A NEWLY constructed,
state-of-the-art, 250 room high-rise tower, Northern Quest Resort & Casino,
rises steeply from Airway Heights, just outside Spokane in Washington State.
The Kalispel Tribe of Indians transformed a previously smaller casino here into
a 660,000 square foot regional luxury resort destination. The resort offers
something for everyone – from gamers to show patrons, from spa aficionados to
sports enthusiasts.

As you explore
the resort you find a casino with more than 2000 slot machines, 37 table games,
9 poker tables, and a Keno/Off-Track Betting Lounge. The property also includes
a massive pavilion which serves as a main event center/theatre with seating for
up to 1250 people. Parking for patrons with a valet service is located behind
the resort in a six-story parking structure with some 1480 parking spaces.

As part of the
rebuild, management decided to upgrade the access control solution and due to
the size and complexity of the site it was decided the best possible option
would be an IP-based solution employing PCSC controllers. These powerful PCSC controllers,
(which are distributed in Australia by Chase Security), are fault tolerant and specifically
designed to live on shared IP networks.

The access
control solution

Securing a
facility with 1700 employees is no easy task and the traffic of employees,
goods and services at Northern Quest, not to mention guests and casino
visitors, is enough to test any IT or security director. The facility’s size
and scope meant it was essential that a capable access control system be put in
place. The ideal system would be cost-effective and future proof in terms of
expansion and compatibility with future technologies.

There were
practical challenges, too. For a start the hotel is encased in majority
concrete and is devoid of a legacy low voltage security cable plant. Taking
this into account, an IP-based system was the logical choice.

Northern Quest
Resort & Casino’s Executive Director of IT, Aaron Fisher, in collaboration
with SAFE Installation Services Corp. as the project’s security integrators,
were tasked to design and complete the job.

“Everything is IP.
Whether it is a TV, point-of-sale, telephone, fax line, business center,
Internet – it all runs on our CAT-5 infrastructure”

Aaron Fisher, Northern
Quest Resort & Casino

What resulted was
a combination of innovative fault tolerant access control products, an IP savvy
integrator and an open-minded IT director which led to the installation of the
perfect access control solution. At the heart of
this installation is PCSC’s Fault Tolerant Controllers which are designed to
create a high level of reliability with its automated process of system
recovery for access control, alarm monitoring and output control systems.

The FT
Architecture (FTA) is the next evolution of building security management
designed with a Virtual Point Definition network, integrated peer-to-peer and
redundant communications. The FT system is designed to automatically recover
regardless of communication or controller failure.

Planning and
installation

As part of the
planning process PCSC, the access control systems manufacturer, conducted a
thorough review of the facility and its security installation. As this review
went on it became clear the nature of the access control solution should be
dictated by the decision of Northern Quest management to run all its system on
an IP backbone.

According to
Aaron Fisher, IT Director at Northern Quest Resort & Casino, the entire
facility is 100 per cent IP – including the electronic security solution.

“Everything is
IP,” explains Fisher. “Whether it is a TV, point-of-sale, telephone, fax line,
business center, Internet – it all runs on our CAT-5 infrastructure.”

The fact IP was
installed throughout the building made things easier for integrator, SAFE
Installation Services Corp.

“With IP
technology where it is today, we were able to easily partner with the IT
Department for a solution,” says president of SAFE Installation Corp, Adrian
Steik.

“Admittedly, in
the past the IT department has not been our ally in the access control market
with comments like: “Keep it off my network”, “don’t touch my network”,
“install your own network”, “I don’t have bandwidth you can use.”

“Previously, you
would sit in a meeting and IT wouldn’t necessarily be willing to work with
you,” Steik says. “But times are changing, and the technology is such that now
we all need the IT guy. Every one of our systems interfaces with the IP
infrastructure.

“We can’t have
boxes and cables in stand-alone systems anymore,” he explains. “You can’t hire
a tech department to work on your access control and CCTV system constantly –
nobody can afford that – so you turn to your IT experts. With our technology
capabilities now, IT is our friend. Not just that, IT has the budget and the
ability to make this all work.”

Fisher agrees.

“I made a
substantial investment in the infrastructure for things that we traditionally
use the network for: Points-of-sale, Internet access, and back of the house
computers,” he says.

“Adding the CCTV
and access control systems really just became a small port-count change. We did
not have to contend with the added costs of infrastructure because I already
had that in place. It was a real win-win scenario for us.”

According to
Steik, SAFE is not a large enough company to be able to accomplish an install
like this using a traditional analog method.

“The labor
relations on the building, being mainly a labor union project, would have
escalated Fisher’s costs to over four times what it was,” Steik says.

“Analog would
have meant conduit and cabling, as well as the additional time frame to
complete the project. What we managed to get done in a few months would have
taken us the entire construction cycle to do in the analog world of CCTV and
access control.

“We are 100 per
cent PoE at this facility, so it’s not just that we are IP here, it is that we
are IP without plugging anything into a receptacle,” Steik says.

“That was
important because the installation of an electrician’s receptacle, by the time
a receptacle is completely installed, is usually about a thousand dollars. This
is based upon our gross estimates after talking with the likes of Cochran
Electric and other union contractors.

