In the Eye of the Beholder

Full dimensional, 360-degree camera keeps eyes on the floor

In the eye of the beholder - casino security
When Graham Wallis walks into a Las Vegas casino, his first look isn’t to the slot machines or gaming tables. He is thinking about security and how his company can improve surveillance for the end user.

Wallis is considering cameras that cover the entire playing field with an overhead visualization—from end zone to end zone. He is the CEO of Oncam Grandeye’s operations in the United States.

“We believe 360-degree cameras have a future in the gaming industry,” Wallis said. “We also want to play in such vertical markets as maritime, retail, healthcare, school and hotels.” Cruise ships have been using the Grandeye 360-degree camera for quite a while now, to achieve complete situational awareness, which means that monitors can see down corridors and where people are going. The gaming vertical also believes in situational awareness across the entire gaming platform, where monitors can zoom into a particular scene or area and have a better look at various activities.

So, when Wallis enters the MGM Aria in Las Vegas, he is probably in search of Ted Whiting, MGM’s security director, who understands surveillance as well as anyone in the market.

“The camera is the enabler that gathers the information,” Wallis said. “With the camera, we have installed analytics for each section of the gaming floor. The camera is now the vehicle that tracks people in situational awareness, and it provides real-time interrogation.”

Whiting knows a thing or two about the gaming industry. He started in 1989, working his way up from a dealer to cage cashier to poker room brush. Whiting has experience working the floor and knows what to look for so his employer, the security end user, isn’t taken advantage of. In 2001, he worked in surveillance at the Mirage Casino and Resort, and was later named the director.

In the eye of the beholder - Oncam Grandeye 360-degree cameraWhiting’s experience at the Mirage set him up for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in 2006 when he was hired to create the surveillance system at the multi-billion-dollar CityCenter resort while the MGM Aria Resort and Casino was being constructed. In 2009, opportunity knocked again when he was asked to design its surveillance system, too.

Somewhere along the line, Whiting and Wallis connected and began talking about the Oncam Grandeye 360-degree camera.

“Video coverage is it,” Whiting said. “Without the coverage, all you have is ‘I said/you said.’”

Whiting is sold on the 360-degree cameras and has installed them at the Aria. He said that a 360-degree field of view allows his staff to spot a cheat from across the gaming floor at one vantage point, then track that person to a choke point, or narrow pathway. It is at these choke points that high-definition cameras are able to “put a face on the person.” Not only that, the recorded video from the 360-degree camera allows Whiting and his team to track a criminal back in time, enabling identification. The two cameras work in tandem to achieve the common goal identification.

“If recorded video shows a cheat using a player’s card earlier in the day, we can find the name, address and phone number,” Whiting said. “If a theft is reported at an ATM, we can use the approximate time to identify the suspect via the ATM cameras, and then use the 360-degree camera to track the suspect through the resort.” Surveillance at the Aria isn’t exactly easy. The surveillance department is responsible for 4,004 guest rooms and more than 150,000-square feet of gaming space. Whiting boasts one of the Las Vegas Strip’s best track records at catching cheats and thieves, and he and his staff are constantly on the lookout for new ways to trump the gaming system.

“I’m always on the prowl for new technologies to outsmart the criminal element in the gaming world,” Whiting said. “Whatever [technologies] I want, that’s what we’re getting.”

Whiting’s choice of the Oncam Grandeye includes software through which images from the 360-degree camera are de-warped, providing a clear view of a suspect’s features. It also allows surveillance team members to conduct simultaneous review of recorded video from various workstations in the surveillance command center, within the 360 degrees.

The surveillance team manages more than 1,100 cameras in the casino that include 35 chokepoint cameras and fifty, 360-degree cameras. Whiting said that one 360-degree camera will replace four, or maybe five, PTZ cameras. This is not only more cost effective but eliminates blind spots.

“We catch people doing bad things, and we catch them because we love doing this,” Whiting said. “You talk about Big Brother, well, that’s what we do here. Surveillance is our job and we want to do it well.”

The Aria surveillance team works hand-in-hand with the resort’s security team, who also relies on a separate system. Both teams require a skill set for the casino’s gaming floor. The various casinos on the Las Vegas Strip also abide by one standard surveillance, and often help each other out when it comes to cheats and criminals. There used to be 10 different properties on the Strip, with 10 different standards; thankfully, that has changed.

Much has changed in the security and surveillance market over the years. Wallis has seen it all, so when he stepped into the starring role at Oncam Grandeye, he faced the task of bringing a start-up company into the 21st century.

Wallis said the company isn’t a typical integrator. They don’t work with end users directly but will assist other systems integrators in developing solutions to particular problems, especially if they want 360-degree technology.

“If you have a problem developing a solution, we come in with our version of how to solve that situation,” Wallis said. “We have been successful in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. We are just now bringing our philosophy to the United States. The 360-degree is known, just not very well understood.”

Wallis understands the business that casino surveillance operators face, and knows full well how security technology can ease that burden.

Taking a walk through a casino with Wallis is an exercise in security education 101. He knows the entire playing field, and knows where to throw for a touchdown.

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