MCG Installs Genetec, Axis
LAST time SE&N went to The G, we took a look at a new access control solution that integrated Genetec’s Synergis access control software and HID’s VertX networked access control solution. This issue we’re taking a look at the integration of the site’s video surveillance system, which involves another component of Genetec’s Security Desk – Omnicast VMS. Genetec’s Security Desk is ideal for the MCG’s task, combining as it does monitoring and reporting for Genetec’s Omnicast IP video surveillance, Synergis IP access control, and Autovu IP License Plate Recognition (LPR) systems within a single interface. As the tour of the huge site goes on I realise this is probably not the last time we’re going to be taking at look at the networked security solution at Melbourne’s iconic stadium. The MCG’s networked security system is a rapidly evolving creature likely to get better and better over time. A combination of factors seems to be at the heart this rapidly evolving system, two key elements being the IP sympatico between the MCG’s manager security and venue support, Andy Frances, and Integrators Australia’s Dean Monaghan. Both are strong believers in networked security systems that are simple yet offer what what might be described as three dimensional expansion. By 3D expansion, I mean networked solutions that integrate multiple technologies in multiple layers that can be managed by a single front end. At the MCG, the ultimate aims of the new security system are improvements in simplicity and reliability of operation, with an additional driver being increased performance from multiple integrated sub systems. Given these imperatives it’s likely that in the future the MCG will leverage every useful piece of technology budget constraints allow. Just what does the networked video surveillance system at the MCG now comprise? For a start it’s built around a subnet propped up by Cisco ProCurve switchers. Driving the system are servers and clients incorporating Genetec’s Omnicast VMS. Omnicast is a component of Genetec’s Security Desk monitoring and management software, which also comprises the Synergis access control solution and LPR applications. These Genetec solutions allow integration of access alarms and video surveillance inputs, as well as supporting inputs from additional subsystems. The solution also includes a monster IBM storage server sourced and maintained by the MCG’s IT team. It’s important to bear in mind that the MCG had a full analogue surveillance solution before this upgrade began. The system was capable for its day and included high quality analogue Panasonic cameras supported by a big analogue matrix switcher. The matrix was been decommissioned as part of this upgrade but those long lasting Panasonic SD3 cameras are still being used in conjunction with encoders. Along with the analogue component, the MCG has a significant and growing IP camera installation incorporating Axis HD megapixel cameras. There are currently around 50 Axis HD cameras – fixed and PTZ – at the ‘G, with another 40 on order. Ultimately, all cameras at the ground will be IP. All in all it’s been a $A3 million dollar project with the spend based primarily on the surveillance side and including clever investment on good stuff like pre-wiring of future IP cameras, installation of a monster fibre network backbone and the necessary reconstruction of the site’s access control room. But there are other elements to the system that make it stand out. It hustles 75TB of storage to meet its requirements of storing 28 days of real time video on all channels. Work is underway on touch screen operation and mapping that will allow drilling down through multiple systems – CCTV, access control, HVAC, fire control and air conditioning – not just from touch screens in multiple control rooms, but across adjacent networks.And this includes wireless networks. Soon, security officers around the ground will be linked to the system via PDAs like iPads, which will allow them to respond to alarms, operate cameras and access footage sent to them by operators in the control room. There are also plans for the addition of video analysis software to handle things like congestion and, as the technology improves, face recognition. Orchestrating all this is Andy Frances, who by his own admission is no technophile. Interestingly, his non-technical streak merely clarifies his broad vision of what he wants from the solution at the MCG. You don’t need to spend much time with Frances to realise that the man’s greatest strength is operations – and far from being an incumberance, this focus on ops is a real advantage to all concerned. Instead of getting tangled up in the whys and wherefores of the various systems and technologies at work, Frances has a clear idea of what he wants the MCG’s networked security system to do – to enhance the capability and efficiency of his security staff while keeping manpower requirements and overheads to a minimum and future potential technological expansions to a maximum.
“We have rewired the stadium with a complete fibre ring, with fibres running to network switches at central points and Cat-5 drop cables carried directly to our new IP cameras, as well as to those analogue cameras we think will fail in the next few years”
After taking on the role 3-and-a-half years ago, 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, as well as the selection of an integrator capable of working in a networked environment. The first and most important task was to undertake a complete review of the security operations at the MCG so a system could be designed that met current and future needs in the most secure, efficient and affordable way. “Since joining the MCG I have looked at everything from manning levels to counter terrorism preparedness, and from CCTV, access control and networked infrastructure, to integration of building management,” Frances says. “Throughout that time we have been on a strategic path to upgrade and enhance our CCTV and access control systems and as a result of the review process we made a very early decision that we were going to go to an IP-based solution,” Frances explains.
