The Melbourne
Cricket Ground, known to fans as simply ‘The G’, is Australia’s largest and
most iconic sporting venue. With a history dating back to 1853, the Melbourne
Cricket Ground holds the record for the largest ever attendance at a baseball
match and it held a staggering ground record of 121,000 patrons for the AFL
football final in 1970.

On game days
upwards of 100,000 fans as well as thousands of catering and hospitality staff,
hundreds of security officers, police, medical teams, and media crews, as well
as sports teams and match officials, flood the site. Physically this is a huge
venue, with multiple levels above and below ground and not surprisingly, given
its age, significant legacy infrastructure.

In a threatening
global security environment, iconic public sites like the Melbourne Cricket
Ground need special protection. After a site survey it was found that the
existing access control system not only needed to be replaced, but taking the
new threat level into account, access control needed to be significantly
expanded to protect equipment and infrastructure across the site.

In addition, a
management solution was required that could weave the existing surveillance
gear together with the new access control system, as well as other electronic
security and building management solutions. Complicating matters was the fact
the MCG is in a process of long term upgrade. This meant that whatever solution
was implemented, it had to be scalable and completely future proof.

After taking on
the role 3 years ago, MCG Security  manager,
Andy Frances, quickly realised the key to the MCG’s electronic security future
would be an open architecture networked solution. But he saw that successful
implementation of such a system would not only require choosing the right
hardware and software. It would also mean close co-operation with the MCG’s IT
department, and the selection of an integrator capable of working in a
networked environment.

“We made the
decision early on that despite the fact IT and security departments
traditionally don’t work well together, at the MCG the IT department was going
to be a key player in our upgrade project,” says Frances.

“Every version of
every major product we have used here has almost been a beta or has been the
first of its kind in Australia. We have put ourselves out there a little with
the product and the decision has paid off”

A key challenge
for Frances was that before he arrived the site had never had a security
manager. This had led to piecemeal development – the MCG’s electronic security
and building management systems were incompatible with each other and the
multiple layers of cabling infrastructure that sprawled across the site were a
complete unknown.

Frances knew that
to reduce costs this legacy cabling had to be mapped and then incorporated into
the new system wherever possible – no easy feat. Adding to the difficulties for
Frances and the installation team was the fact the MCG is more than a weekend sports
ground. The MCG is a full-blown functions and convention centre and it
incorporates a museum and administrative offices. With functions and
conferences taking place most days of the week, the system could not simply be
turned off for upgrade.

The constant
operation amplified the challenges and importance of the cutover, the moment
when the old system would be retired and the new system powered up. Not
surprisingly, the challenges also spilled over

into operations.
Frances knew that to drive the sort of massive integrated solution a site as
large as the MCG needs, he would need a powerful graphical user interface
incorporating mapping – that meant all the hardware employed across the site
had to be built for a networked environment.

As if all this
wasn’t enough to worry about, the start gun banged early on the project when a
catastrophic failure of the existing access control system saw total loss of door
control at the MCG. Frances needed a perfect IP access control solution and perfect
security management software – fast.

The networked
path

According to
Frances, integrating the entire system in a networked environment was the key
at the MCG and he says although the timeline for installation was intensely pressured,
it was clear what the new system had to be from the start and a networked
direction had been chosen to allow a higher level of integration and to
eliminate reliance on proprietary solutions.

Frances explains
that in terms of what he wanted to achieve at The G, the main goals were to
upgrade the access control system including door controllers and door hardware
and to look at software management programs for controlling access control,
CCTV and alarms.

“The more I
thought about it in the lead up to the installation, the more I realised that
we had a lot of proprietary equipment here including an access control system
that wasn’t doing what it should have been doing,” Frances says.

“As security manager
I don’t see any sense in a system where I have got to use a particular brand of
camera or a particular access control reader,” Frances explains. “If another
supplier releases a device that is the best on the market then we should be
able to use it.

