The Strand at Coolangatta has the best ocean views of any retail complex in Australia and a video surveillance solution to match after Chris-Tech Security Alarm Systems completed an installation comprising 60 Sony IP cameras and a Milestone video management solution.

FROM an operational perspective, retail centres like The Strand at Coolangatta in Queensland, are tough. There are multiple conflicting demands in complex environments. Surveillance must support safety, security and insurance risks, while being unobtrusive. The built environment includes variable lighting, challenging ceiling designs and compact spaces adjacent to vast open areas, including food courts and foyers that may challenge typical installation practices. 

The security upgrade at The Strand is part of an $A60 million redevelopment designed to reinvigorate Coolangatta and create a unique retail, dining and entertainment precinct. The location is unprecedented. The Strand’s location on Marine Parade opposite Coolangatta Beach makes for a spectacular view appreciated by diners at a Landini-designed 300-seat restaurant on level 1. 

And while The Strand has its share of major retailers, its ground floor is dedicated to smaller specialist shops that exist nowhere else, giving the centre an edgier feel and injecting a sense of discovery that’s aligned with the centre’s atmosphere and location. While the multiplicity of smaller shops adds variety, from a security perspective it means centre management must assume greater responsibility, given few independent retailers have complex security solutions and procedures. 

“The new video surveillance solution assists Centre Management in developing activity-based processes to manage risks relating to safety and security”

In terms of size, The Strand is a medium-sized operation with a floor area of 32,000 square metres over 4 levels, with retail on ground and level one and corporate suites on levels 2 and 4. The Strand also has associated car parking. Along with the usual operational needs, the installation of the new video surveillance solution at The Strand was also designed to mitigate specific local challenges. 

“Undesirable youth-related incidents are the primary challenge for the property,” says The Strand’s operations manager, Ken Howell. “The new video surveillance solution assists Centre Management in developing activity-based processes to manage risks relating to safety and security. The management team uses the system to develop proactive control plans to mitigate and control risks.

Howell says the management system’s features that make it ideal for the requirements of the site include safety, security and interestingly, marketing and promotion.  
“The advanced search features which enable fast tracked activity reviews, along with the people-counting feature, which provides accuracy for our marketing team to measure promotional activities, are the key system functions for The Strand,” he explains.

System components 

In terms of hardware, this is a quality solution with plenty of firepower – not just in terms of cameras, but workstations, too. The application includes 60 Gen-6 Sony IP cameras, 3 Dell Servers, Cat6 data cabling, a 12-core optical OM3 fibre backbone, communications rack, 2 workstations, including a Dell i7 workstation for Milestone XProtect and another for Agent Vi’s SavVi unified video analytics software solution, which handles functions like people counting. The main server is a Dell RX720 with 32TB of storage. There’s also a Sony Video display wall and optical PoE managed network switches. 

Ken Howell operations manager (left), Josh Brown centre manager and Chris Wadsworth of Chris-Tech.

Chris Wadsworth of Chris-Tech Security Alarm Systems designed the system and you get a strong sense he was thinking about the future throughout the process. From lens to monitor, images go from the Sony WDR IP Gen-6 cameras to Cat6 cable and into field consolidation points. From here, a 12-core OM3 optical fibre backbone is daisy chained to the next consolidation point, to head end servers then to workstations. Although this is a dedicated closed network, the design of the system from edge/camera, to comms/network, to network room/switch, to workstation/s or monitor/s is a testament to open architecture. 

“We chose Sony’s Gen-6 cameras because of their image quality and also because we believe their WDR is the best on the market,” says Wadsworth. “After sales support and a 3-year warranty were other deciding factors. Now with 60 cameras installed and operational, the system is performing is very well, which is just what we expected.”

How closely did you work with the Strand on this job? Was The Strand management certain of what it wanted?

“Throughout the process, we worked very closely with The Strand management,” explains Wadsworth. “While they were certain of the operational outcomes they wanted to achieve, Chris-Tech Security Alarm Systems provided the final design brief which was approved by management, to meet those outcomes.”

According to Wadsworth, an IP installation like this virtually future-proof, allowing camera upgrades and extensions to existing network infrastructure.

“We used an unrestricted open platform such as Milestone due to its storage facility and so that future upgrades could be made at any time and additional cameras installed when and if required,” Wadsworth says.

Software solutions

The Strand’s video surveillance solution is managed by Milestone’s XProtect Professional VMS. The smart client interface allows operators easy management of live and recorded video, as well as control of cameras and integrated security devices. 

Key features of Milestone XProtect include a multi-layered map function allowing users to manage cameras and security devices, and overlay buttons that intuitively control cameras, camera integrated devices and connected systems via camera views. There’s also a virtual joystick allowing easy PTZ control. 