Planning and installation
According to Frances, plenty of thought went into the MCG’s CCTV system and he says the entire security department was involved – including the security officers who would be viewing the images. Getting the operators involved is typical of Frances’ foursquare approach – in this case the people who use it should choose it. “As far as the video surveillance solution is concerned, we have been through a very rigorous process of assessing software and hardware and as part of that process we did a shootout of cameras,” Frances says. “We got a lot of cameras from the market – put them in an identical situation with identical monitors and wiring and the security team assessed the quality of the images. Scoring was done by every person on the basis of 1-10 and then we totalled that up at the end of it and as a result of that we chose the Axis HD cameras. “We’ve coupled these cameras with Genetec’s Omnicast Video Management System, which is part of the Genetec Security Desk we already use to manage our Genetec Synergis access management system,” Frances says. “And as part of the process we constructed a brand new security control room which has been up and running for about 12 months.” As Frances explains, the system at the MCG is a hybrid solution that includes analogue and IP cameras. He says the analogue cameras will be switched over to IP as they fail. “Currently we have around 15 per cent Axis HD megapixel cameras and we are planning to install another 40 or 50 Axis cameras in the next couple of weeks,” Frances says. “Having said that we do have a lot of quality analogue cameras – Panasonic SD3’s – that are still working effectively and we will continue to use them until they fail.” At the heart of the MCG’s video surveillance solution is that powerful subnet and associated infrastructure, including Omnicast and storage servers mentioned earlier. This subnet represents a large part of the overall project spend but the big advantage is that it gives Frances a future proof solution that is hardware agnostic. “We have rewired the stadium with a complete fibre ring, with fibres running to network switches at central points and Cat-5 drop cables carried directly to our new IP cameras, as well as to those analogue cameras we think will fail in the next few years.“This infrastructure means that when they do fail it’s simply a matter of swapping them out for new IP cameras,” Frances explains. “Given the staged nature of the upgrade and the retention of legacy analogue hardware, I would say it will be a 4-5 year operation to upgrade the MCG to a full IP solution.” Important in terms of understanding the network architecture of the site is that there are 3 networks at the MCG including the MCC IT network, the security network – which incorporates the Security Control Room and the Emergency Operations Centre and a powerful wireless network which covers the entire site. “Both the Security Control Room and the EOC are directly on the security subnet but my PC has access to all the cameras on the subnet from the MCC IT network through a firewall connection between those 2 networks,” Frances explains. “The system is a work in progress and we are actually moving cameras around at the moment – outside our busy Gate 2 we have moved the analogue cameras in order to make that whole area digital,” he says. “It’s fair to say we are undertaking the upgrade area by area – moving the analogue cameras that are working well into other less challenging areas until they fail while installing more powerful HD cameras where they are needed.” Frances explains that something that has happened at the MCG that does not always occur at other sites is a close and supportive alliance with the MCG’s IT department. “We’ve worked hand in hand with the IT department from the start,” Frances says. “Our IT team actually handled the entire backend storage solution for me. Because regulations demand we keep video for 28 days our storage needs are serious – we have a 75TB IBM server solution handling back-end storage. “Our IT department manages that and the security department pays a figure towards the network administrator so it look after all our security cabling as well.” The synergy is so tight that Genetec’s technical team actually trained the MCG IT Department in all aspects of its software.“The Genetec guys came over and trained our IT guys just as they were training an integrator,” says Frances. “As a result we have had no major issues the IT team could not sort out. Obviously, all networks face moments of downtime but we have minimised these to a few cameras here or there for different reasons. We have had nothing critical – and on match days the system has been very stable.According to Frances, the teamwork between the security department, the security integrator and the IT department is effortless. “The way it works is that if I want a camera at a location I tell IT,” he says. “The IT department handles all the bits and pieces on the network side, including provision of a network point. Integrators Australia then comes along and puts the camera in and once this is done, the IT department will configure the camera and it will be up and running on my system. “If I have a fault on a camera it is an IT Help Desk request. An integrator is not going to be here on match day but our IT department always is,” Frances explains. “To date all the small issues we have faced have been easily handled by the IT department. “One of the things with IT people that was difficult to get across early on related to the fact IT people traditionally are not used to managing huge amounts of data down the pipeline and that’s what we have here. We are installing Axis HD cameras and these high quality cameras demand more bandwidth than the old analogue cameras.” As part of our tour of the site we take a look at the Axis cameras installed in and around the G and it’s clear they are doing a great job. Axis cameras meet independent SMPTE standards and offer excellent 720p HD resolutions which we’ve praised before. At the MCG there are fixed cameras in sleek vandalproof housings as well as the powerful Axis P5534 PTZ network dome, which is IP51-rated protection against dust and dripping water and gives operators 18x zoom.Offering H.264 and Motion JPEG the P5534 PTZ camera also offers 12x digital zoom with autofocus and can pan 360 degrees using its auto-flip functionality. AXIS P5534 incorporates the neat Advanced Gatekeeper functionality, which enables the camera to automatically pan, tilt and zoom in when there is activity in the scene and zoom out after a preset time.According to Frances, the MCG is installing PTZ cameras like these wherever possible whenever it replaces a failed camera. “We have a policy that we are moving away from the fixed cameras unless it’s an area that is subject to slips and falls. We get much better use out of PTZs – they just make more sense for us.”
