These days, casinos are inconceivable without video security technology. Great advances have been made from the first, simple recorder to the IP-based video information systems of today. And Dallmeier has played a decisive part in determining the course of that journey. Konrad Hechtbauer, Director Project & Application Development at Dallmeier, talks about current technology trends and developments in casinos.
Mr Hechtbauer, just a few years ago, the industry was switching from analogue to digital technology. Dallmeier was a driving force in this trend…
Exactly 20 years ago, Dallmeier developed the world’s first video sensor with a digital image memory – and so heralded the age of digital recording for the entire video security industry. And in the casinos – where higher standards are demanded in terms of image quality and reliability than in other branches of industry – this technology gained widespread acceptance very quickly.
A few years later, Dallmeier again assumed the role of pioneer and introduced the first digital crossbar. This means that both camera control and image transfer and recording are handled in a virtual matrix. We implemented this system for the first time at the Sands Macau, and in the process set a worldwide standard. Unlike an analogue crossbar, the virtual matrix offers considerably higher flexibility and scalability. The cascading potential of the system is unlimited, which means that the system can also be expanded or connected to other systems at will at a later point in time. This was a great advantage at the Sands Macau because the casino was expanded just one year after it was opened, and thanks to the forward-looking system design the video equipment could be extended to keep pace with it. These days, we are talking about a complex of several casinos in this group, with something like 15,000 cameras. This would be impossible with analogue technology!
How has the casino business line developed since then?
The next important step was interface technology, which means linking the video system to third party systems. This makes it possible, for example, to link the data from access control, gaming table systems, or even the cash registers and the food and beverage to the video images via our management system. This has created a whole range of new application possibilities for video technology, extending far beyond the classic surveillance tasks, such as investigating thefts or cheating at the gaming tables and slot machines. The video system has now evolved into a true information system and helps in coordinating entire business workflows and optimising processes. The video recordings can even be used efficiently for gathering statistical data or for marketing purposes, for example, if a question arises about where which gaming table should be located, or how effective certain advertising campaigns were. In this context, we use the term “dataveillance”.
With interface technology too, Dallmeier was a leading light: At that time, we installed the world’s first and largest 100% IP-based video system in the City of Dreams. This included many integrations with other systems, which had never been done on this scale before.
There is no question of easing up the pace, is there?
Innovative ideas and technologies are constantly injecting new life into the security technology market. These days, for example, increased efforts are being directed to improving image quality yet further, and this is made possible with high definition and even higher resolutions. This in turn means that the opportunity to exploit an even greater potential for video surveillance is emerging – in this regard, I’m talking particularly about intelligent video analysis and assistance systems.
What exactly do you mean by video analysis and assistance systems?
The days when a security operator had to look at monitors for hours in a row, hoping to spot something conspicuous, have long gone. Besides, the vast amount of information the operator is bombarded with would make it impossible to watch the images with the necessary attentiveness. Now with the better image quality, video analysis can be used much more effectively and efficiently. So we have developed assistance systems that relieve the operator of the “legwork”, so to speak, they select and direct the operator’s attention specifically to certain events. Or they perform certain actions entirely automatically.
Have the requirements of the casinos actually changed over the years?
Yes, certainly. Precisely the topics of security and redundancy are becoming more and more important. The watchword here is highest availability. Particularly in the casino industry, video surveillance is so important that essentially no allowances can be made for the video system to go offline or fail. At the same time, the system should be as easy as possible to handle.
“Cloud computing” is an oft-quoted term in this context. Although in practice we have often seen that the existing IT systems were so complex that they were really barely manageable any more. Besides, it is not really possible to trace exactly where in the cloud the video data has been stored… For some branches of industry, this may be an advantageous technology. But for casino systems, the transparency and security of their data, in other words total availability, have the highest priority, so this technology is probably not the most suitable for them.
So we have adapted our system design to the customers’ requirements, and we attach great importance to designing systems that are as secure as possible, but at the same time operate as simply as possible. These days, the design and planning of the network structure are essential for a good video system – we always work very closely with our customers on this aspect, to adapt and plan the video system according to their individual wishes.
Dallmeier is very comfortable with its pioneering role… What does the future have in store? I have just recently learned about a new, patented camera technology. Can you tell me more about that?
This is a multifocal sensor system called Panomera. While other market players are engaged in a grim struggle to deliver more and more megapixels, Dallmeier presents an entirely new approach: with the Panomera multifocal sensor system we unveil a completely new camera technology. Unlike conventional HD and megapixel cameras, which only have one lens, Panomera functions with multiple lenses, each of which has a different focal length. With this novel sensor concept, surveillance can be ensured even for extremely large areas with just a single Panomera system – including permanent recording of the entire image and at the highest possible resolution even at great distances! This is just one of the advantages of this completely new approach. The multifocal sensor technology has already been implemented with great success in many other branches of industry, such as stadiums or airports. This technology has enormous potential for casinos as well – we are currently working to tune Panomera to the special needs of the casino environment.
What other trends can we expect to see in the future?
The technological advances of the last few years have brought many advantages in terms of image quality and failure-proof performance of the systems. Development cycles for new technologies are becoming shorter and shorter, investment security has become an important point. Owing to the open system architecture of the Dallmeier solutions the video system remains flexible and scalable. Future expansions or modifications are easily possible, even hybrid operation with devices from different generations presents no problems.
The experience of recent years has shown: CCTV/IP solutions must be flexible and open to accommodate changes and expansions so that they can offer long-term investment protection for the future.