Bankstown Sports Club’s High Performance Solution
by Security Electronics and Networks | @Articles Case Studies | April 13, 2013, 7:00am AEST
FOUNDED in 1958 to provide a social outlet for local sports people, the Bankstown Sports Club now has 60,000 members and supports 40 different local sports groups which themselves have a combined membership of 8000. It’s a massive operation, employing 500 staff and turning over $A100 million annually, all of which is ploughed back into the community through general operating costs, direct investment or social initiatives like the ClubGRANTS scheme.
When I arrive at the club it’s 10am – early for a licensed club – yet there are already people arriving, mostly groups of older folks and mums with kids in tow. Signing in at the concierge’s desk smelling coffee I get the sense the place is already humming. Looking around the foyer and into the vast adjacent areas it’s clear this is a site with a history replete with layers of legacy design and technology. But there’s no sense of staleness here. This is a vibrant and impressive operation in the midst of a process of rebirth.
Trying to give readers a sense of the scale of the Bankstown Sports Club isn’t easy. Arriving for the first time the site seems to fill an entire block. It has 3 levels, a hotel, restaurants, cafes and a massive kid’s club that must be among the parenting world’s great wonders. It really is a jaw-dropper. There’s a ballroom, grand hall and a multi-level carpark. There’s also La Piazza precinct, which includes an Italian restaurant, a pizzeria, pasticceria, gelataria and wine bar and plenty more.
And there are the gaming areas, indoor and outdoor, which include hundreds of machines and tables which are a focal point of the much of the club’s surveillance system. While gaming is an important aspect of revenue generation, walking around the place it distinctly feels that revenue is an adjunct to the more serious commitment of bringing local people together. If this sounds a bit mealy-mouthed, there’s this. All club profits go to improving the club and supporting the local community. And when you’re inside this club you really do get a sense of that community. It’s almost like being inside the heart of Bankstown and that’s a surprisingly warm place to be.
Showing me around Bankstown Sports Club is ARA Security’s Tony Murr, who exhibits the profound sense of ownership you so often find in quality integrators – there’s very little separation of identity between the club and the ARA team as he tells the story. Murr designed and is overseeing the installation of this solution and it’s immediately clear he sees Bankstown Sports Club’s electronic security solution as an expression of the best of himself.
Sitting in the InTouch cafe cradling my triple-shot flat white, I listen to Murr talk about the solution while the tables around us fill up with groups of seniors sharing breakfast along with and mums and dads and their kids.
According to Murr, ARA has designed and is in the process of installing and commissioning the entire system, which includes a Geutebruck recording head end, Geutebruck VMD, ARA’s own CLUBLINK control room head end. Bosch’s Security Escort is also integrated into the overall solution.
The underlying purpose of the electronic security solution being installed at BSC is security and safety for guests and staff, and protection against insurance fraud – it’s a typical brief for a system of this type. What’s not typical, however, is the underlying nature of the system. It’s designed to offer maximum performance on all inputs at all times and this performance is written into the system’s DNA.
“Simply, the Bankstown Sports Club wanted to protect its investment and management was prepared to use the best technology to achieve the level of safety and security the site requires,” explains Murr.
“Management wants the community to have peace of mind when they come here, to know they are in good hands and to know that if an incident occurs, management and the security team will instantly respond.
“BSC management entrusted us to deliver the best possible system delivering maximum performance and being future-proof. The management team comprises intelligent, straight-shooters who embrace technology and who are all about trying to be a step ahead of the market.”
According to Murr, the solution he designed for BSC has a strong performance bias in all areas – cameras and lenses, cabling, viewing of live video, viewing of recorded video and presentation of alarm events driven by Geutebruck VMD and the integrated Bosch Security Escort solution.
“We took the time to investigate the best integration solutions for the end user,” Murr tells me. “Systems like this are used in casinos around the world. If it’s good enough to use in Casino Baden Baden in Switzerland, it’s good enough for BSC.”
ARA’s business relationship with BSC is built around Murr’s faith in the quality of the products he selected for the installation, his engineering team of Michael Vais, Xavier Hicks and Jon Deece, as well the quality of the installation itself.
“No matter what fails it’s on us to fix it as part of our contract,” he explains. “BSC has a full comprehensive warranty so whether it’s a patch lead, a server, a fan, a UPS, an HDD, a motherboard or a monitor we are responsible.
“This puts us on the chopping block but it also says that we believe in this system so much that we are prepared to offer a full comprehensive warranty, not just on parts but on labour.