“Given the
current state of technology the first thing we had to look at was security infrastructure,”
Frances explains. “I saw the key to the site was going to be a future proof
network infrastructure supporting video surveillance, access control and alarm
monitoring, integrated by a powerful software management solution.

“That overall
management solution was important because for our critical infrastructure areas
we wanted a system that would allow us to know if a door was forced and to have
some auditing capability,” says Frances.

“This included
those infrastructure areas that needed access controlled doors, as well as
offices and areas that needed restricted access.”

According to
Frances, the MCG has a very good IT Department and it was obvious to him the
best solution was to utilise IT in the transition and maintenance of a
networked solution.

“As the system
stands at present, all the network and storage components and infrastructure
are being managed by the IT department,” Frances explains.

“Obviously the IT
involvement had challenges in the early stages because one of the things the IT
factor did influence was the cost. Our IT department insists on reliable IBM
and Cisco equipment,” says Frances.

“That meant the
cost on the network side blew out dramatically.”

Frances says that
a key to understanding the current upgrade at the MCG is that it’s an evolving
project.

“As we get more
functions from the system, we realise there’s other things that we could
probably utilize. For example, we have seen that the access control product can
actually replace our existing ID software and also the Visitor Management
System. A networked solution allows us this evolutionary flexibility.”

The system now installed
at the MCG is a networked solution that needs to be seen from the point of view
of the infrastructure that supports it. In a very real sense, the heart of the
MCG’s electronic security capability is network infrastructure.

The solution is
built around segregated LANs, with one LAN for the MCG corporate network and
one for the security network (managed as one). The network components are
comprised of Cisco switches and routers, Cisco servers and IBM storage,
supporting HID IP hardware and the Genetec unified security platform. Another
key element is the security department’s dedicated fibre ring encircling the
ground. Frances says it is an expensive but vital part of the solution.

All parts of the
new system have been selected on the basis of their ability to support open
architecture. The network components include off-the-shelf hardware and
firmware installed in IT rooms and supported by the IT department. This part of
the system includes switchers and the system’s recording solution.

While there’s a
standard NOS overlay on the network, the management solution at the MCG is the
Genetec SecurityCenter, which employs the SecurityDesk as an interface to control
the Omnicast IP video surveillance system, the Synergis IP access control system
to handle HID’s VertX IP access controllers, and the AutoVu IP license plate
recognition system.

The beauty of
using Genetec SecurityCenter from the MCG’s perspective is that it allows a
unified Security Interface on authorised workstations on a security subnet that’s
endlessly scalable, as well as supporting advanced reporting capabilities and
centralised alarm management.

At present the
MCG has a combination of video surveillance devices, including IP cameras with
direct links and high end analog cameras linked to the network via encoders.
According to Frances, the video surveillance component of the system remains a
work in progress, the important element being that the Genetec management
system allows any camera to be linked to the system.

The MCG’s VertX solution

The access
control side is the major part of the new installation at the MCG, with Genetec’s
Synergis IP Access Control System capable of supporting the VertX IP access
control panels. VertX is a powerful modular solution designed to carry access
control solutions into an IP environment. According to Frances, as the decision
solidified and VertX came to the fore, a catastrophic failure of the existing access
control system took control of the process.

“While we were calmly
assessing product we had a failure of the access control system we couldn’t
recover from,” Frances explains. “Fortunately we had already talked to Jordan Cullis
at HID about the VertX IP access control solution.

“What we liked
about VertX was the fact that along with its excellent functionality, HID would
provide the specs of that product to any software manufacturer. This satisfied
our IT team because it was non-proprietary.

“The failure of
the old access system meant that in some ways we started the installation
backwards. Usually you pick a management system and add hardware but we chose
VertX and then looked for a management system that would support it. This was
tough for everyone but there was nothing else we could do,” Frances explains.

