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Equip casinos with better eyes on the floor

Equip casinos with better eyes on the floor
Casino operators will not change their entire systems simply to implement HD capability. Hybrid video solutions are the logical path to provide a phased migration from SD to HD systems. The key to any upgrade/migration starts with careful planning for the design. “If not done properly with a plan in place, you can run into quite a few problems,” said Douglas Florence, Business Development Director for Global Gaming, Avigilon.

Casino operators will not change their entire systems simply to implement HD capability. Hybrid video solutions are the logical path to provide a phased migration from SD to HD systems. The key to any upgrade/migration starts with careful planning for the design. “If not done properly with a plan in place, you can run into quite a few problems,” said Douglas Florence, Business Development Director for Global Gaming, Avigilon.

One of the main challenges in casino gaming environments remains to be the HD PTZ control latency issue. “The expectation continues to be that digital should be superior to analog and therefore, increasing latency for HD PTZ seems to be a backward step,” said Scott Paul, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Pelco by Schneider Electric. “The number one request is ‘analog-like' latency for PTZ control with HD PTZ control. I would not actually call this an ‘outrageous' request as it is quite expected to want fine responsive control for PTZ activity in a busy gaming environment, but understanding the technology behind HD video and how it is delivered to the user, it is easy to appreciate how this is not a simple hurdle that can be overcome overnight. Through operator training, adjusting the HD PTZ cameras to use the lowest latency codecs and correct network design, we have been able to get customer acceptance on this issue.”

Bit rate and recordings are challenges as well. “In most cases, if an HD camera is streaming at 20 to 50 Mbps, very few would have pockets deep enough to buy the storage required for these types of cameras,” added Scott Bartlett, CEO of Southwest Surveillance Systems.

Having an IP-based system that can integrate with an existing network goes a long way. Still, IP camera integration/compatibility with VMSs remains a key issue and challenge for the industry. “Most major camera and encoder manufacturers are now adopting ONVIF-compliant standards for IP device detection, transmission, telemetry and recording, which is making it much easier for integrators and end users to confidently deploy new IP cameras,” said John Katnic, VP of Global Gaming at Synectics. “Unfortunately, standards like ONVIF and PSIA are evolving and changing constantly and VMS and IP device manufacturers are often developing to different versions or only partially comply with the standards' specs. Moreover, the standards leave out some very important criteria that can cause a big disconnect with expectations. For example, how IP cameras and VMS are supposed to manage audio, alarms, a second or third recorded stream and onboard SD memory, are not clearly defined by ONVIF.”

Integration-Friendly
Fewer but better tested and documented changes/upgrades of the cameras would be helpful for system integrators as there are often new compatibility issues popping up in casinos. Also, it is rather imperative that the user and supplier agree on what exactly ‘integrated' means and precisely define what functions are expected before choosing a camera and VMS combination, according to Katnic. “And once settled on a particular camera and firmware version, avoid the temptation to roll out the newest bleeding edge software update without thoroughly testing the new firmware revisions with your existing VMS. Small firmware changes can cause big compatibility problems.”

Having a proprietary solution is not the best thing for casino owners. Hybrid solutions will be an unavoidable path to HD, and systems integrators will have to learn to be something more than just a re-seller of a manufacturer's equipment to be considered a true systems integrator. “The days of having proprietary casino solutions are soon to be gone and those left standing in the casino space will have the ability to integrate with each other.” Bartlett said.

Proceed with Eyes Wide Open
There is no doubt that the superiority of HD IP picture quality will charm and convince users to spend what it takes to achieve it. “It is important to remember that just because it's new IP technology, it doesn't mean it's better for every application or that it will do everything that your analog system did,” Katnic said. “At best, they're different technologies and users are likely to encounter both pros and cons. IP system will not necessarily be as resilient, fast or functional as the old matrix.”

Hybrid infrastructure, cameras and command and control interfaces should all be carefully planned and must be carried out with caution.



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