Central Coast Leagues Club Installs Bosch Hybrid
Posted by Security Electronics and Networks | @Articles Case Studies | April 9, 2012, 7:00am AEST
IT’S a wet and wild drive up the F3 from Sydney to Gosford to check out Central Coast Leagues Club’s video surveillance solution. I arrive deliberately early and grab breakfast in a local cafe to get a feel for the town. There’s no doubt I think, tackling my second coffee, that Gosford has a strong sense of country town about it. As the day wears on I come to realise this understated community atmosphere profoundly influences the nature of the security system at CCLC and the procedures that govern it.
I get my first inkling of the imposing physical nature of the site wading from my car to the main entrance. After snatching the first car spot I find – no parking meters! – I discover the Club has its cliff-like backside turned to me and there’s a couple of hundred metres of puddle jumping ahead.
Meeting CCLC’s operations manager Daniel Brian and Summit Security & Electronics’ Ron Moynihan enhances my earlier sense of being outside the big city. The boys have a warm professional relationship based on mutual awareness of strengths and I get an immediate sense both are fully committed to the Club. Our conversation is candid and relaxed. Once the introductions are over we take a tour of the site and as we stroll around it’s ever clearer this club is a monster of a thing. I’d expected something much smaller.
Fact is, CCLC has been entertainment central for coasties since the 1950s and this history has left its legacy in the sedimentary nature of the site, newest layers on top. There are multiple styles, the discordant decor of 6 decades and legacy everything. The building has never been replaced just added onto – a floor here, an extension there. A timeline of renovations defines the fabric of the Club and challenges the business – it costs $A2 million a year just in maintenance.
According to Brian, in recent years, Club management has undertaken a restructure which sees some elements leased out to other businesses, including eateries, restaurants and a huge gymnasium. It’s good fiscal policy that lets the club take a sort of property management role – leveraging its central location and titanic footprint, while retaining all core club functions.
“We realised we were relying on an expensive VHS system that was not able to cope with real-time events. The latency was so bad by the time the motion detection came on the person who’d activated it was halfway across the room.”
“The CCLC has been here since 1956 and we have a membership of 47,000 – which puts us in the top 20 clubs for membership in NSW,” explains Brian. “That means the place gets busy. When the Mariners play at Bluetongue Stadium next door we get 1500 or so patrons meeting here before the game and then coming back over here after the game – that’s on top of a typical day.”
Brian says that back in the mid-1970s there was a big revamp which saw a major extension to the original building. There was a second story added and a year or so later and a 4 story carpark was built out back before a massive redevelopment took place in ‘98 and 2000.
“From that time up until a couple of years ago the site had a multiplexed VHS analogue CCTV solution with a 6-week rotation of VHS tapes at less than full frame rate,” he says. “Typical of a venue like this it meant the system failed to capture vital images of incidents like assault or theft, that need real time recording. Maintenance was a real expense.”
I quickly find that as operations manager, Brian has an intense focus on the P&L. As well as handling CCTV and security, he’s also responsible for purchasing, HR, staff, and general operations. He speaks in terms of cost and lifespan of investment – $800,000 for new carpet that lasted half its expected life, $75,000 for electricity each year, $22,000 annually for water, millions annually in maintenance. For Brian, getting a capable CCTV system at the right price was the key.
Brian says that he talked to Summit’s Ron Moynihan, who had been doggedly maintaining the old system for many years, about installing something fit for purpose.
“Ron and I knew we had to change what we had,” Brian explains. “We realised we were relying on an expensive VHS system that was not able to cope with real-time events. At that time we had only 8 cameras on digital and these were running on motion detection at 12 frames per second. The latency was so bad by the time the motion detection came on the person who’d activated it was halfway across the room.”
This dysfunction defined the old solution from top to bottom.
“As well as camera performance, there was the issue of storing footage and events,” he explains. “Prior to this new system there were endless DVDs – boxes and boxes of them in my office. They could not easily be searched and the recordings with an image every three seconds were barely worth keeping. We simply needed to bring the whole thing up to spec.”
