the tapes”, Bretag recalls. ”Of course it took us even longer if the tape needed had already been stored in an external archive. In that case we first had to bring the video back to the control room. With the digital solution by Dallmeier it is very easy to search for recordings using different criteria such as date, time, location or name. The system provides exactly the images required in no time at all!”Another problem of the analogue system was that data would repeatedly get lost. With the new digital solution SKYCITY Darwin thus put major emphasis on failure safety and redundancy and Dallmeier had the right solution on hand: Recording directly at the encoder. That not only provides for higher failure safety but also reduces the network requirements, for instance in regard to bandwidth.
Functional system architecture
The signals from all cameras are recorded on Dallmeier DIS-2/M encoders, each of which supports one camera input. The recording is therefore network-independent, i.e. it continues even in the case of interruptions or a complete network failure. Dallmeier thus guarantees the highest possible availability of the complete solutions as there is no single-point-of-failure. This means that the failure of an individual component would not lead to a breakdown of the entire system.
In order to further increase the failure-safety the recording is redundant, which means that the image material is mirrored on both hard disks in the DIS-2/M. Even if one hard disk should fail, no data would be lost. SKYCITY chose to record with 25 frames per second at RAID-1, whereby selected recordings of incidents are archived on a RAID-5 server.
In the case of disruptions the defective components can be exchanged channel by channel. Owing to the hot-plug functionality of the modules the exchange can be made during operation, which reduces the downtime to a minimum.
An additional advantage of this system architecture are the minimal bandwidth requirements. The new Dallmeier system requires network function only for the operator's work and the management, but not for the recording. Any network bandwidth is thus only used if it is really needed. The images, no matter if live or recorded can be retrieved from the network by any operator at any time and regardless of how many users want to access the same server. If several users want to look at the same scene, the volume of data in the network is reduced through multicasting.
Ease of use
In order to monitor and control, the casino uses the SeMSy® video management software by Dallmeier. It allows for the easy handling and administration of different media data streams, e.g. the display of live images or recorded videos on certain monitors. Thereby the recording continues simultaneously. SeMSy® also enables the convenient control and configuration of PTZ cameras or the processing of alarm messages.
Site plans of SKYCITY were integrated into the graphic user interface, enabling a quick overview of the cameras. It is also possible to store operating procedures and complex controls in the system so that staff are able to use the system efficiently and intuitively.
Via the SeMSy® Pro Server all SeMSy® stations are regularly refreshed with the latest camera lists, names and site plans. Therefore, only the central server must be updated. Once that is done all users immediately have access to the updates.
The major advantage of SeMSy® is that it is not only easily adjustable to the individual needs of the customers but also highly flexible. The requirements placed on a security system are increasing and changing all the time as new components are added or new functionalities are needed. Even if SKYCITY Casino should want to expand its system, using the SeMSy® software it will be well-equipped for the future.
Migration with no downtime
The biggest challenge in realising this project certainly was the casino's requirement that the move from analogue to digital had to be carried out without any downtime. Owing to careful planning and the committed collaboration between Dallmeier, C.R. Kennedy and SKYCITY Darwin this project could be successfully implemented. The retraining of the security personnel was also carried out smoothly and so the new system could be commissioned without any problems.
Ever since, the system has been to the customer's utmost satisfaction. Greg Bretag puts it in a nutshell: ”The Dallmeier system architecture is just as elegant as it is functional. Higher image quality and failure safety and, on top of that, a more intuitive handling and significantly less maintenance expenditure are major benefits. The technological changeover has definitely paid off!”