Ring Bell for Business

No mistaking that the hotel, resort and casino markets have been in a tailspin during the last several years of the recession. The hotel industry has been hurt by declining occupancy rates, which they strive to keep at 90 percent or better, but that seems to have righted itself a bit of late as more business travelers take to the roads and air and more families use their rising discretionary income for personal and leisure travel.

Casinos too have been hit by the economic decline. Many casinos now include resorts and adjacent hotel properties, so guests can stay and play. The big news has been at the Native-American-owned casinos, where those properties seem to have weathered the recession better than others and have had monies to build new properties, including security and other necessary protection in and around the premises.

Case in point is the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, located in the Southeastern region of the state. As the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma began to expand its casino operations, tribal leaders realized that many of their facilities had outgrown the limitations of their existing analog surveillance technology. In looking to moderenize their security system, they sought an open IP-based solution that would provide secure, evidentiary-quality video recordings and operate at 30 frames per second and would be easy to set up and expand without major expense or disruption of gaming activity. Choctaw Nation's onsite team worked with Axis Communications reseller partners ConnectionsIT of Santa Rosa, Calif., and CameraWatch Technologies of Jackson, Miss., to install an array of Axis fixed dome and pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) network cameras on the casinos' fiber backbone. The cameras monitor back of house hallways and money areas as well as building exteriors, parking lots and high-stakes gaming areas.

For non-tribal owned casinos, for the most part if these properties have additional monies they will move to IP surveillance. However, the majority of the casinos continue to rely on analog surveillance and for them high-def or HDCCTV is particularly palatable, as it gives them the superior resolution they need and can be retrofitted on the existing coaxial infrastructure without having to move to an expensive 'rip and replace' scenario. Safe to say however, that any major movement in the way of new construction and upgrades will witness the move to more IP cameras, especially as superior compression technologies take hold and lift the burden off the network; the cost of IP cameras decline; and gaming institutions decide to move more to the network to leverage the overall advantages it offers in remote programming, look-in and other property efficiencies. In the interim, many are taking the hybrid approach and using a mix of IP and analog cameras with encoders or other bridging equipment to pave the way to future migration.

Big and bigger and a mix of properties

In Las Vegas, the new CityCenter was perhaps one of the biggest projects of late for the strip. Located between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo Resorts the CityCenter is big, even by Las Vegas standards. It features luxury hotels, residential buildings, retail and entertainment districts, a parking garage and a fire station as well as the development's centerpiece-the 61-story, 4,004-room ARIA Resort & Casino. To help ensure the safety and security of the site, North American Video (NAV), Brick, N.J., designed, built and implemented a state-of-the art, enterprise-wide video surveillance system.

CityCenter is a joint venture between MGM Resorts International and Infinity World Development Corp. The urban metropolis covers 18 million square feet and cost $8.5 billion to build. It includes 17,000 miles of electrical wiring and 7,000 miles of telecom, security and A/V cabling.

The CityCenter project is the first deployment of a standardized surveillance platform, designed by NAV, for other MGM Resorts International properties. The custom hybrid solution at CityCenter is built around Honeywell VMS and features multiple matrix systems spread across seven different head-end locations with monitoring in six separate monitor rooms; six different access control rooms tying together approximately 300 controlled doors; PSIM (physical security information system) integration and management control; and a fiber backbone tying all properties and systems together. More than 3,700 video surveillance cameras provide detailed images on a 24/7/365 basis.

"This project was a challenge to both NAV and the client because of the sheer scale and variety of applications across the multi-use development," said Jason Oakley, CEO, North American Video. "We were successful in delivering this project on time and on budget by working in close cooperation with the MGM Resorts team to ensure their needs were met and their technology investment protected."

NFC-enabled contactless cards for hotels

Hospitality projects are also moving to more secure and sophisticated locking systems. VingCard Elsafe, part of the ASSA ABLOY Group, recently completed installation of its Signature RFID by VingCard contactless electronic door locks with Near Field Communications (NFC) cell phone compatibility at the Kyriad Marseille Centre-Rabatou in Marseille, France. Located a few steps from the Congress Palace and the city's Stadium, the 88-room Louvre Hotels property is located close to the city's main attractions.

The Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) locks allow for contactless guestroom entry and are compatible with next generation NFC cell phones. Guests receive a booking confirmation number, room number and encrypted room key access code through an encrypted Short Message System (SMS) to their NFC-enabled cell phone, allowing them to bypass the check-in line upon arrival and go straight to the room, where their NFC-enabled cell phones will unlock the guestroom door. Each keycard provides updates to the front desk, allowing the hotel's staff to receive important guest information and requests.

VingCard's Signature RFID also decreases the workload of the hotel's management and staff. Its 600-event audit trail and anti-cloning software creates peace-of-mind for hoteliers, according to Christian H‚non, president of ASSA ABLOY Hospitality Europe/Middle East/Africa.

The RFID locks favor the property's "green" initiatives. The energy-efficient locks require fewer battery changes and the sealed hardware design requires less maintenance.

While uncertainty remains in the hospitality market tethered to the recession and its potential upswing, there are opportunities across the board. Video surveillance, electronic lock systems, and integrated system solutions that offer the end user long-term cost savings and a solid return on investment, as well as the ability to grow into the future needs-are skill-sets the systems integrators can present to these users.