“The whole legacy system wasn’t coping and it was expensive to maintain, he explains. “Nor was it a well designed system. When a couple of the cameras failed I had a look and found every single camera was on a metal bracket which was screwed into the nearest T-bar. The first test I did was a voltage leakage test and I was reading 48V AC to all the cameras. This meant if I took a camera down, all the other cameras would start to jitter.”
Another issue with the legacy solution was maintenance and Brian says that the cost of the old system in terms of DVDs and general maintenance was enormous.
“What surprised me was that I ended up with a new hybrid system for less than the cost of maintaining the old one,” he says.
It goes without saying that the Club, like all businesses, is charting a safe passage through global and local financial uncertainties. What this meant in real terms during planning for the surveillance upgrade was that the new system needed to leverage existing infrastructure while offering a long operating life.
“As well as camera performance, there was the issue of storing footage and events…there were endless DVDs – boxes and boxes of them in my office. We simply needed to bring the whole thing up to spec.”
The ideal solution then, was a hybrid. A DVR-based solution that could wrangle the Club’s existing coaxial infrastructure, make use of some quality existing analogue cameras, yet be fully networkable and capable of supporting IP cameras at a moment’s notice.
The hybrid heart chosen for the CCLC is Bosch Security System’s proven Divar 700 series, which is the latest incarnation of the Divar XF we raved about a couple of years ago. In DVR-land this Divar 700 is the consummate all-rounder and features H.264 compression allowing 4CIF recording in real time on all 16 channels, which combined with its quick load 4-bay HDD capacity and multiple fans makes the unit perfect for CCLC.
“In choosing the Bosch Divar 700 we went through the top 3 options and looked for the best performance and the simplest functionality,” says Brian. “We got what we were looking for.”
Along with its core function, Divar 700 offers an internal DVD burner for easy video export and archiving, front-replaceable hard drives, expandable up to 4 terabytes, an intuitive user interface with easy-to-use, menu-driven options and remote management via Bosch’s Control Centre application software – that’s the way the system is being driven at CCLC.
The site and the system
A key element of any electronic security system is establishing exactly what your site requires and then ensuring the system you’re choosing is capable of delivering exactly what your business needs.
“In terms of the surveillance system’s purpose, legally we have to have a system that gives us full coverage of most areas, 28 days coverage 7 days a week, 24 hours a day,” Brian explains. “That’s part of being a licensed premise – we need to consider health and safety and cover ourselves for trips and falls.
“There’s no doubt the new system has been good for our insurance policy – every time someone falls over in a public area we have coverage of it and that goes straight to the insurers for them to address.”
Areas that come in for most scrutiny include the entrance, sign-in, the gaming floor, cash handling areas, bar areas and key locations around the club, including car parks. Over most the club floor the focus is general views.
“We have cameras that look straight onto where patrons come into the club and we get a full face shot. This has been very successful.” Brian says.
“There are also monitors at all entry areas – when patrons arrive at the premises they have to be shown they are being filmed so these monitors serve that purpose. We also have cameras at the front door and there’s a security guard at this location overnight and they can view images on the monitors.”
As part of my visit we take a detailed tour of the Club and as we walk along I keep an eye open for cameras. While they are installed throughout the site these Bosch units are discreet. You’d not know they were there unless you were looking for them.
“There are not too many blind spots at CCLC – it’s a very complete coverage,” says Moynihan. “What we have internally are Bosch Flexidome cameras with 3.5-9.00mm lens and 560-lines of horizontal resolution. Externally we have full body cameras in weatherproof housings with various lens sizes. These are day/night cameras so performance is excellent. A good thing about these cameras is that if there are updates we can just plug them into a laptop. Externally the cameras used are Bosch’s capable Dinion units.
“Performance in varying light conditions was a major issue and this was one of the reasons we chose the Bosch cameras,” he explains. “With the Bosch camera we have 4 settings: Low Light, Traffic, Smart BLC and 24 hour. Using these selections we were able to match camera performance to available light levels very easily and quickly.”
According to Moynihan, variable light was one of the most challenging aspects of the site and as we walk around the boys point out the challenges particular cameras are facing. There certainly are patches of darkness and points of light typical of a site like this one. One foyer area combines strong backlight, reflective surfaces, spot lighting, openings into darker areas, as well as dark carpets.