Other neat Milestone XProtect features include a single-point alarm management function, the ability to bookmark video sequences with attached notes, independent playback while viewing live video and multi-screen handling incorporating floating windows across multiple screens. Something else the system will do is email authorised users if it’s running out of recording space or there are critical failures. 

XProtect also has a function called sequence explorer, which shows previews of recorded video sequences as time-based groups of drag-and-throw thumbnails that allow management to easily locate specific events during investigations. And useful for police are advanced export options with digital signature, as well as the XProtect Smart Client Player, which includes room for commentary.

“We chose Sony’s Gen-6 cameras because of their image quality and also because we believe their WDR is the best on the market”

Running alongside Milestone XProtect is Agent Vi’s SavVi solution, comprising real-time video analytics software designed to turn standard surveillance networks into intelligent systems. By performing real-time analysis of the video stream, Vi-System identifies and generates alerts for user-defined events relating to people, vehicles and objects. SavVi is perfect for security, safety and business intelligence applications.

SavVi capabilities include people counting of customers entering and exiting the site (bi-directional) and provision of accurate footfall statistics illustrating traffic at various entrances/exits across different time periods. There’s also heat map and site map to offer visualization of motion data and traffic levels (hot zones) within the area covered by a specific camera or across the entire site covered by multiple cameras, to ascertain the areas with greatest frequency and activity. 

A target path is used to identify dominant customer traffic paths and an advanced statistical tool is employed to receive comprehensive statistics reports about customer activity. There’s also forensic investigation to undertake rapid investigations of security incidents, including lost/missing children.

The installation

As you’d expect with a large site like this, design and installation was not an overnight process but it took less time than you’d think. Chris-Tech designed, installed and commissioned the video surveillance system at The Strand in 3 months.

“Thanks to the team’s experience we only needed to undertake training for the Agent Vi analytics component of the system,” says Wadsworth. “Chris-Tech has many Milestone sites and other major projects, so we there was no major challenge associated with the installation outside this.” 

Reflecting Chris-Tech’s capability, while many installations take place hand-in-hand with end user IT departments, at The Strand, the dedicated private network was designed and facilitated by Chris-Tech’s own network engineers. 

What issues dominated the installation from a technical perspective, or were things managed easily with no particular challenges? 

“As with any major project there are always some technical issues, however, our experience in the industry and the support we received from Agent Vi and Video Security Products made this a trouble free installation/project,” says Wadsworth. “We are also contracted to maintain this system and we envisage there will be no issues in the future.” 

In any busy retail environment, planning is involved in getting the system installed and it can be necessary to work after hours. According to Wadsworth, this required liaison with project/site manager, centre management, retail stores and other trades during the refurbishment and construction process that was going on around the team. 

“Time line restraints were managed and at times the Chris-Tech team of 4 technicians worked outside of normal business hours when it was required,” he explains. “All up about 380 man-hours of work was required to complete the installation.”  

And while some applications are on-offs, Wadsworth says that in this case there could be further upgrades of other stores in future.

“This retail group has multiple sites and is extremely happy with the solution put forward by Chris-Tech Security Alarm Systems,” he says. “We understand there are plans for further upgrades to other sites to the same platform.”

How involved was Video Security Products in this installation? What was their role and how supportive was the VSP team?

“Michael Omeros from Video Security Products was a supportive partner in the design and commissioning of this project,” Wadsworth says. “We were very impressed with the support we received from VSP, especially with Agent Vi analytic software.”

Meanwhile, Howell says the new system is an excellent asset to the centre. 

“I've used a number of systems over the years and I've found this to be the best to date,” he says. “The search features provides a quick response to incident activities to assist management in the continual improvement of risk control within the centre. We are continuing to learn new features of the management system.

“The camera selection, which offers excellent clarity, has without question enhanced the user experience in obtaining clearly defined detail for monitoring or investigation. I am very happy with the CCTV package.”♦

Fact File:

Installed at The Strand, Coolangatta were:

* 60 Gen-6 Sony IP cameras 
* Dell i7 workstation for Milestone
* Dell i7 workstation for Agent Vi analytics
* Sony Video display wall 
* 3 Dell Servers
* 12-core optical OM3 fibre backbone
* Cat6 data cabling
* PoE managed network switches.

Chris-Tech Security Alarm Systems 

CHRIS-Tech Security Alarm Systems was founded at Tweed Heads in NSW 24 years ago and is owned and operated by Christopher Wadsworth. According to Wadsworth, Chris-Tech Security Alarm Systems services Northern NSW and Southern Queensland.

“Our team is a leader in innovative security technology, providing comprehensive security solutions to a range of customers such as domestic homes, businesses including small to large retail outlets, financial institutes, clubs and pubs, local and state government,” Wadsworth says. 

“We use a wide variety of solutions and technologies including Sony, Mobotix, Axis, Milestone and Genetec to name a few and our security specialists are all trained and certified on the latest, state-of-the-art technology backed by powerful equipment and secure communication links.” ♦