Security Today article: 360-Degrees of Security - Oncam: Experts in 360-degree and 180-degree Video Technology Solutions

The gaming industry has a huge responsibility to help safeguard guests and employees, and also to protect assets while continually striving to provide the best ways in which to gather intelligence and surveillance data to prevent major breaches and fraud. With massive amounts of people, some thieves and crooks, and others simply guests looking for entertainment, constantly mulling about such a large area, with large amounts of money changing hands, a casino en vironment presents unique and ever-changing security challenges. Stringent regulations must be followed to maintain the integrity of operations, and to have a successful security program, the whole story of each event in question must be told.

To create an accurate story, the first step is to efficiently gather as many details and as much intelligence as possible for every security issue occurring 24/7 in real time, with the ability to review and investigate events forensically. Usually, more details of an incident are discovered with retrospect viewing of surveillance data, painting a more full and accurate picture of the events. This enables security managers to fulfill their obligation to ensure better safety for camall as well as asset protection for the casino and the various retail establishments within it.

One of the best ways to create this type of security environment is by using 360-degree, fisheye, multi-directional surveillance technology security cameras that can support high-quality analytics and deliver superior video evidence.

How This Type of Camera Works

Although it’s been a slow migration, more casinos are adopting IP video surveillance with features such as PTZ and enhanced analytics that provide scalability, flexibility and lower cost of ownership. However, some casinos are taking security another step further by replacing their PTZ cameras, which are fixed in a single direction, with 360-degree, omnidirectional, fisheye cameras. Because these types of cameras have higher resolutions and more efficient dewarping technologies, it is fair to assess that they will soon replace PTZ cameras altogether, especially in the gaming industry where it is of vital importance for general area surveillance and the ability to retrospectively see the whole story.

These multidirectional cameras have higher resolution sensors that enable the camera to record 360-degree views that provide casino security teams with full situational awareness while eliminating blind spots. What’s more, stored video includes the full 360-degree view, making it easy to access later for further investigation and to better understand people’s behavioral patterns. Certain behavioral nuances are similar among people who mean to do malice, such as cheat or steal, so by offering security teams the opportunity to observe these behaviors, they are empowered to notice certain behaviors as they occur. These cameras work in partnership with security officers, allowing them to probe further to track and verify, delve into previous behavior in earlier camera shots to confirm or challenge camera findings using analytics.

The power of these cameras to capture so much revolves around its wideangle lens that enables the view to go beyond what the human eye is able to see naturally. As a camera views and records in 360 degrees, a circular, distorted image is produced, making it essential to process the image so that the human eye can comprehend the image easily.

Software aids in this process by digitally dewarping or flattening the sphere of video to correct the curvature that results from capturing an ultra-wide field of view. The images can then be stitched together so that it looks like individual feeds captured from multiple cameras being placed together in a story- line format.

All of this from a single camera.

Camera Advantages

Security departments, in general, are seeking the best security technology possible to deploy while cutting spending to help maintain security budgets. The same is true in the gaming industry as safety, security and asset protection is vital, but must stay within a specific surveillance budget. 360-degree, omnidirectional cameras offer a cost-effective solution by providing larger coverage from a single camera with a single lens, while giving users the ability to digitally PTZ during live and in stored video feeds.

When compared to a single, narrow field-of-view or traditional surveillance camera, 360-degree, multidirectional, fisheye surveillance cameras provide several other significant benefits including the following:

Coverage is comprehensive. This type of camera offers the widest field-ofview on the surveillance market today with the added advantage of no blind spots, which is necessary in a casino environment. With such a vast amount of space to cover, there are some nooks and crannies that would be impossible to provide video surveillance without this technology. An added feature is the ability to zoom in on certain points of interest during live video but with recorded video, after the fact as well.

Security budgets are maintained. Because of a wider field-of-view, fewer cameras are used to monitor an area so that end users are able to reduce their camera counts significantly by using 360-degree technology. Fewer cameras mean a reduction in upfront costs as well as over the life of the whole surveillance system as maintenance expenses are kept at a minimum.

Network bandwidth requirements are minimized. The rounded fisheye lens helps cameras lower network bandwidth usage because of lower frame rates during times of little or no activity. It is typical to estimate that a single fisheye surveillance camera can replace four or more regular video cameras.

