Wirelessly Integrating Cameras and Doors at the Hotel Northampton

Integrator Viocen delivers a wirelessly networked IP video and door sensor system to an historic property

Northampton, Mass., is not the kind of town where gangs of criminals run the city's downtown streets. You’re more likely to find tourists up from New York City or Boston enjoying the flourishing scene of restaurants, music venues, art galleries, historic buildings and quaint streets than you are to hear the rush of police vehicles to an incident.

The Hotel Northampton, located squarely in the city's historic area, is in the middle of this bustling tourist-friendly downtown. A favorite spot for weddings, well-traveled tourists and keen business travelers, the hotel building itself was constructed in 1927. Its adjoining Wiggins Tavern was built in 1786, then moved from Hopkinton, N.H., and rebuilt at the hotel in 1930. It does suffice to say that the hotel has a bit of history on its grounds, and according to Mansour Ghalibaf, the hotel’s general manager, it’s that older charm that draws many of the guests of the hotel.

So when he saw a need for a surveillance system at his 106-room boutique hotel, Ghalibaf was in a bit of a challenge. At one level, he needed to protect his guests and his tangible assets, but on the other side of the equation, he had unique architecture to protect.

Fortunate for Ghalibaf, when he was first starting to think of going with a high-technology security system, wireless networking was already starting to make its way into the arena.

“About five years ago I was looking at the technologies in the vendors showcase at the Massachusetts Lodging Association’s conference,” explains Ghalibaf. “I was looking into wireless Internet because of the architecture, but also because of the cost.”

With luck, Ghalibaf ran into Mehrdad Sheik, a fellow Iranian who was in the telecom/WiFi business through his company Viocen. The two shared not only a common background, but Vicoen landed the hotel’s WiFi project, bringing high-speed wireless Internet connectivity to the rooms and meeting spaces at the hotel.

A couple years later, when the WiFi project had been completed and Ghalibaf was able to return his focus to security, he picked up the phone and called Vicoen to find out if they could do his security. The answer was, “Yes.”

With 106 rooms, two restaurant/bars, six function rooms and another building that hosts luxury suites which is not part of the main building, plus a constantly coming-and-going guest population, Ghalibaf was in a unique situation. To have surveillance cameras and access control in the hallways, elevators, parking lots and in the second building, he was going to need to have lots of cabling drawn. This time, Vicoen pointed to their expertise in wireless and said they could take the project in a wireless direction.

Sheik and his partner in Viocen, Bill Mitchell, worked up a plan that would use a variety of technologies, from door position sensors to mini-domes. The key, as Ghalibaf would explain to them, is that not only did they need to preserve the architecture by not drilling through everything and pulling coax across the property, but the security also had to be discreet and not take away from the overall look of the property.

First, let’s tell a bit about Viocen itself. The company isn’t a longtime security installing company, but rather brings expertise out of the networking and telecommunications lineage, explains Mitchell.

“We took that proficiency and up-time model to the security market,” says Mitchell. “If a camera fails at midnight, and no one is watching, and an incident happens in the parking lot, then when the manager comes in the next morning, he has no archive.”

That need for constant “up-time” has pushed Sheik and Mitchell to be constant tech heads – always looking for good technology. They even strategize to find failure points of the cameras they consider installing.

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