Something that sets this system apart in my mind is the installation of Bosch’s Security Escort Mobile Duress system, which is integrated into the surveillance system. Security Escort is a system of RF receivers that monitor the signals from carried duress/person-down devices and reports real-time mobile alarm events to a control room server. It’s a powerful statement of BSC’s commitment to staff safety.
“There’s no other club in Australia using this technology – we are the first,” says Murr.
Before we get started on discussing the system it’s worth bearing in mind that the installation of the electronic security system at BSC is phased to fit in with the club’s ongoing program of renovation works. Club functions are relocated while a section is screened off and refurbished and then re-opened to guests.
The ARA team is currently in the midst of the second and largest phase of the project, with phase one, the gaming floor with approximately 170 cameras on a fibre backbone. Also completed during this phase was the Security Escort and CLUBLINK installation. What we are going to do in this story is discuss the work completed within the context of the overall solution, which being modular in nature will be a series of extensions of the new IP system.
Importantly, there are other sites associated with Bankstown Sports Club, including Baulkham Hills Sports Club, Birrong Sports Club and Bankstown Bowling and Sports Club. ARA looks after electronic security for all of these sites with cameras already linked back to the BSC’s main control room via ADSL or fibre and the BSC solution may be applied to these remote sites over time.
Now, it goes without saying that there’s a substantial legacy system at BSC which includes hybrid Geutebruck MultiScope DVRs and a combination of more than 800 analogue, IP and MP cameras. This hardware is driven by a Pacom 9760 switcher, and just for reference, the entire hybrid solution takes up 20 nine-inch ARU racks in the surveillance room with all bays filled from top to bottom. When fully digital the space required will be less than a third of these racks.
Designing for performance
There’s one thing that defines the new system at BSC and that’s performance, with each element of the system chosen specifically for its ability to handle heavy workloads. This performance-bias isn’t just about selecting the best products for the job, it’s also about a system design that leverages the best performance from those products.
“This system is based around the idea of putting the best of the best together,” Murr tells me. “The best management system, the best cameras and the best cabling so as to create a top full-digital surveillance solution.
“That starts with the Siemon fibre backbone going into Cisco switches, the patch panels and RJ-45 surface mount boxes and the high performance Siemon Cat-6a cable. People might say ‘cable is cable, what’s the difference?’ I can assure them that when you’re using high end equipment there’s a massive difference.
“The speed this cable can carry data is lightning fast and it allows an image quality I have not seen anywhere else and we use all this power to support our high quality cameras. In my opinion, the WV-SP509 camera is out of this world, it really is one of the best value for money cameras on the market.
“I put it up against all the best 1080p and MP cameras during the process of selection. We tested the cameras in 6 different environments including low light, challenged them with rapid movements, in all these environments the WV-SP509 won.”
Murr’s brief to the ARA engineering team was to take the performance to the nth degree to ensure BSC got the best system now and in the future – with the heart of the system being cable infrastructure.
“Purposely we ensure none of the Cat-6a cables go further than 10-15 metres before they get onto fibre – that design is deliberate – it’s to maximise image quality,” says Murr. “This class of cable can handle 150 metres but we are keeping a lot of headroom in the cable plant for the future and thinking 2 or 3 years down the track.
“And there’s a good reason for this. When you put a Panasonic SP509 on the end of a cable and feed it into a Geutebruck recording system at full frame rate, the bit-rate is 10-15 times greater than that of a standard IP camera. So we are maximising the 509’s ability by not putting it on a standard Cat-5 cable. There’s no point installing high performance cameras if your infrastructure cannot support their performance.”
As well as Cisco switches and top notch Siemon cable, Murr’s design itself takes no prisoners when it comes to ensuring performance. This is not just about dual pathways – it’s about entirely separate data links.
“With the subnet backbone we have 2 separate setups – a recording setup and a viewing setup so that allows us to maximise performance in these 2 key areas. Simply, the recording line-feed and fibre-feed and switches are separate to the viewing side, so when you’re live or recorded footage, it is on a separate backbone to the video recording – we are not pushing it all through the one pipe.
“We know from experience that if you want to view recorded footage while a lot of live footage is coming through there are lags, the image starts framing up,” Murr explains. “You wouldn’t notice that with a cheap camera or with a basic head end because they don’t read that high but when you start using a high end camera you have to make sure the back of house is high end, too.”
Handling storage are Geutebruck GeViStore servers each of which has the ability to handle up to 60 inputs.