“In the days
after the failure we had HID VertX door controllers being thrown on to handle
an initial installation of 115 doors and we were integrating this to a demo
version of Genetec Synergis that we had installed in our control room for leisurely
evaluation purposes!”

From a supplier’s
perspective, Cullis says the installation at the MCG was a long term access
control opportunity that happened suddenly.

“We knew there
was a long term access control opportunity at the MCG,” Cullis explains. “We’d
been talking to the MCG about the VertX product in the lead up to this
installation – and then suddenly I got a phone call from the integrator to say
the installation was happening – and VertX was being installed.

“I said: “We
haven’t quoted!”; but it was a case of doors aren’t opening at the MCG, let’s
go,” he says. “From the time of that phone call it took just 3 days for the
integrator to get our hardware on the wall and to have doors operational again
and you can imagine there was parts supply to consider as well. It was a busy
moment.”

From an access
control perspective, the MCG is using combination of HID’s VertX V100 (2-door
controllers), V200 (16-input digital input devices) and V300 (12 output wet or
dry output devices) are linked across RS-485 to V1000 controller units and
carried onto the network for management via Genetec’s Synergis access
management solution.

No account of the
MCG’s access control solution is complete without recognition of the power and
capability of HID’s V1000 Network Controller. This robust and highly
intelligent Linux-based unit is really the hero of HID’s VertX solution. With
its RISC processing the V1000 pulls system smarts all the way down to remote
network closets giving multiple benefits.

The V1000 reduces
the number of dedicated ports the access control system needs and buffers
events when the network is down. And the V1000 can receive and action commands
from third party control software and is also able to activate a digital
dialler or GSM modem in the event of longer network failure.

The MCG’s need
for open architecture and the proprietary nature of virtually all other access
control systems meant HID’s VertX solution built on HID’s OPIN application
programming interface was the perfect solution for this application.

OPIN enables
HID’s Edge access control devices to operate seamlessly with any management
software and in almost any conceivable configuration. The perfect suitability
of VertX meant that unusually, it was the first component of the new access
control solution selected.

According to
HID’s Jordan Cullis, OPIN is a label that HID has given to the open software framework
embedded in the VertX controllers.

“The idea behind
that is that we won’t write any software for that product. Instead what we do
is provide an open platform SDK and API for anybody to develop to. Basically software
developers can take the OPIN product and integrate it to anything they like,”
Cullis explains.

“There are a
number of standalone third party software vendors who have also written
software specifically for VertX products – essentially they have become complete
solution providers for this product. It’s really a free-for-all,” Cullis says.

“HID built a nice
bit of kit and we then provide that kit to whoever needs it so they can complete
a solution.”

Frances says this
flexibility as well as the operational functionality of VertX were an important
part of the decision making process.

“When looking at
HID VertX there are some key elements that are important. If the system goes
offline, it has a cache and when the network is available, VertX downloads all
interim events – that was an important thing for us,” Frances says.

“While we wanted
a fully networked system, we didn’t want to lose any data if the network was
offline. We also wanted to retain functionality – we wanted to have the doors
operate as they normally would under all circumstances.”

“From the time of
that phone call it took just 3 days for the integrator to get our hardware on
the wall and to have doors operational again and you can imagine there was
parts supply to consider as well. It was a busy moment”

Importantly,
VertX’s OPIN architecture allowed the use of non proprietary management software
– this was a major issue for Andy Frances. Better still, VertX’s hybrid nature
meant virtually all the site’s existing RS-485 cable could be retained. This
saved a huge amount of money given the challenges of re-cabling a site so large
and heavily constructed.

And in terms of
the challenging physical aspects of the solution, Cullis says Dean Monaghan’s
Integrators Australia, the team that installed the system, is a vital part of
the MCG’s networked access control story.

“Integrators
Australia is a very different integrator – they are not interested in keying
cards and readers and installing a system only they can service. They are consistent
– and stick to this way of working.