“The Bosch cameras cope very well with all this variability inside,” Moynihan says. “And these Flexidomes can’t be seen through readily so it’s hard for would-be criminals to establish whether or not they are in a camera’s field of view – another useful feature.”
It’s a curious club, I think as we walk through. There are a lot of community activities in full swing. There’s indoor bowls, a darts room, a pool room – all these on a grand scale and fully functional yet with decor dating back decades. As you move between spaces it’s momentarily incongruous but somehow very Australian. Overall the club has a great atmosphere, many people seem to know each other and it’s clearly the social outlet for older folks who are getting stuck into their choice of activities.
And there’s no question these activities have left their mark on the system. We head into a large room with a dartboard at one end and high above it, a camera mounted on a beam. An LCD screen mid-room shows a view of only the dartboard. The boys allay my confusion by telling me this is the biggest darts venue in Australia and when the Australian Darts Titles are on the huge crowd of spectators – up to 600 people – can immediately see where each dart is in the board without getting too close to the players. It’s a neat piece of lateral thinking.
Next we visit the massive pool hall. Grownups and older folks are playing competitive games on 3 of the 10 full-sized tables. There are 2 cameras here, full bodied, giving a general view of the space and there’s also coverage of the huge full-size bowling hall nearby, which is replete with life-size carved wooden murals of Drake awaiting the Spanish Armada bowling ball in hand. No one knows who did this striking work, nor what it’s worth.
Our tour takes us through a huge function room with stage and bar then on to an outsourced gymnasium in a corner of the Moria-like cavern that used to be the legendary Club Troppo Nightclub capable of holding 1600 revellers. Next we visit the upstairs floor with its outdoor area overlooking beautiful Brisbane water and then we go on to the public carpark where spot-coverage gives recording of registration plates. The carpark cameras are well protected by metal cages and custom housings. These latter are not new but they look extremely robust.
Managing the system
A key aspect of the CCLC surveillance system is that it’s not manned 24×7. In the event of an emergency or incident, real time monitoring can be undertaken but as a rule the system is designed to record high quality footage for review. The task of responding to events as they happen falls to the club’s team of security officers.
The control room, which also happen to be Brian’s office, is typical of security control rooms everywhere in the world. It’s tucked away wherever it fits back of house. Most importantly it’s dry, secure, quiet, air conditioned and the space is good. At one end of the room is a rack loaded with 8 Bosch Divar 700 DVRs and at the other is Dan’s workspace dominated by a workstation on which the Bosch Control Centre client resides, allowing him to view cameras on the DVRs.
According to Dan, with the old system, the back of the rack was a jungle of cables but Moynihan knows his stuff and the back-end of these new DVRs is labelled and very well done. It’s clear here, as it is outside, that Moynihan re-used every element of the legacy system he could.
Those 16-channel Bosch Divar DVRs in the rack are all running 8TB storage onboard which combines to give 40 day recording with the system running at 4CIF, 25 frames per second. As I poke around and take a few photos Dan sits down to drive the system, explaining that cameras from the same areas are grouped onto the same DVR in order to make navigation easier.
“This is DVR number 7,” he says, clicking away on the mouse, “And on this DVR I have pretty much the entire main floor – if I need to look up an area I just double click on the camera and review the footage – you can see up here that I can go back to December 28 on my footage and I can view one camera, 4 cameras, 9 or 16.
“On this next DVR we have all the back of house areas. The cameras we are using here are not new, we’ve used legacy cameras which still play a significant role in our overall security strategy.”
Dan selects another DVR from the Control Centre directory then starts clicking through camera views of the underground carpark in the basement of the main club. Those cameras are doing well with all that backlight, I say, you can see right across to the other side the street. That’s night time, Brian corrects me.
Next we check out the DVR that does the external cameras – you can go all the way around the outside of the club clicking through these camera views, as well as looking at the public carpark cameras. These too are labelled for easy identification.