The 360-degree, omnidirectional camera is stationary. Since this style of camera does not have moving parts, latency or lag associated with typical PTZ devices is avoided. These cameras also tend to have a longer life, because there are no moving parts that can wear out.

Flexibility is improved. PTZ cameras focus on one specific area so it is highly possible that some of the action in the same area is missed. With fisheye cameras, the operator is empowered in both live and recorded viewing because he or she is able to see the whole scene and not miss important elements of the action. This allows for total situational awareness so that operators know exactly what is taking place within their environment as it happens with the added ability to view the recorded version of a specific situation.

Using Gathered Information

The abilities that a 360-degree camallera has allows for massive amounts of data and intelligence to be viewed in real-time as well as previously recorded footage. So the big question is how to use all of this gathered information to make a casino environment safe and secure.

Some 360-degree cameras are capable of running video analytics directly on the camera, which allows the user to automatically detect suspicious events based on pre-defined criteria and behavior analysis. Because the analytics are on the camera, this negates having to install additional hardware and software for running analytics. Video analytics support decision making with comprehensive, actionable information, so within a casino environment, analytics can be used to assist with a variety of issues.

Traffic patterns can be improved inside a casino by analyzing the flow of people based on captured analytics. For example, a casino had a popular slot machine and 10 of the same machines were placed in one area of the facility. This caused crowds of people to build up in this area, preventing others from simply walking by the machines.

By viewing this on video, a casino is able to create a plan of spreading out the placement of the popular machines so that people can still enjoy them while enhancing the flow of traffic within the casino. Several safety and security issues are mitigated with machine placement; one example is casino pickpockets. These thieves would have a harder time targeting groups of people who are spread out as opposed to those grouped tightly together.

Another way gathered video information from 360-degree cameras can assist with the safety and security in a casino environment is with investigations. With a traditional PTZ camera, casino security can follow people walking through a casino; however, if an event in question occurred in the past, a 360-degree camera allows security to go back in time to this specific event and literally chase people through the casino, tracking them and then eventually verifying whether an event took place. The recorded data can even be handed over to law enforcement officials as evidence.

Recording with 360-degree cameras can ensure that casinos record action that is taking place on the whole casino floor, but it’s what the casino’s security team decides to do with the video data that makes this camera so valuable.

A Real-life Application

The Aria Resort and Casino, offers 4,004 guest rooms, 568 luxury suites, four pools and 150,000 square feet of gaming, places a huge emphasis on protecting assets, with billions of dollars going through the property yearly. The security team wanted to ensure that fraud did not have a chance to happen within the casino, however, realizing that this was a lofty goal, they understood that this could take some time, but wanted to put a stop to it as quickly as possible.

“We know the rules; we know the math,” said Ted Whiting, surveillance director for MGM Resorts International. “We try to know everything there is to know about the games and when something new comes up, we pursue it until we understand it.”

Because of this understanding, Whiting and his team made the decision to deploy 360-degree cameras within the casino to fulfill their overall security goal of protecting casino assets and patrons. With this camera technology, he and his team are able to follow anyone throughout the entire casino at any time, leading to total situational awareness by eliminating blind spots.

“We can always see where a person went,” Whiting said. “We can track them from the cage all the way to his or her vehicle. And, how we do that is the 360-degree technology has allowed us to cover just about 100 percent of the casino’s floor.”

Whiting paired the 360-degree camera technology with existing PTZ camera technology within the casino so that almost all areas of the casino are covered.

“So, I have HD cameras, just regular fixed cameras, everywhere that this casino’s pathway gets skinny,” Whiting said. “Using three to four 360-degree cameras, I can follow you until you hit one of my fixed cameras—choke points I call them—and then I have a perfect ID shot of you.”

The 360-degree technology has allowed the Aria to go further to enhance security than simply recording with just fixed, HD cameras or PTZs. These 360-degree cameras offer the gaming industry a powerful tool to protect assets and ensure safety and security for patrons of their facilities. Using updated technology that takes into account the necessity of casino security is crucial to protecting important critical assets within a facility.

Read the orginial Security Today article here.