“As a result, the
MCG is not bound to any of the vendors involved in this project. There’s
nothing proprietary – you can use any control software or any hardware – this
means we all have to be on our toes and provide the best product and support
possible.”

The MCG’s Genetec
solution

Frances says that
once the HID VertX V100 Door Controllers and V1000 Network Controllers were
selected, it then became a matter of finding a management system that was
capable of offering the same degree of openness, flexibility and scalability as
the VertX equipment.

The system chosen
to drive the VertX controllers was Genetec’s Synergis IP access control
management software. The beauty of Genetec’s management system is its ability
to network multiple systems into a single seamless entity and to simplify
operation of multiple systems making the task of operators simpler.

According to Frances,
Genetec’s system was capable of handling the job out of the box – this meant he
would not be depending on promises that might not be delivered once the deal
was done.

“While the
initial Genetec integration was thrown on us because of the critical failure of
the whole system, it worked out extremely well because eventually after
assessing the product available, we chose the Genetec solutions anyway and in
the meantime our team had some invaluable experience working with the software.
So it was pretty easy transition for them in the end.

At Genetec’s
Australian distributor OPS, Kobi Ben-Shabat says that while the decision on
hardware and software went backwards from the hardware to the software – the
flexibility of the hardware and software selected ensured the system worked.

“Having picked
VertX as the field controller the MCG then looked around at the top software
management solutions, including Genetec, which they trialled for 3 or 4 months.
Throughout that process they evaluated other software as well, not on site,
obviously, and they then made a decision that Genetec was most suitable for the
application.”

According to
Ben-Shabat, the Genetec unified security platform installed at the MCG is
called the Security Centre and the version being used is Version 3. The
Security Center unifies Genetec’s Synergis access control and Omnicast video
surveillance within a single user interface.

“In terms of the
network layout at the MCG, within 12 months it’s going to be single GUI for
access and video alarm inclusion at the MCG with a single administrator,” says
Ben Shabat. “From a server perspective there will then be one server for
recording cameras, one server for managing access control, storage servers for
both access control and surveillance, and the field controllers.

“In the control
room there will be a simple GUI for the operator that will manage alarms and
events, in fact any input from any integrated system, including intruder alarms
and possibly VoIP integrated into the access control.”

According to
Ben-Shabat, the nature of the MCG’s networked security solution is a vision of
what people want from their security solutions today. 

“If you at what end
user’s want today, it’s a single GUI for the whole system,” Ben-Shabat
explains. “Nobody wants to jump from one GUI to another, so people are doing
integration. Of course, the problem with integration is that if we rely on two
different companies with two different software systems, with two different
upgrade path, different capabilities, things get too complicated.

“So as much as
the integration might be solid in a split system, disparate systems are never
going to be as good as a unified solution coming from the same vendor. That’s
the advantage of Genetec.”

Overall functionality

In terms of the
functionality of the new integrated system being managed by Genetec’s Security
Center software, Frances says that instead of juggling multiple systems there
is now one software program with a graphic interface of the entire site. In the
old days things were challenging to say the least.

“With the old
system there were separate access and surveillance workstations and we had 2 or
3 computers with the ability to connect to certain DVRs here in the security
control room. Complicating things further with the old system, the security
control room was the emergency management centre in event of failure in the
game day control room but we had no way to cut control of the PTZs down here,”
Frances says.

“This is what security
staff where dealing with before this upgrade. It was just terrible.”

Using Security
Center has resolved all these issues. The Genetec system doesn’t just allow
multiple authorised workstations to function on the security subnet, it also has
powerful functionality that allows operators to drill through layers of
security and building control.

“Security Center
allows you to bring up of a function room by clicking on the room’s icon and
then lets you control the lighting, control the smoke detectors, control the
temperature, control the access control points – doors open and close. You can
check on the camera – hit an icon and then bring up the vision from that room and
do it all on one software package,” he explains.