Something else that’s interesting with the system is that there’s a zoom function on the Bosch cameras that allows an operator to zoom in on a recorded scene to get a closer look at something like a numberplate. Moynihan tells me no other product is as good in this regard while Brian zooms the function in and out to show how it works.
Scanning the Control Center screen I see there’s a timeline down the bottom of the management screen and Brian says he can do 64x forward or 64x reverse, or frame by frame or options in between. It looks simple and straightforward. All the cameras in each DVR are carefully labelled, he explains, allowing faster and easier operation.
“While the system is not monitored all the time by an operator if there’s an incident I can react immediately – this is my desk and I’m here 50 hours a week,” he explains. “All the duty managers also know how to access the system and can save files to disk for the police if there’s an incident – it’s very easy.”
This ease of operation carries through to management of the system.
“When it comes to configuration if I need to do anything I just jump onto each DVR, I can rename cameras, sync the times and it’s all done – it’s fantastic,” Brian says. “The system was very easy to set up thanks to the configuration tool and this simplicity carries through into operation – components of the system will reconfigure if their times are out – that’s really important to us. It means if I need to go from 1 DVR to the next to follow some footage I’m never too far out time-wise.”
My initial reaction is that the pictures look good – there’s great clarity, definition and contrast, as well as excellent colour rendition. Backlight is being handled well, too. Most these cameras are not set for face recognition but it’s easily possible to identify people. Moving laterally after this thought I ask, how’s your relationship with police?
“The Club has a very good working relationship with local police,” Brian replies. “They know how good our footage now is so they ring us up asking for footage particularly when there may be an assault or a traffic incident outside the club.
“With this system if the police come down asking for information we can burn it straight away and hand it to them. It’s not like you’re searching for days and delivering it to them a week later. If they really want me to, I can save footage to HDD and then email encrypted files to them. I use Roxio Creator to burn files to DVD and everything I save I put on an external hard drive.
“One day I came in and heard on the radio that there’d been an incident outside the Club so first thing I do is pull up the footage, view the incident and pass it on to the police,” Brian explains. “And what’s good with the way the system is designed is that you get the flow – I see the perpetrator walking out of the club and then I view the incident and the perpetrator walking away.”
With the Bosch camera we have 4 settings: Low Light, Traffic, Smart BLC and 24 hour. Using these selections we were able to match camera performance to available light levels very easily and quickly.
Next we view an assault on a street adjacent to the Club at 4am, an incident completely unrelated to the CCLC where a group of local girls set upon another girl in a dispute over a stolen boyfriend. Brian explains that after the incident was reported, the perpetrators denied the event to police and their parents.
“Later when parents were brought into forum sentencing and the detailed footage of the event as captured by the Club’s external cameras was displayed, the parents of the 3 perpetrators looked at their daughters and were absolutely mortified,” Brian explains.
And Moynihan makes a key point.
“While it’s unrelated to the Club, what this event shows is that with these Bosch cameras when we lose light we don’t lose quality,” says Moynihan. “The images goes to black and white but the quality remains, then when the light improves or more light is available the cameras comes back to colour – you see that as the group walks past the well-lit Club entrance right there.”
This is a hybrid solution at the back end with an analogue front end. All the 128 cameras are cabled with RG6 coaxial cable, with some cabling being legacy and some needing to be installed. The internal cameras are domes and the external cameras are full body, some in original housings. The work was conducted by Summit Security & Electronics with support from a local cabling contractor who has long experience of the site.
According to Moynihan, the installation wasn’t always easy.
“Because of the Club’s hours of operation we came in at midnight to commence installation of cameras to tagged cables and all the equipment had to be taken out by 4am in the morning. During the upgrade we needed to be back up and running on a live system by 10 am in the morning. Those hours were tough.
“We did the installation in 2 stages. I did the cameras first, tweaked them up, and then we did the DVRs with help from the team at Bosch. The good thing about Bosch is that the sales people are very technical, they are not just out here to get a sale. They came out and helped with the design.
“We did a floor walk with Andrew from Bosch and I pointed out the fields of view and depths of field I wanted. When this was complete we had a list of all the camera positions and the type of lens required. They were very good.