“There will be about 30 inputs on each server giving room to expand and there will be 50TB of storage per GeViStore – that gives us more than 1TB per camera so retention is increased and we can record 1080p at 25 frames per second on every camera for a month,” Murr says.
“In total there’s 250TB of storage for the gaming floor alone set up in such a way that each section has its own dedicated server. We don’t have cameras over here on a server that cameras over there are on,” Murr says, drawing a diagram for me to see the layout.
“Instead each section has separate servers and each server has spare inputs so if there is a problem at the server level we can switch cameras to other servers while problems are rectified. This means that redundancy is built in.
“There’s also UPS backup so if the system fails there’s enough power to keep it running for 4 hours. In terms of power supplies that’s all fully redundant and dedicated to this system. And all our data cables are segregated from power by a minimum of half a metre.”
In terms of specific layout, the surveillance network design is a fibre star configuration. In each section of the club there’s a comms room with a rack cabinet containing a Cisco switch and alongside this is a patch panel.
“Wherever the switches are, on all sides of them are patch panels linked to cameras,” Murr explains. “And each network switch is a separate fibre run that goes back down to the comms room. Going forward anything the club does will follow the same design and eventually you have a full fibre backbone throughout the club.”
Siemon Cat-6a cable is run from the local patch panel to each local camera location. Siemon Cat6A patch leads are used at each end.
“We chose this design so there would be no terminations to come apart and to ensure that if we needed to service the camera we could just unplug the RJ45 and take it away. The cameras all connect to RJ45 surface mount boxes so if a camera is removed, the plate remains and can be used again.”
As Murr explains, this combination of static yet fluid design is absolutely vital for an application like BSC.
“In an environment like a gaming floor, management is always moving machines or buying new machines and that means we need to move cameras to give consistent coverage,” he says. “To illustrate this point, we have staff here Monday to Friday permanently to facilitate changes to camera coverage.
“With this design, if a machine is relocated we can unplug the camera that was covering it and move it to a new RJ45 plate covering a new area – this eliminates the requirement of installing further cabling. Techs just go to a RJ45 plate at the new location, patch the camera in and it’s ready to run.”
According to Murr, the modular design of the system which can facilitate massive expansion also makes trouble shooting very easy.
“If there’s a problem with a camera we can quickly isolate the other parts of the system – they are on separate nodes – then simply unplug a camera and plug it into another patch panel and instantly know if a problem is a camera or a node related issue.”
People don’t usually think this way, I say to Murr – this focus on performance as the key piece of functionality is fantastic but it’s uncommon. What’s behind it?
“This is due to BSC CEO Mark Condi’s mantra for ‘cutting edge technology’ to ensure both staff and customers have a safe and secure environment,” Murr explains. “You’ve just got to consider performance first in this sort of environment – you can’t leave anything to chance.”
Murr and his team didn’t leave anything to chance. Drawing on their knowledge of the site and the needs of the client was not enough, either. Objective testing of a wide range of product was undertaken over an extended period of time before the design was completed.
“Before we finalised the design we got all the products – including the first demo WV-SP509 in Australia and a Geutebruck recording head end – and brought them to the club. We then ran a Siemon Cat-6a cable and let the test system run for a couple of months. Right next to it we installed other cameras and other head ends. That’s how we got the result we were after and why we chose the solution we chose.”
According to Murr, during this testing process the combination of Geutebruck and Panasonic wasn’t performing as it should.
“I made some calls and Pacific Communications jumped to attention and came down and the Geutebruck guys came out and helped and during the process they found some issues in the way the system was set up – the pipe was slowing things down – it wasn’t a problem with the camera or head end at all,” Murr says.
“Those are issues you would never otherwise have discovered until the system was installed and you were commissioning 170 cameras with a cutover deadline of a few hours, so the process of testing contributed a great deal to the success of ARA’s design at BSC.”
Something that really deserves attention at BSC is Bosch’s Security Escort, which incorporates 50 devices and is integrated with the surveillance solution via the overarching ARA CLUBLINK GUI. Having been a security officer when I was a kid I’ve always liked Security Escort. It projects security procedure at the human level, giving staff peace of mind and sensitizing management’s response to threats in real time.
“All the staff that man the gaming floor, safe rooms, the cash handling rooms, security officers and managers carry a Security Escort device,” says Murr. “There are 50 devices in this solution but the system has the ability to expand to 1000 devices. We have installed RF receiver nodes throughout the building and these are hardwired back to the control room head end.
