VIC Watch Security has undertaken an Inner Range Integriti security management system upgrade for Melbourne’s Rec Xpress 24/7 Fitness Centres. The solution supports 12,000 cardholders, is spread across 3 sites and integrates with a Hikvision video surveillance system.

24-hour fitness centres are wonderfully convenient, giving busy customers the opportunity to wedge in a workout at any time of the day or night. But every 24-hour business needs to think extra hard about security and safety. For Rec Xpress 24/7 Fitness Centres, the ideal solution had to manage access, report intrusion and duress events, as well as integrating video monitoring with event recording. 

A key issue for any 24-hour fitness centre is ensuring that only members use the facilities and the best way to ensure this is to integrate access control events with video surveillance in a single workstation to create an indelible event trail. And because Rec Xpress has a light management footprint, saving time lost in investigations between disparate systems is a big deal. The icing on the cake with the Integriti upgrade is building automation that reduces energy costs. 

To meet the needs of its client, integrator Vic Watch Security installed an enterprise Integriti solution integrated with Hikvision video surveillance and leveraged the capabilities of both systems to offer some really clever building automation. This nice work from Vic Watch shows just how capable Integriti actually is. 

The original installation

The story begins nearly 3 years ago when the owners of Rec Xpress in Melbourne opened its first gym in Carnegie.

“Rec Xpress management contacted us to provide them with a quote for an access control and intrusion detection solution,” explains Peter Back of integrator, Vic Watch. 

According to Back, when he visited the first Rec Xpress site it was an empty shell and while there was no talk of expansion, he knew Concept 4000 offered the ability to expand to cover additional sites should this be required. As things turned out, the system’s future-proof nature really paid off. 

“I presented them with the product I knew best delivered what they wanted at the time – Inner Range’s Concept 4000,” says Back. “At that stage there was no plan for an expansion of the gym. We ran through what the Concept 4000 could do in terms of user management and integrated security and I had asked Etwell Pausigere from Central Security Distribution to come down to speak with our clients. Rec Xpress was very impressed with the system and its capabilities wanted to move forward from there.”

The Rec Xpress upgrade

As time passed, the Rec Xpress business began to grow and once the company had opened 2 more fitness centres, management began to feel the need to centralise the security management function.

“Recently, we sat down again with Rec Xpress” explains Back. “Once we got talking it was clear it wasn’t just an access control system they needed but an all-in-one solution that could manage security, access control and CCTV. They also wanted a security system that could do an auto-arm if there was no one in the gym – that meant automation. 

“The Vic Watch team approached CSD looking for a high-level integrated solution both with Integriti and with a CCTV product and Hikvision was put forward as front runner thanks to its integration with Integriti. 

“We went back to Rec Express and told them about the new Integriti system, which was of the same family as the Concept…a newer model, newer features and a new GUI. As well as being a full enterprise solution, Integriti also integrates with IP video surveillance. 

“As we did the presentation we ended up selling Integriti to ourselves as well as to the customer,” laughs Back. “We all fell in love with how easy this product is in terms of backward compatibility with Concept 4000, as well as integrating and talking with other systems. From an integrator’s point of view, it’s just a very good solution.”

According to Back, at the same time as presenting Integriti, Vic Watch unveiled the Hikvision solution, which would integrate with access control events and allow everything to be driven through a single interface using one Integriti time signal. This is an important capability because in the past the state of technology meant staff had to use 2 different unsynchronised systems to investigate incidents, a process which was flawed and inefficient.

“Our Integriti and Hikvision integration eliminated these synchronisation issues between systems. We found the Integriti is a very powerful tool because not only do you have the integration, Integriti synchronises the 2 systems together, saving time. If there’s a door event with a door, management can right-click in the Integriti event log and view the CCTV footage exactly at it occurred at the time. 

“I think with every new product it’s natural to be standoffish about its capabilities. But in no time at all, our technicians didn’t want to use anything but Integriti”

“This capability is why the client has fallen in love with Integriti,” Back explains. “And it’s so easy to drive for managers who are not technically-minded. If you know you way around a computer, even to search the internet or create a document, it’s very simple to operate.” 

