Casino x VCA say no to wrong doers
Editor / Provider: Lisa Hsu, a&s International | Updated: 11/18/2014 | Article type: Hot Topics
Everyone knows what surveillance cameras in casinos are for, but no one really worries about them unless they have something to hide, and for people who do, they hide it well. No longer do casinos bet solely on security cameras to spot crime ongoing in their premises, with video content analysis (VCA) to detect any unusual incidents, the house will always win.
Casino get thousands of visitors on a daily basis, and with people bustling in and out of the premises, it gets hard to keep track of what is going on. Cameras are employed to cover every inch of the property to ensure there is no unlawful activity or accidents. However, with all the video coverage, it is impossible to expect humans to not miss a single frame that could lead to suspicious activity when monitoring the casino.
Most common threats in casinos
Although casinos have gaming regulations that are implemented for safety measures, law enforcement employed to fight crime, and surveillance cameras on every gaming table, there are still people out there who believe rules are there to be broken. According to the Nevada State Gaming Control Board, approximately 500 people are arrested each year for attempting to cheat at casinos in the state of Nevada, U.S., and out of the total number of arrested, nearly a third of those arrests are casino employees. This staggering fact has urged casinos to be more aware of their security, as even insiders cannot resist the lure of “easy money.”
VCA is not just the eye in the sky
Perhaps it is because of the large amounts of cash situated on the premises, but casinos have always been a natural target for criminal activity. Some of the most common threats in casinos are cheating, theft, and fraud. In a gaming facility constantly humming with activity, it is impractical to only rely on the security team to be able to identify all potentially suspicious activity. In the past, most casinos encountered various crimes even under conditions where video surveillance cameras were installed. Insufficient resolution to identify offenders, the need for humans to constantly watch or monitor screens, or even the fact that cameras might be easily damaged could all result in a poor video surveillance system.
Ever since intelligent video solutions have been introduced to the gaming industry, more game frauds have been detected, said Maike Hermanns, Marketing Assistant of ViDiCore. Specifically with industries moving from analog to IP systems, detection and management of incidents have become faster and more efficient, observed Maor Mishkin, Director, Product Champion of Video Analytics of DVTel.
There are many features of VCA that can be used to detect theft. Features such as motion of stationary objects, which alerts the operator if an item is moved without authorization. By programming VCA to detect suspicious directional movement, stealing can also be detected, such as reaching over a counter top, or a gaming table to steal chips. However, “there are plenty of other technologies used to track individual items, i.e., RFID tags, or those that provide perimeter security at the exit of stores using tagging systems. However, video analytics can provide a backup to these systems in real-time and forensically,” notes Bill Flind, CEO of Ipsotek. According to Mishkin, VCA can detect theft as long as there is enough video coverage with great resolution for prosecution needs.
Loitering is quite frequently a precursor to crime, so suspicious persons hanging around a site, particularly a known trouble spot will be identified, and the operator's attention drawn to the situation. Features such as after-hours human presence detection and dwell filters can support security staff to protect the casino at night. “When monitoring the entrance hall, every time an object appears in the predefined zone, an alarm is triggered,” explained Hermanns, “dwell filters can detect people who loiter over a suspicious time within a zone. For example, someone behind a gambling table without joining in, or in the casino shop without purchasing something.”
With features such as tailgating detection, it can detect if an individual or vehicle follows the person or vehicle in front too closely to gain access to controlled entrances or barriers. Similarly, virtual tripwire or sterile zone monitoring is used in applications for detecting intruders in high security or safety sensitive areas. This attribute is especially helpful to detect critical areas like the strong room, said Hermanns. “If someone enters the room, and within a predefined time zone a second person enters the room, an alarm is triggered.” As casinos should be cautious of insider and outsider jobs, “cash rooms and back office video coverage can identify internal and external issues,” said Mishkin.
In the casino, gamers and dishonest employees continue to search for new methods to cheat the house. VCA can effectively detect cheats and other kinds of tampered activities, such as insertion of electronic devices into slot machines to rig the game.
It is important to note that some situations provide no substitute for the trained eye of an expert security operator, such as the swift movement of hand mucking. That being said, more routine behaviors, such as breaking in to a sensitive perimeter or loitering in a car park can be easily detected. It is in these scenarios where VCA can prove to be most effective, providing surveillance 24 hours a day.
In a venue constantly full of people that serves free or low-cost alcohol, accidents are bound to happen in casinos. VCA can provide real-time alerts to security when they detect someone has fallen, and can document the incident to refer to later for slip-andfall liability mitigation. “Most companies use intelligent video solutions for security applications, such as theft or vandalism. However, we are seeing a growing number of companies using intelligent video solutions for safety purposes. A good example is workers' compensation issues that arise when employees get injured on the job. This also applies to casinos when a customer or employee may get injured,” says Mishkin. Similarly, Flind also believes health and safety monitoring and enforcement are important to prevent accidents for both staff and customers.
“Video analytics can provide a good platform for identifying a multitude of issues, for example, blocked fire exits, smoke detection, or concentration of a crowd using heat mapping technology. Evidence from these kinds of alerts can help to prevent accidents and provide video footage to establish the cause of the violation.”