Management and control
As mentioned already, the surveillance system is fully integrated with the access control via Genetec’s powerful Security Desk application and we spend time in the Security Control Room getting a look at the system in operation. Frances says that the design of the new Security Control Room was carefully planned. “The distances between the screens and the operators are designed to meet OH&S and to give best vision to operators,” he explains. “And the 4 screens over the back of the desk are touch screens. The plan is that our 3D schematics will go on these screens and the guys will be able to operate them without the need for a mouse. “Everything they need to do will be managed by touching a screen, including selecting a room, touching on a room to access drop down menus and selecting drop down menus that allow operators to change the temperature, show smoke sensor status – as well as control all the cameras in the room. “It goes pretty much without saying that we had a clunky system previously – the cameras were all numbered which was fine until you started to expand the system and then the numbering was impossibly confusing,” Frances says. “By the end, only the guards who had been here for many years really grasped the layout of the system from a control room perspective – and that’s vitally important when operators need to do things in a hurry.”“Using the Omnicast software we are in the process of designing three dimensional touchscreen multilayered schematics allowing us to drill down into a room visually,” explains Frances.
“We have a policy that we are moving away from the fixed cameras unless it’s an area that is subject to slips and falls. We get much better use out of PTZs – they just make more sense for us
“What we would also like to do with that Genetec Security Desk is control building management functions like room temp, lighting, fire panels, isolating smoke – we’d also like to be able to feed CBUS into the back of the Genetec system so the security officer can handle things in the simplest and most efficient way possible. “If the system needs an engineer to run it, then it’s no use to me,” he says. “So what we are aiming to do is make it as simple as possible for our security staff. A schematic, a touchscreen, operators hit the screen and can follow people around the stadium. They can look at the schematic, touch a camera, touch another camera – it’s very intuitive. “The idea is that all this makes our operations much easier. We are also looking at analytics – not just for security but for management of crowd congestion issues. It goes without saying that such issues are very important for us.” Next we head up to the EOC with its stunning view of Australia’s premier sports ground. Frances explains that while the control room is the MCG’s 24/7 security operation its role changes on event days when surveillance operations move to the EOC. “The key thing about the EOC is that it gives us a complete visual of the ground,” Frances says. “We all sit up there on match days – the police, the security operators, myself as security manager, and our chief warden. The room is also base for the event manager of our manpower security provider – there may be up to 250 contract security officers on a match day so central control is vital. “The big idea with the EOC is to have all our key people in the same place where they can react in concert if there’s a major incident. On really big days will might have fire and ambulance in the EOC too and then it become a full emergency response centre. Importantly, we can break out of the EOC to a back room in the event of a major incident and use that location to drive response.” According to Frances, for police and for security operators, having a visual of the ground is very important as it improves response times. “Crowd behaviour is predictable to some extent and if there is an incident at the ground everybody in the crowd turns towards it and the pattern of the crowd’s attention allows you to pinpoint an event every quickly and focus cameras on that area. “From a surveillance perspective, on match days we will have 2 operators in the EOC who sit directly in front of the police officers,” Frances explains. “When they are not assisting police by finding footage of events, they will scan the ground looking for events and keeping an eye on things. There are LCD screen above each operator’s desk so police can see what security officers can see on their screens without leaning over their shoulders.”Frances says that there are also event staff who monitor the cameras. “They are looking for specific congestion issues,” he explains. “They watch for waves of people coming in from Richmond Station and will open gates for extra people as they come through based on what’s happening at the time. We can have congestion issues and we address bottleneck issues as they come up by changing our traffic controls. “Part of the issue is that most people turn up late to a big game at the ‘G. With ten minutes to go to the siren on a Friday night game there will only be 20,000 people in the ground and in about ten minutes another 50,000 people will turn up. The functionality of the system in the Security Control Room is mirrored in the EOC and Frances gets the same performance albeit with slightly more lag when accessing the system through his own workstation. The lag is courtesy of a necessary firewall and is typical of the current breed of networks. As part of our tour of the Control Room and the EOC we have an opportunity to get the measure of the HD performance of the Axis cameras. It’s as exemplary as ever. The images from the cluster of 8 Axis PTZ cameras at Gate 2 shows super depth of field and colour quality and full mastery of backlight. Future developmentCertainly the key development for the MCG’s surveillance solution will be the addition of further IP cameras in the system over time. But there are a number of other technologies and functionalities Frances is keen to incorporate into the system. “One thing we would like but which we don’t think is quite