“At another
project (Four Seasons Hotel and Residence in Seattle), we were told the same
thing – that every outlet basically costs a thousand dollars to install,” Steik
says. 

“At Northern
Quest Resort & Casino we have a PoE switch, but we were going to power 24
devices via that one switch. In the end, any other option would have cost us
much more than that.”

According to
Fisher from the construction side to the maintenance side, getting electricity where
you need it is a big task at Northern Quest.

“I was trying to
avoid an implementation that required an electrician at every door adding more
power, or any of those kinds of increases – it would have never happened,”
Fisher says. “Having all our devices PoE was a really easy fit. SAFE came in
and said ‘we can do that, just run an Ethernet cable here and you’re in.’
Nobody else is doing that.”

Fisher says an
outside contractor was used to install the cable plant for the access control
system.

“Cochran Low
Voltage was able to run the extra Ethernet cable for the installation; it was the
only thing that made it doable,” Fisher explains.

“If an
electrician had to install receptacles, it would not have worked – there was no
time. The resort would have needed to extend their schedule and delay their
opening. In the end it would simply not have worked.

“Analog would
have meant conduit and cabling, as well as the additional time frame to
complete the project. What we managed to get done in a few months would have
taken us the entire construction cycle to do in the analog world of CCTV and
access control”

Adrian Steik,
SAFE Installation Services Corp

“So having both
the ability to pull cable and the ability for us to power devices over Ethernet
was phenomenal,” he says. “Every single camera is powered over Ethernet, master
controllers are PoE, DDM’s (PCSC Dual Door Module) are PoE, and SDMs (PCSC
Single Door Module) are all PoE.

“Not only are
they all PoE devices, but they had enough power for a strike or our SII
Electrified Mortise Locksets.”

It’s not just the
ease of installation and the ‘fit’ of the solution that has pleased Fisher so
much – it’s also the system’s functionality and reliability.

“The new system
is working flawlessly, we have had no issues whatsoever,” he says. “We did have
(system unrelated) issues with some doors being so far out of alignment that
the door strikes did not align, but that was it.

“All the way down
the line, all the equipment is better and much more high tech. As for the
affordability of the equipment, when you look at the big picture you see the
affordability.”

“When you have
the pathways worked out and, you have a contract for five or six hundred drops
already in place,” explains Fisher. “Calling and saying, ‘I need to put in 50
or 100 cables’ is not a large task. By this I mean that having a cable guy pull
an additional three cables when he’s already pulling five in the same space was
not a large cost impact at all and, since the devices are PoE, you do not need
any power. It’s a no-brainer.”

According to PCSC’s
director of sales, Brian Lyle, the challenge from PCSC’s perspective was that
traditionally dealers such as SAFE would be talking security to the security
and surveillance teams.

“And every time
SAFE had to ask for an IP address, the guy from security and surveillance would
have to go talk to IT. So at that point it became a cost for IT to do the
work,” says Lyle.

“To get around
this challenge and to break into the IP marketplace we needed to push IP all
the way to the door – and that’s just what we did,” he explains.

“PCSC, in
conjunction with HID, offered a product that does just that. But we now have to
go through the process of changing our dealer’s attention and focus to include
working very closely with IT teams.

“A big issue is
that every time you install an IP address at a single door, there is a large cost
to maintain that one IP address and this coloured the IT manager’s reaction to
the security guy. Another reaction from the IT team has been, ‘I’m not going to
do something I can’t control’.

“That’s why our
typical system integrator would install Wiegand wire out to 10 or 12 doors (along
with lock power) then run it back into a single panel, then ask for 1 IP
address for that single panel,” explains Lyle.

According to
Lyle, PCSC has worked hard to change its philosophy to become network focused.

“Some of our
partners will embrace it; some are just not going to,” Lyle says.

Meanwhile, Fisher
agrees there have been issues between security and IT departments in the past.

“Traditionally
the IT department is going to say something like, ‘if we don’t control it, it’s
not going up on the network’,” he says. “This comes from a fundamental
philosophy that we are responsible for the network.

“Whenever you get
outside our comfort level, it is difficult. For guys like SAFE and PCSC to
succeed, I think understanding network infrastructure and speaking IT language
is vital to the success of working with IT professionals.”

“Admittedly I had
to sell some of my IT guys on this, too. But in the end it really just becomes
another device. We now support more systems, more devices”, says Fisher.

“Now the system
is installed it is like any other IT system. Our maintenance department has
qualified locksmiths but this electronic lock rides on our network. We both
have staff working around the clock and we can resolve an issue whether it is a
lock issue or an IP component issue,” he says.

“I believe all
departments and groups can see the benefits of working cooperatively with IT to
accomplish never-before-possible goals.”

Meanwhile, Lyle
says IP is the next generation of access control technology.

“As modern
facilities develop so should the access control technologies that serve them,”
Lyle says. “PCSC’s Fault Tolerant Architecture, as demonstrated by the success
of the Northern Quest Resort & Casino, a solution once only available to
large enterprise customers that it is now available and scalable for any
building.”

“To get around
this challenge and to break into the IP marketplace we needed to push IP all
the way to the door – and that’s just what we did. “PCSC, in conjunction with
HID, offered a product that does just that”

Brian Lyle, PCSC