“It makes
management far easier and far simpler. Operational simplicity with an
integrated solution is a major thing,” Frances insists. “When we looked at some
software programs we could see while it was possible to build all the features
in the world into them but they were going to be too difficult to use.

“When you think
about operation of a security management system it’s a security officer sitting
there in the control room, not a software integrator or a computer engineer.”

“What this means
is that if the system is too hard to use in the real world, in terms of linking
CCTV views to alarm or access points or integrating other management inputs with
images, then the security officers are not going to use them,” he explains.

“But the Genetec solution
we are using is intuitive, our security officers are very comfortable with it.
It’s a Windows-based environment they are working in which they’re used to and
they pick up all the features of the software very quickly.”

According to
Frances, another of the attractions the MCG felt towards the Genetec product
suite was the company’s fast reactions to the specific needs of the MCG team.

“We have some
longer-term visions for the Genetic software that ultimately will allow a
security officer to handle 3 or 4 building management systems – including lighting
and fire control systems,” Frances says.

“This is fairly
advanced integration and you’d expect suppliers to baulk at it but during the
open discussions we had with Genetec, their preparedness to listen to what we
had to say and the fact we then saw things we’d asked for being incorporated
into later releases of Genetec software – that was a big bonus for us as an end
user.”

The installation

While the network
side of the system is handled by the MCG’s inhouse IT people, the field
controllers and the cable plant were handled by Integrators Australia, a
company with a history of installing IP solutions.

According to the company’s
hands-on CEO Dean Monaghan, a key driver of the physical installation from
Integrator’s Australia’s point of view was the fact VertX is so flexible in
terms of its networking capability – he says this flexibility made the job far
easier.

“It’s IP to the
Vertx door controllers and then mix and match from there,” says Monaghan. “This
flexibility allowed us to retain most of the legacy cabling.”

Monaghan says perhaps
the greatest strength of the V1000 from an installer’s perspective is its
modest footprint when its powerful performance is taken into account.

“In standard form
a V1000 can do 44,000 cardholders as well as controlling up to 32 doors and
monitoring 32 input devices – we have a couple of thousand cards to manage at
the MCG,” he says. “The V1000 also provides the distributed control
architecture for the system and gives the overall system its ability to receive
and process commands in real time from third party management software.

“If you look at
the capacity of the VertX system versus its physical size, VertX installations
are always going to be more compact than their competitors and that means less
time consuming expansion, less additional power supplies and fewer enclosures,”
Monaghan says. “For an installer, that counts.”

“The more I
thought about it in the lead up to the installation, the more I realised that
we had a lot of proprietary equipment here including an access control system
that wasn’t doing what it should have been doing”

The way the MCG system
works is that VertX communications can be completely IP, or RS-585, 422 or 232,
or any combination of these. This is a vital capability. What it meant was that
the MCG could have a fully networked and scalable IP-based access control
solution that was also capable of leveraging the site’s legacy cable plant.

The way the
system works at the MCG is that the V100 Door Controllers are linked to V1000
Network Controllers across RS-485 and these V1000 Network Controllers then
connect to the network over Cat-5 which is ported to a switch on a dedicated
security LAN with the control workstation located in The MCG’s security
monitoring centre.

In practise, the
MCG’s IT department provided IP links to the network closets where HID VertX
V1000 units were installed and Integrators Australia connected remote V100 door
controllers to the V1000s using existing RS-485 cables.

While the
fundamentals of the installation were very simple thanks to the modularity of
VertX, the implementation of the new access control system at the MCG was not
without serious practical challenges.

According to Monaghan,
the actual installation of the system itself was relatively simple – once the
tedious, intuitive and time consuming task of creating a map of the access
control system’s legacy cable plant was completed.

“Once we had
tagged each end of the existing cables it was easy to wire in the new readers
and the electric strikes at the door and connect V100s to V1000 Network
Controllers in central network closets around the site,” he says.

“Thanks to the
hybrid capability of VertX we were able to retain almost all the legacy
cabling, which was just what the customer wanted.”