there yet technically is face recognition technology,” says Frances. “Somewhere down the track we will install fixed megapixel cameras over our entryways – that’s something we are looking at in the future – maybe we’ll do it in stage 2 or stage 3. We have about 100 entry points so it will a significant addition. “This will allow us to recognise individuals who may be banned from the ground. It will also allow us to leverage software that can be used to match the ticket of the person coming through with a captured image of the actual person – this would allow us to pick up stolen tickets. These are additional capabilities we will be able to introduce down the track. “As far as the future is concerned, ultimately we are looking for technology that will assist us in maximising our security performance with low manning levels – particularly on event days,” Frances says. “We also want the system to recognise and alert us to congestion, to people moving against crowd flow, to unusual movements of the crowd – patterns of movement or incidents that are out of the ordinary. We have looked at a few products in this area and we will continue to do so but we are focusing on the cameras first. “And we want to feed out video and alarm data in a wireless environment so we can send live images to our officers via an iPAD so when there’s an event we can send the security officer the incident so they can identify the individuals involved,” Frances explains. “The wireless system here is very good and there are multiple benefits to wireless on such a large site. For a start it means security officers can use a PDA to show police a complete incident when they are handing a person over to be charged. “Additionally, the system will allow us to scan photos of missing kids and send them to all our officers on big event days. The main thing for me is that the technology is there and the infrastructure and underlying systems we have chosen are able to support that technology. “We want to have wireless support for these security officer PDAs for the Ashes this summer so we need to have that up and running soon. And we want to use it for more than just big games. We’d also like our security officers to use their iPads around the ground during the week so they can view cameras on their screens, view access and alarm events and track events as they are occuring. Importantly, given Frances’ desire to exploit all these additional technologies, Genetec Security Desk’s application-concepts, incorporating a dynamically adaptive interface, context-sensitive widgets, and the merging of similar concepts across products lines is a real bonus. This flexibility from the Canadian software outfit gives the MCG’s operators the power of enhanced functionality without the screen noise typical in many integrated GUIs. “Another technology for the future is a product we’d like that was developed in France that incorporates an outlay of the ground and maps the seating arrangements with presets in the CCTV system so what operators can key in a seat number and cameras will pan, tilt and zoom straight to that seat,” Frances explains. “The importance of this is that we have a system that allows patrons to text in anti-social behaviour. The cameras can thing focus on a seat and security can make a decision on what action to take. These layers of input are what this system is all about.”
The importance of the enhanced surveillance system to the MCG is immediately obvious. This is Australia’s premier sporting venue. With a maximum capacity of 100,000 and a regular turn-out to Friday Night Football of 65,000, this is a huge venue with serious surveillance needs. It’s also a site that will benefit from powerful integration between subsystems.Talking with Andy Frances, it’s obvious he’s pleased as punch – not just with the solution he’s chosen but with the team that successfully put it together. No major networked application, especially one involving bucketloads of live video on hundreds of inputs, is easy to put together. Behind the scenes some very dedicated people have worked hard to get this impressive solution right. “I’m very happy with the system and with the way it has come together,” Frances says. “Importantly from my perspective, our IT department is excited about the system. It was a little unexpected but they truly got excited by the scope of our surveillance solution. “You need to consider that before we began the CCTV installation, the storage for the entire site was only 5TB,” Frances explains. “When I told them I needed 70TB they were so excited you couldn’t believe it. And they were happy to go and speak to IBM and Cisco about the powerful new gear. The IT team are delighted with the system. They are completely involved with it. In fact, I think they love how demanding the video is. “On the installation side we are very happy with Integrators Australia. We were lucky to find Dean. We do a lot of work together. It’s good for us as we trust him, his advice is honest and he has saved us a lot of money,” Frances says. “Along with this, the quality of the installation work is exceptional. We would not have been able to do the job we’ve done without Integrators Australia.”Frances says Genetec has also been instrumental in the success of the system.“We’ve tweaked this system to offer maximum performance and Genetec has been very good at listening to our issues and responding with the next update,” he explains. “In the last 2 updates we have seen things we have asked to be updated responded to and improved – it’s one of the things I like about Genetec – they are very responsive to the feedback they get from their clients.”Most important of all, Frances thinks it won’t be long before he has the best networked security solution on Earth. “I’ve seen a few stadiums around the world – including big stadiums in the U.S. and none come close to the sort of thing we have planned for the MCG in the next 12 months. If you think of the MCG purely as a business I think it’s fair to say that we are 4-5 years ahead of our competitors – and that’s a good place to be.”