Prasanth Aby Thomas | 2017/08/09
The single-most important tool for security in casinos continues to be the video surveillance solution. It provides investigators with a replay of events during and leading-up to incidents. Perhaps the only difference that we have seen over the years is the increased resolution in cameras and the corresponding changes in the associated hardware.
According to Miki Manjal, Global Vertical Manager for Casinos and Gaming at Pelco by Schneider Electric, the increase in camera resolutions has boosted hardware demands for networking equipment and digital storage, as well as helped to support new functionality.
“These new functions include facial recognition, improved data compression and storage techniques, improved meta-tagging, automated video analytics and predictive awareness techniques,” Manjal said. “In all of these cases, the drivers are improved operational efficiency, improved storage of the increasing volumes of data, and improved searching within that data for significant information.”
Of course, facilities like facial recognition and other forms of biometric identification does add value to the security solutions in casinos. But as Manjal rightly pointed out, all these depend on the video surveillance solution. Dan Reese, Director, Vertical Market Applications for Video Systems at Bosch Security Systems explained more about the nature of video equipment that is popular in this vertical, adding that video management systems are also important.
“Casinos use a mix of fixed and pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras to monitor their facilities, including the gaming floor, cash rooms, hotel, retail and restaurant space, and parking facilities,” Reese said. “Video is managed and recorded by a VMS, frequently with features optimized for gaming applications. Specialized software, such as face recognition and license plate recognition, is often integrated with the VMS. Most casinos have already made the change from analog cameras to IP cameras, which provide higher resolution and superior images.”
The right VMS solution customized for casino facilities is critical for the proper functioning of the video surveillance system. In fact, Willem Ryan, Senior Director for Global Marketing and Communications at Avigilon suggested that VMS remains one of the most powerful tools for securing casinos. He added that his company’s software enhances security operators’ ability to manage and interact with high-definition video by providing easy-to-use intuitive software and native support for its access control platform. This integration benefits users by producing action-based alarms and real-time electronic and visual notifications for quick responses.
The role of AI in casino security
The recent developments in artificial intelligence technologies have given rise to several potential applications in security. And their influence in casinos is steadily growing. Last year, Brainchip, a California-based AI solutions provider revealed a major Las Vegas casino was to use its security monitoring system following successful completion of a trial phase. The company has developed Spiking Neuron Adaptive Processor (SNAP) technology, which it says will learn autonomously like a human brain.
For the Las Vegas casino, Brainchip used a technology called Game Outcome which was based on its SNAPvision technology to visually and automatically detect dealer errors by monitoring video streams from standard video surveillance cameras. Game Outcome can recognize the cards that are played, winning hands, the rules of the game and the payout.
The company was also in the process of trialing a second casino security application called Game Statistics, which collects and interprets data from table games. The data is then used to assist the casino operator to optimize labor costs and operational efficiencies and ensuring they are providing the right “comps” – the incentives that casinos provide to encourage players to play more – to the players.
Pelco’s Manjal is quite positive that such developments in the AI technology will have a significant effect on casino management and security.
“Machines are very good at some things that even skilled staff find challenging,” Manjal said. “One of these is tracking and detecting patterns that play out over extended time periods. In the future, we are certain that investigators will have even more powerful analytic tools to support their efforts in tracking down sophisticated thieves and fraudsters.”
Reese agreed, citing the example of automatic detection of anomalous behavior, alerting staff to intervene before malicious incidents occur. “Video Analytics will be able to accurately determine what each player is betting – this will improve casinos’ ability to properly comp patrons based on their actual spending levels, and will be able to spot cheating patterns more accurately than humans can today,” he added. “Floor layout, game selection, payout percentages, and many other strategic and operational decisions will be optimized using AI and deep learning technologies.”
Avigilon is developing deep learning artificial intelligence-driven technology to change the way people think about and interact with their video surveillance systems, not just in casinos, but across a number of industries.
“As a recognized leader and innovator in AI, Avigilon continues to expand its video analytics capabilities with advanced technologies like Avigilon Appearance Search technology, which can help security operators gain powerful insights from their security systems for effective decision making,” Ryan said. “Avigilon also recently previewed Unusual Motion Detection (UMD) technology, which is an advanced AI technology that brings a new level of automation to surveillance. This technology is designed to continuously learn what typical activity in the scene looks like and focus the operator’s attention on atypical events needing further investigation. With a critical mass being reached in the volume of video data captured today, there is a limit in the ability of security operators to sift through that amount of video. However, through the power of AI, Avigilon continues to develop technology that better focuses human attention to what matters most in order to dramatically increase the effectiveness of security systems.”
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of such technological developments is that they are able to go beyond their basic function of providing security to something that would help the business operations.
Adding value to casino business with security
The implementation of digital systems has opened the door for improved video analytics on the captured data. This, in turn, gives casino owners a significant advantage by providing insights that could help them make better decisions.
“For example, there are cameras today that can not only capture and deliver video of activities in the field of view, but can also analyze that data to detect humans and track their behavior,” Manjal said. “This kind of information is very useful for optimizing the layout of gambling tables and equipment. While the information was available in the past (by viewing recorded analog video), it required a prohibitive investment of time and staffing. Today, the camera can capture it automatically in real time, making the information available, timely and useful. This data is the fuel for the emerging science of predictive analysis, which will further leverage information to provide a wealth of business and security insights.”
Reese added that functions like heat maps and flow patterns can be used to determine where patrons spend most of their time and how they move through the casino, allowing the casino to optimize the layout to maximize participation. Queue length detection in hotel and restaurant lines can be used to alert management to move staff where needed. License plate recognition can be used to determine the arrival of a high roller, allowing staff to provide special treatment immediately on arrival.
Expect the casino boom to continue
The growth of the casino industry over the past decade has been tremendous. There was a slowdown in Macau due to stricter regulations and a Chinese government crackdown, but according to Manjal, at the beginning of 2017, Morgan Stanley estimated a 10 percent revenue growth for Macau.
“Buckingham Research Group forecasted 6-8 percent GGR growth in 2017, and Sanford Bernstein projected 8 percent,” Manjal added. “Growth continues to be promising, with Macau GGR [gross gambling revenue] seeing a 23.7 percent increase for the month of June 2017, well beyond the expected growth of 16.5 percent.”
Reese said that in the U.S., more and more states are legalizing and expanding gambling, resulting in an overall growth in the market, at the expense of growth in the gambling hubs such as the Atlantic City. Las Vegas is an exception here, which is maintaining growth due to its overall entertainment appeal, which goes beyond just casinos and gaming.
Going by the figures, the market looks quite promising for systems integrators in this vertical. But as technology progresses, there will be more interesting solutions coming in, and SIs will have to ensure they are on top of all the developments. The future could be all about more customization that could result in furthering the attempts to improve the experience of every visitor, while ensuring maximum utilization of all the resources available.
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