Traditionally, VCA was designed and used for security purposes only. However, the role of VCA has evolved to also help businesses improve customer service. According to Daniel Wan, UK Channel Marketing Manager of Honeywell Security, “VCA can provide an alternative view and identify potential opportunities rather than threats. In a store, loitering could be a sign of a potential crime, however it could also be a sign of something else: indecision. This kind of insight could prove invaluable to the floor manager who can then deploy a sales assistant to assist the customer. Casinos can use this intelligence in much the same way ensuring customers are looked after.”
“These modern systems can also help managers improve customer service levels. Nothing is more off putting to a potential customer than a long queue. Again, video solutions normally applied for security purposes can provide a store manager with a way of tracking the buildup of queues and alerting the relevant staff accordingly in order to ensure customers are seen to in a timely fashion. In larger venues with limited on-floor staff, this can be particularly important as it is easy for some customers to be overlooked,” said Wan.
Business data generated can improve customer service as well as measure the return on dollars spent on various promotion, merchandising and marketing activities. Frank Sheu, President of hiQview explained that VCA can support casinos to decide their marketing strategies based on customers' gender and age. People counting can monitor queue length and wait time in gaming and retail services, if a certain threshold is crossed, additional staff will be allocated to quicken the process. According to Mishkin, VCA can also analyze traffic paths and high density areas to pinpoint premium positioning within the facility and the most appropriate locations for promotional campaigns. Hermanns also observed that “counting people at entrances or exits, or in specific areas makes it possible to optimize staff planning by matching numbers of staff with numbers of gamblers, analyze which tables or machines are preferred or less used, and evaluate marketing campaigns.”
Integration brings extra benefits in management
VCA can also be used to analyze and detect unusual events by integrating with other technologies. According to Mishkin, “intelligent video solutions incorporate many internal and external technologies, which can be comprised of physical sensors, such as access control and video analytics, to assist with the detection and forensic process of a casino. For example, a door forced alarm is received and a camera can be positioned to the door to record the activity or the video can be bookmarked and viewed at a later time.” According to Flind, “there is a huge potential to utilize information gathered through a variety of systems. Platforms such as PSIM or incident management systems breakdown the traditional view of information held in silos. Using intelligent video solutions to augment existing systems enriches data leading to greater situational understanding, statistical evidence, and trigger actions in corresponding technologies.” Integrated with other systems, VCA's capabilities enables users to transform solutions into intelligent tools that respond to the practical challenges faced in the casino. By integrating incident management software with the functions of VCA, the security department of casinos can receive the latest information of incidents and arrange the security staff to handle the incidents immediately.
Let there be (stable) light
In a casion setting, unstable lighting conditions can be a major problem that can lead to false alarms. Features like IR illuminators with an illumination distance up to 20 meters or digital wide range dynamics for optimal backlight compensation can help with this issue, explained Hermanns. “Furthermore, the integrated video helps to deal with difficult light conditions. A self-learning algorithm automatically adapts to environmental changes ignoring light changes due to artificial light or repetitive movements, e.g., from gambling machines. Moreover, video analytics adjusts to image degradation e.g., caused by blinding effects,” she added.
Don`t tamper with VCA
One of the most important aspects of VCA is capable of protecting itself from being altered without authorization. ”The intelligent video solution includes tamper protection, so that moving, bagging, and defocusing of the camera are detected, and an alarm is triggered in the event of it,” explained Hermanns. Without this feature, all aspects of the solution would be deemed worthless if surveillance could be simply removed.
Is it all just a hype?
Talk of intelligent video solutions have been going around for years, and rumors about how futuristic it is have left end users disappointed. The hype has led people to believe VCA can detect crime before it has actually taken place, and unfortunately, that is one of the things video analytics cannot do.
Video analytics are essentially based on algorithms that have simple mathematical rules and simple measurements of color, size, and shape for decision making. Users configure VCA to supervise an area, program what to monitor and what to ignore. Analytics cannot tell the difference between a car and a person as the human brain does, we understand what we are seeing due to our common sense. VCA on the other hand, view the pixels it captures and recognizes a human based on their moving limbs, whereas a car would have a constant silhouette. In that sense, intelligent video is not smarter than a human. However, VCA when set up correctly, can be more accurate and efficient than humans when identifying specific behaviors, such as stealing over a counter, as VCA does not take breaks or get sore eyes.
That being said, video analytics is not for every industry. It is essential to realize what issues or threats an industry is facing before deciding on a security solution. For instance, VCA would not be appropriate for people counting in places that are too crowded, as the technology would have difficulty categorizing pixels into individual humans due to constant overlapping — for example, train stations at rush hour.
What it all comes down to
Surveillance has come a long way since the days of video motion detection. VCA may still be taking baby steps easing into the gaming industry, but in situations that rely immensely on video analytics, such as loitering and theft, they create great benefits by saving human resources. For gaming industries, VCA is a helpful tool for various applications; however, at this moment the inability to be detailed enough to capture a professional cheater's sleight of hand may be a limitation for companies who plan to solely use VCA as their only security solution. We hope in the future VCA can be sophisticated enough to analyze detailed human behavior with minimum false positives.