“There’s also a high level interface between it and our GUI. The way Security Escort is set up and managed, we’ve mapped the route between the cash dispensing machines and the cash room and incorporated it into our CLUBLINK GUI. This means you click on a cash machine and a camera image comes up. Double click and the system will give you all the cameras from there to the cash room on that monitor.
“So if someone goes to a cash machine and an incident occurs, instantly that alarm is brought up on the GUI – you see exactly where the alarm event is, the scene when it happened and it shows you a looped footage of the event. Then there’s the paused image – it’s the same alarm structure for Security Escort as it is for a carpark VMD alarm event, VIP or blacklisted vehicle entering the carpark.”
Once again, Security Escort went through a careful process of testing before it was installed. This included finding the best locations for wireless receivers.
Installing a large electronic security solution like this one, with its layers of development and redevelopment, is always going to be a challenge and it’s no surprise when Murr tells me the site has undergone constant add-ons and improvements for 40 years. In one such instance an entire local street was bought and built over.
“The installation of the new surveillance system is following a process of construction at the club, a 4-stage building process that will include the ongoing installation of a full IP CCTV solution,” Murr explains.
“As the building works are going on, the club is continuing to run, which has been part of the difficulty of the installation. We can’t have any camera down at any time. In the area we are working on now, they relocated gaming to another section of the club and we relocated cameras to that location overnight so the system was operational by morning and there was no downtime.”
While we talk about the installation process, we walk around to the gaming floor which is where Phase One of the system has been installed – it’s a busy, sprawling club and the gaming floor has a good crowd. Looking at the flush ceiling design I can see space is tight. Murr points out the cameras around the perimeter of the room.
“Look at those,” he says. “A major challenge we had to overcome is that no cameras are allowed to be installed on the floating ceiling in any of the floor areas – the issue is, how can we get images of the gaming machines if we can’t put cameras above tables?”
“Instead we had to go right around the perimeter and use good zoom lenses and high camera quality to capture the images we needed. This demand impacted on our choice of camera – we needed a full body camera so as to retain the ability to choose the lenses we needed now and in the future.”
That made commissioning of each individual camera an exacting process, surely?
“Yes it did,” Murr replies. “Coverage is designed not to miss anything in the scene and the quality of the image and the framing of the scene and selected depth of field is such that if you want to zoom in, the image is not going to pixelate. That’s what the SP509 gave us in this environment.”
Was it a hard installation? I ask, looking around at the busy gaming floor, packed with tables and machines.
“Yes, it was very hard, the ceiling heights were a special challenge – the cables go from patch panels then up to an even higher point, then across the room, while the bunker is down in the basement,” says Murr.
“Throughout the gaming floor you can see that the ceiling design is amazing – it’s flat and flush which looks great but it really makes our installation impossible.”
“See those hatches in the ceiling near the cameras? Inside every hatch is a patch panel and that’s how the cameras installed nearby get onto the Cat-6a cable.”
Looking up at the towering ceiling it beats me how the techs managed to install some of the cameras even with the help of hatches. They must have turned their shoulders inside out with some of them.
“We had 4-5 guys during the install, working after hours,” Murr continues. “Sometimes there was work that could be done during the day but when you are doing cutovers of cameras in the gaming area it has to be after hours.”
What about the servers and risers and cable trays – in a legacy site like this they must be overflowing? I ask.
“Yes, they are busy,” Murr agrees. “But everything we’ve got is Velcro-tied to a dedicated catenary cable. It’s away from power and never goes over or through it. The cable we use is one colour and it’s known as being for security so no one else goes near it.”
Part of the installation process included commissioning and ongoing maintenance and to assist this process there is remote access online.
“We do a lot of repairs remotely,” Murr says. “We also have a walk&view system where maintenance can be done using a smart phone.”
The high quality Panasonic cameras also demanded careful commissioning.
“With a camera like this you need to know your stuff when you set up,” Murr says. “You can’t just hit the autofocus button and move on. If the environment typically changes throughout the day, you’re not done, you’re going to have problems.
“The crew attended a comprehensive training session on all the camera settings so when they are in a scenario they need to address, they can. Because our installers are technical and love to play with new products, they are certainly getting the best out of it at BSC.”
Something else that needs to be taken into account during the installation/upgrade process is the legacy hybrid solution. This old system is still entirely operational but as the current installation progresses it is being carefully cut over and decommissioned, piece by piece.
In the control room
Next, we head into the control room, which is squeezed into a corner by a mountain range of ARU racks. The working video wall is compact given the high camera numbers, it’s narrow and it’s tall. In fact this is probably one of the most full-on video walls I have seen.