“I would say Summit’s part of the installation took me at least 4 weeks working by myself,” he says. “I started at the end of September and finished late October.”
According to Moynihan a key element of the install was cabling around multifarious firewalls throughout the building.
“Everywhere in the club there are firewalls in the roof,” he says. “The cabler we use knows exactly how to get a cable from A to B and it’s not necessarily the most direct way. He will pull the cable to where we need it and I then install the camera.
“We have been lucky in that we’ve had a cabler who knows the ins and outs of the building and that made our job a lot easier. To get an installer or cabler in who did not know the site it might take 3 months before they worked out where everything was.
“There were also around 16 legacy cameras the club had bought in more recent times and instead of wasting them we put all these cameras on the first floor and in the basement and linked them into the system.
“On the Bosch Divar these older cameras look a hundred times better – these are low traffic areas where you are not going to really need too much information. We thought it was best to use these cameras as they were still perfectly functional.”
Making power supply more relible was another issue.
“On the original system we had three 10Amp power supplies running in parallel so if you lost a power supply you lost a third of your cameras. What we have now is 8 x 16-way fused power supplies. Every camera is on a separate fuse so if you lose a fuse you lose only one camera,” Moynihan says.
“With this system if the police come down asking for information we can burn it straight away and hand it to them. It’s not like you’re searching for days and delivering it to them a week later.”
As he talks about challenges overcome it’s clear Moynihan has a strong commitment to CCLC that has enhanced the installation.
“I started working on the site about 8 years ago,” Moynihan explains.
“When I originally got involved, the company handling the system had been sending a different tech to every call-out and the former manager in charge of the system at the Club said to me, ‘I want to deal with the same person every time’. And I said, ‘I’m here’. This commitment is the same now. It’s a one-on-one relationship – if Dan needs something I will either help or find the answer.”
Meanwhile, Brian says that once all the cameras were installed the task of sorting out which camera needed to go to which DVR could be undertaken. This was a trial and error process polished by experience of the new solution operating in real time.
“As the weeks went by we changed the positions of cameras on DVRs so as to get that modular flow and make it easier to find cameras and follow incidents through and around the club,” Brian says. “This is so you are not looking at DVR 1 to see a door and DVR 3 to see the corridor outside the door – we are trying to make it as simple as we can for ourselves to steer.
“From my perspective the installation went well. We work well together – if I need anything I just call Ron and he’s here. I’ll ring Ron and say I need a camera (in fact we are in the process of doing that right now – we are installing another DVR in order to give us another 8 cameras to cover some blank spots) and Ron will ring our cabler, Craig. Craig comes in and cables and then Ron installs the cameras.”
And one part of the install was simple.
“To be honest this system is so good that when we installed the Divar units we didn’t change any of the configurations from 25 frames per second at 4CIF. They stayed at default. It was perfect,” Brian says.
Spending a morning with Moynihan and Brian it’s impossible not to feel their new surveillance system fits their budget and their requirements perfectly. In fact, Brian goes further still.
“I think the new system paid for itself in the first month just in terms of slips, trips and falls,” he explains. “We’ve also had assaults outside the club that have involved people from other venues we’ve helped police with. While the people and events are not associated with us it’s good to help the police catch people who do things that are wrong. Police often knock on our door looking for footage.
“And the money we have saved in tapes and DVDs is significant. If there’s an incident I save it to external HDD and I think that external HDD will last me for years,” he says.
“When we went through pricing we could not get over was how much a quarter we were paying in running costs to maintain that old system. All up the new system cost us no more than we were paying to maintain the old one and we’ve come into the 21st century – it’s really that much better.”
According to Brian, what’s also important is that this is an evolving system and a system tailor-made to evolve.
“We have another DVR and more cameras coming – this was part of the initial plan,” he explains. “We allowed the contingency that we could add more DVRs to our rack and part of our decision was based on the fact Bosch Divar is IP-ready should we want to go that way later on.
“This year we’ve spent considerable money on new servers, a new phone system, a new paging system, a new point of sale system and full WiFi,” Brian says. “We needed to bring everything up to speed and this sets us up for the next ten years. And if we need to go IP with CCTV, then we can do so.”