Meanwhile, CSD’s Etwell Pausigere says the other feature Rec Xpress wanted was to synchronise the databases between multiple sites so they would only need one database and one server for all their members. 

“With the Concept 4000 they were running their separate sites as standalone systems,” Pausigere explains. “Now with Integriti all of their sites connect to a central server and they manage all their cardholders with the one database. This saves them a lot of time.”

Important too, this Integriti upgrade gives Rex Xpress a global solution – a member can use their access card across multiple gym sites.

“That global access control is a key aspect of the solution,” says Back. “After the success of their first gym, Rec Xpress opened a second and then a third gym. What they needed was for members to be able to go to any Rec Xpress gym and have access to its facilities. This is why with the upgrade all the sites needed to connect to one Integriti server.”

As well as centralised programming through Integriti, Back says there are plans to integrate the Rec Xpress billing management system with Integriti as well. 

“Again this system goes to the next level and provides Rec Xpress with a more complete solution,” says Back. “It’s end-to-end, it’s high-level, it’s open-ended in terms of its integration capabilities. We’re always finding that it can do something more. This is why for us moving forward from here as a company we want to continue using Integriti because it’s a product that is very powerful, it’s a product that we love, it’s a product that we want to push as hard as we can. We don’t want to look back at other products. Integriti is right for us.”

System architecture

In terms of system architecture, the Integriti server is located at the Rec Xpress head office at Brighton East. Running over a secure 3G WAN, this server manages all 3 remote locations. The Hikvision video surveillance solution, which includes NVRs and cameras located at each fitness centre, is also centralised at Brighton East over the company WAN. 

At remote sites, client workstations and local controllers communicate back to the central server. Everything gets routed through the server.  Even if a remote site wanted to control an object (i.e. unlock a door) at their local site, the command would be sent to the server and the server would sent it back to the controller.

Controllers are not dependent upon the server, however. If the link to the server or the server goes down, all local access control and security events will be processed as normal by the local controller. Any events that occur when the link to the server is offline will be buffered in the controller and automatically re-synchronised when the link is re-established. In the past, it was necessary for staff to visit each site to work on databases but this centralised system design means there’s no need for any of that. 

According to Back, the Rec Xpress 3G service has proved equal to the task, with only minor drop-outs on the ISP side.  

“Obviously, should the network go down, local management can still do changes locally,” explains Back. “And when the network comes up again, the data gets sucked out of local sites, through the server and automatically uploaded to Integriti controllers on all Rec Xpress sites. The architecture is fully distributed, with the entire user database residing locally in each of the remote Integriti controllers, giving business continuity.”

When it comes to intrusion detection devices and access control points, numbers are not huge, though the CCTV side is proportionately quite large, which is to be expected in a 24-hour gym. Importantly, most the cabling, sensors, door controllers, strikes and door hardware from the Concept 4000 system could be switched over to Integriti as part of the upgrade. 

According to Back, in terms of intrusion sensors, each site has 8-10 PIRs per site and being a 24-hour establishment, each fitness centre also has wireless duress pendants. The idea here is that members can wear the pendants while they are working out. 

“If you’re in the gym by yourself at 3am in the morning and you’ve fallen or hurt yourself and can’t get access to a phone, you have the pendant right there so you can alert security. 

“Importantly, all of these sites are monitored back 24/7 using the Inner Range Multipath STU’s,” Back says. “We’ve provided specific instructions for security operators at the monitoring station in case they receive an alarm from a pendant. From a management point of view, all of the managers have the Hikvision App on their phone or tablet and if there are any issues at any time they can remotely log in and see what has gone on…they have the flexibility of historic and live viewing.”

“All of the managers have the Hikvision App on their phone or tablet and if there are any issues at any time they can remotely log in and see what has gone on”

While management can also use the Integriti mobile App, Back says they are not doing so at the moment. The nature of the business means remote video view in the event of an alarm is more important than off-site management of what is an extremely stable and robust, fully-distributed system.

In terms of access controlled doors at the fitness centres, one of the sites only has one entry point and the others have 2, one front entrance and one rear entrance, with 2 readers per door allowing badging in and out. 