Often when you look at a video wall like this the quality of the images is inconsistent thanks to the variable quality of the cameras installed but this one is noticeably consistent.
Having recently reviewed the Panasonic WV-SP509 camera in a foyer I pay special attention to the SP509 in the rugged parking station applications at BSC, where it is peering from shade into bright sunlight. The camera does not back down from this demanding brief. It’s a strong image front to back, with useable depth of field pushing right out into the street.
“And the Geutebruck system handling the cameras is unbelievable, it’s phenomenal,” says Murr. “I haven’t found a product that beats it. Look at these live scenes – they’re HD at 25fps will multiple movements with 170 cameras and there’s no visible frame dropping – none at all – that’s showing you why we have that dual viewing and recording system offering maximum bit rates.”
The club’s operator pulls up a camera on the gaming floor and we get a look at what Murr has been talking about all this time. Wow, I say, that’s just awesome. The live image is sharp and objects, including faces, are clearly defined, with colours well-rendered and plenty of light nuance. Depth of field is strong. Multiple movements in a single scene don’t cause overall latency in the image to my eye. From the patterned carpet to the blinking LED lights on the machines to clothing and faces, this scene is very tight.
Usually when you see a camera of this power it’s installed externally and set up high to handle a very large scene like a carpark but here in the more compact internal spaces of BSC with variable but still good light, the SP509 is just killing it. There’s a lot of capability to spare, too. I estimate the detailed depth of field here to be about 15 metres, which is a big chunk of floor from a single camera with a &&&^-degree viewing angle.
Next we view recorded footage. I think I can see a slight difference in the quality of the recorded scene playback – some subtle image attenuation that might be a slightly lower frame rate and dropped resolution giving a softer overall scene but it’s hard to be sure. A person in the recorded scene waves their hand and their fingers are clearly defined throughout the movement. We can see stripes on clothing, numbers on machines. We see the colours of buttons and LEDs as the cameras successfully overcome flare.
“I do love the Geutebruck solution. I’ve never seen a system that can do so well with this volume of cameras,” says Murr staring at the monitors. “It’s not just handling the gaming floor. Look over there at that scene in the carpark. There we are doing numberplate recognition – the 509s handle part of this, showing the plate and the vehicle and the overall scene – and we also use a specialised numberplate camera that incorporates IR illumination synchronised with the camera shutter. This camera does nothing but look at the plate – it can do this at 160kmph with no light. It’s installed and integrated with the CLUBLINK management system.
“And we also have other interfaces, including Geutebruck video motion detection. The VMD curtain picks up cars arriving at the club automatically and the Panasonic HD PTZ swings around and zooms and focuses. Down in the control room the event appears on the monitor and brings up event footage in a set order.
“Operationally, there’s live footage of the vehicle arriving is shown first, then the event is looped over and over, showing the operator the incident. Finally the incident is paused and all this happens automatically. The operator does not have to look for an alarm event, it’s brought to their attention by the GUI – which is interfaced to the VMD,” Murr explains.
Some of the credit for the efficiency of the operation has to go to ARA’s own product, CLUBLINK.
“All the alarms happen automatically because of the HLIs between the sub-systems and our own CLUBLINK GUI which sits over everything and brings it all together,” Murr says. “3D Floor layouts of the Club are displayed on the GUI, giving access to each camera without having to remember camera numbers. Predetermined scenes are set up in our alarm GUI during commission and alarms have to be acknowledged by an operator. It’s just perfect for this application. We can also interface to Tecom access control, alarms, duress, and VMD to name just a few.”
Bankstown Sports Club’s new full IP solution is a benchmark system. It offers serious performance at multiple levels and looking at its fundamentals you get a clear sense of what the best solutions of the next 5 years will be offering.
They’ll have excellent camera performance and super-fast subnet architecture designed to handle the heavy loads of quality HD cameras being viewed live and called up as recordings. They’ll also employ the best network components and designs focusing on simplicity of replacement and easy maintenance.
Ease of management is another key aspect of this solution. Geutebruck’s GSCView is a popular management system for good reason and its performance bias gives it the edge in an installation like this one.
Finally there’s integration. At BSC this includes HLIs supporting alarms and access control, VMD and Bosch Security Escort all managed via ARA’s CLUBLINK software. The result is a solution that is impressive now and when completed will offer the club outstanding performance in a package that’s as intuitive as it is capable.