What’s
fascinating about this installation is the fact that there was really only one
installer handling the entire job and that installer was Ernie Ricci. The
system in large measure is a testament to his professionalism and Monaghan and
Frances both acknowledge that in a fundamental way, this is Ernie’s system.

Given his intimate
understanding of the physical solution, Ricci’s perspective is unique and he
has no doubt whatever about where the greatest challenge lay.

“The hardest
thing about this installation was the legacy cabling because no one knew where
it went back to and it had to be mapped before the rest of the system was
installed,” Ricci says.  

“You can imagine
what this was like on a site the size of the MCG. The long cable runs were well
over a hundred metres – and the work was manual. I had to disconnect the old
door controllers, walk back to the doors and manually check just to see what
readers weren’t working so I could establish which controllers were controlling
which readers.”

Ricci says there
were subtle variables that made the work harder.

“I initially thought
most the doors in an area would go through a single riser but it didn’t work
that way at the MCG,” he explains. “Doors came back to central locations using
unexpected adjacent risers – this caught me out because it meant when I
disconnected doors at the controller, random operational readers outside the
local area would be disconnected.

“As I was working
solo all this took months – I’d say about 85-90 cent of the work here I have
done on my own,” he says. “While it’s been challenging, the work has been
rewarding. Now everything is documented and the system is set up with all doors
connected to a single controller in the same riser exactly as it should be. It’s
a great achievement.”

According to Ricci,
who has experience installing most the major panel brands, VertX is one of the
easiest panels to install.

“It’s certainly the
access control panel I’ve come into contact with from an installer’s
perspective. It’s a more modern design – everything is labelled properly so you
know what’s what and you’ve got terminals that you can pull out as well making
terminations simpler.”

Conclusion

Frances has no
doubt that he has made the right decision going with a fully networked solution
at the MCG.

“I think the networked
model works very well and there’s no question this is the way most security
managers on large sites should be heading,” Frances says. “Too many security
managers get themselves tied to large integrators with ongoing management
contracts that are so expensive you are terrified to ring the integrator for
fear of the massive bill at the end of it.

“The way things
are now I can call up the integrator and discuss changes and improvements and talk
about ways to keep things within budget. We always seem to be able to come up
with a solution that works for everybody.

“If there’s a
location where a low cost camera works well and I can save money for other
things, then I can buy that. If Bosch releases a new high end camera for
external environments then I can buy a hundred of those. It’s the same with access
control readers, or management software, I can upgrade and know I have the best
possible system at any given moment,” Frances enthuses.

“It’s hard not to
be passionate about this business – if a supplier tries to rip my site off I
take it personally. And these guys don’t do that. There’s transparency there.
Integrators Australia has one of the most transparent models I’ve ever come
across in any business.

“They’ve even refused
a service agreement with us,” Frances say. “The thinking from Integrators
Australia is that if they are not the best choice on a given day, why should
the end user be tied to them? It’s a refreshing attitude and it’s made possible
with an open networked solution.

“Working with HID
has been very good for most the same reasons – Jordan understood where we were
at and what we wanted. HID was able to come to the party very quickly with a
system designed with this sort of solution in mind. I can pick up the phone and
speak to Jordan and get things resolved. It’s exactly the same with Kobi at OPS
for the discussions about the Genetec portion of the project – that was one of
the keys for us with this installation – the excellent relationship with our
suppliers.

“In terms of the
system what we are doing here is unique,” says Frances. “We haven’t seen any
other solution that integrates surveillance and access control devices so
tightly. Every version of every major product we have used here has almost been
a beta or has been the first of its kind in Australia. We have put ourselves
out there a little with the product and the decision has paid off.”

“If you look at
the capacity of the VertX system versus its physical size, VertX installations
are always going to be more compact than their competitors and that means less
time consuming expansion, less additional power supplies and fewer enclosures.
For an installer, that counts”