“Part of the requirements is that all members must badge in and out of the gym,” explains Back. “Having 2-way badging allows the system to report who has been in and out, as well as giving management a snaphot of how many people are in the gym at any one time.” 

It also allows the introduction of automation. The way this works is that the system is set up to use the counting function within Integriti and when the building count reaches zero, Integriti arms the system. Conversely, as soon as an authorised member arrives and badges at the entrance, the system disarms and turns on the lights. 

Integrating video surveillance

A key aspect of this system is video surveillance. According to Back, while there is a security capability with CCTV, the primary reason coverage is so extensive is something else altogether. 

“We use 8-12 cameras per site to deliver 100 per cent coverage for safety and liability reasons,” he explains. “Because these are unmanaged gyms, if anything goes wrong the gym is liable. That means management needs to be able to respond instantly to an emergency and needs perfect footage for investigations.”

The CCTV side of the Rec Xpress solution is built around 16-channel PoE Hikvision NVRs incorporating located at each fitness centre and residing on a dedicated subnet. Given the sites have between 8-12 cameras each, using 16-channel NVRs allows for extremely fast and affordable expansion in the future. 

“When it comes to camera types, we’re using Hikvision’s 2MP, 5MP and 3MP IR cameras and we have multiple 3MP bullet cameras, as well as the usual dome cameras,” says Back. “They are all fixed cameras. 

“One of the features Rec Xpress management really wanted was photo identification on entry so they could verify who it was that had badged a card. That means we needed a camera with WDR capable of handling a backlit entry point while giving face recognition of members coming through the door. 

“Obviously making this work, you need to have everyone’s images stored in the access control system,” explains Back. “What we’ve done is set up Integriti so that when a member joins all their details are taken down, along with photo identification which is stored in their user profile. 

“This means management viewing footage through Integriti can compare the video they are viewing with the file photo to confirm who’s been in and out of the fitness centres.” 

The key functions management uses with the integration between Hikvision and Integriti are live view and historic video. There’s a very neat Send Events function which is part of Integriti but Back says it has not been deployed at Rec Xpress yet. 

“We know that feature exists but we haven’t extended that far,” explains Back. “The current capabilities are above and beyond what the customer needs for sites this size and that applies to schematic mapping, too. 

“The way they designed the gyms is with the office close to the front door so management can see who is coming and going. It means there’s no need for intercoms or anything like that, either. Of course, it’s good to know these functions exist and we can use them in the future should the client request them.” 

Building automation

According to Back, when Rec Xpress management wanted to put timers on lights to save energy, VIC WATCH suggested going a big step further. 

“One of the other major selling points with Integriti was that it would allow integration of lighting and energy management,” Back explains.

“As people are probably aware, with the gyms being a 24/7 establishment, there are times where the gym is quiet. So what we’ve done is incorporate automation in terms of lighting management using Integriti for timing control. There’s a lot of energy-hungry lighting in gyms and automation of these lights provides a clear cost saving. 

“It’s just another reflection of the flexibility of Integriti,” says Back. “This is not just a security and access control system, it can genuinely help customers save money in other areas.” 

According to Back, the way the lighting automation is set up is that lighting controls are funnelled through the relays into Integriti, with PIRs and cameras used as motion detectors. 

“We took relays from the Hikvision NVRs and looped them across to an Integriti input,” Back explains. “Because of the large size of each fitness centre, it made sense to use the CCTV cameras to provide motion detection, rather than having a PIR at every corner.

“When no movement is detected by Integriti for one hour, the system starts the process of arming the building and turning the lights off,” Back explains. “And since we applied building automation to the lights through Integriti, our customer’s power bill has gone down noticeably.” 

Managing the system

According to Back, another big advantage of Integriti was the speed Rec Xpress staff learned its operation. 

“It seriously took one hour of training for the end-user to pick this system up,” he explains. “Some members of the management team have gone beyond this and learned to create fields and drop-boxes and so on, which is good, because they are getting involved and gaining more confidence with the product. 

“It also means that when a new staff member joins the team, they are actually internally training themselves. We only get involved where there is some level of complexity or if they want to make some major changes, but apart from that in terms of creating users, deleting users, adding cards, suspension of users, cancellation of users, it’s all done in-house.”

Pausigere agrees. 

“I’ve watched the Rec Xpress team and every morning the manager goes through the Integriti event log and looks at all the user access that has been granted or denied from the night before,” he explains. “And they click on the Integriti event and select Show Video and display the historic video from the CCTV system according to that time and date. 

“So they really do use it… they interrogate the system to the maximum,” Pausigere says. “It’s not like they use a few features here or there, they really do use all aspects of the integration.”

Something that’s easy to overlook is just how challenging management of a solution like this can be. Rec Xpress has 12,000 cardholders. That’s a vast database to manage, even more challenging given each member needs to access to 3 sites. When you consider the fundamentals, it’s easy to see how appealing an enterprise solution like Integriti is to the customer.

With a large database, the key to management is reporting. According to Back, a number of different types of reports are set up that allow Rec Xpress management to see how many members are active, how many members are cancelled and how many cards a member may have lost. When it comes to lost cards, management likes to do a report to give an indication of loss events or scenarios, allowing them to order new cards just when they are needed and this is all done by Integriti.

“We are running advanced reporting at Rec Express,” says Back. “It gives the customer so much flexibility in terms of what information they want back from the system. Another good thing is that inside the Integriti user profile there is a comment section where management can enter notes relating to each member. 

“Having the reader in and reader out on each door you get members trying to bypass the system, but they can’t. Also if there are different managers on at different times, the comments section is really valuable. 

“There have been a few incidents where members have been letting their non-member friends in the building and because of the CCTV integration these incidents were quickly picked up and addressed. Having the comments section for each member meant that managers could share information with other managers as they changed shift.”

The installation process

While there was existing Inner Range infrastructure that could be re-purposed, because of the centralised and integrated nature of the upgraded system, it was important to get things right at head office. 

“When it came to the installation, the first site was something new to us and we had to set up the servers and all of the integration, making sure both systems were talking to each other,” Back explains. “And we always do some dry tests and dry runs before we go live. Doing a job properly always takes time. 

“But we decided after installing the system at head office that every remote site would mimic the commissioning and programming across the board. This means what we have at one site we have at all the sites. The idea behind this is that any manager can turn up at any gym and won’t be confused about the setup from a security, access control or CCTV point of view.

“Commissioning was fast because basically all the sites are identical – it took about 4 hours per site, if that,” says Back. “From this perspective, it doesn’t matter how big the organisation grows, Integriti has given Rec Express a completely scalable solution.” 

Another key to the speed of this installation hinged on the speed at which Vic Watch’s technical crew came to terms with Integriti. 

“I think with every new product it’s natural to be standoffish about its capabilities,” he says. “But in no time at all, our technicians didn’t want to use anything but Integriti. They loved the ease of programming, the ease of training purposes and the functionality of the system itself.”

Conclusion

The Vic Watch team is an Inner Range integrator and has successfully used Concept 2000, 3000, 4000 since 2006. It’s a history that gives Back an excellent perspective on the capability of the new Integriti solution and he doesn’t stop praising the product.  

“It’s just a fantastic solution and it comes with the support of Inner Range and CSD,” Back says. “Thinking about the various iterations of Concept, I think this Integriti panel is much more powerful overall. Although Concept was very good, in terms of creating and deleting users, the GUI, reporting, Integriti is so easy to drive. 

“Integriti can support more users, more doors… we’ve found it to be a very powerful system. We are so impressed we’ve standardised Integriti as our number 1 security, access control and video surveillance integration solution.

“It’s not just a security system. From access control, to intruder detection, to energy management, from integration with Hikvision, this platform gives you so many capabilities. And when you actually apply this in the field it’s unstoppable.” 

Back says that reflecting the quality of the integrated system is the fact Vic Watch hardly ever gets major service calls. 

“Sometimes Rec Xpress management might need some clarification about but there’s been nothing serious,” he says. “Integriti is a product we are proud to be associated with.”♦

By John Adams