What dreams are made of

May 2005 CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring

To accomplish a reduction in hotel running costs, and at the same time provide a better service for all its customers, would be any hotel chain's dream come true. Surely, this would increase customer satisfaction, leading to repeat visits, thus creating higher revenue.

Is it just a pipe dream or could it actually be accomplished? Alastair Miller, security director of Pestana Hotels & Resorts believed it to be more than a dream. He was convinced that it could happen given access to the right technology coupled with the implementation of properly trained staff and a small but necessary re-education of existing employees.

The Pestana group is the largest Portuguese tourism and leisure group. With over 30 hotels spread over three continents it is the third largest European group in this sector.

Miller came into the Pestana organisation as the security director two years ago. Like any new director he was employed with a remit: review the security, reduce the expenditure and increase efficiency. In achieving this there had to be no compromise in either customer or staff safety. Thrown into the challenge for good measure was a need for an improvement in that area as well. Miller spent time evaluating the situation in Madeira, where the Pestana Group has nine, four or five-star hotels and a casino. Some of the hotels and the casino had existing CCTV installations, while others had none. In the cases where CCTV existed this was routed back to a small security office situated at each hotel. Inside each office were normal analog CCTV monitors and VCRs. A security officer manned each office around the clock. With the exception of a few employees virtually all the security staff were sub-contracted from a third-party organisation and the bill was immense.

On closer inspection he established this method of operation had little impact on the organisation, and was limited only to the area of security. What if he could reduce the number of staff needed by combining roles so that they dealt not only with security, but also influenced other areas, in effect provide an aspect of facility management? His staff could, for example, monitor hotel traffic such as bottlenecks at hotel receptions, in the bars, restaurants and car parks. The supervisors responsible for those areas could be advised, so that they could in turn re-direct resources or re-evaluate staff or shift patterns, adding a higher level of efficiency and greater customer satisfaction. To provide this service he knew he had to create a central control and monitor all hotels from one location.

Research

Miller wanted to slash several hundred thousand euros off of his annual revenue budget. In order to do that he needed to dispose of the most costly aspect - the sub-contracted security staff. He still needed to monitor all of his hotels and in fact wanted to add CCTV to some of his hotels where CCTV currently did not exist. He also wanted to fund the entire project with the savings made from the disposal of the sub-contractors. In fact he wanted not only to fund it but save money in the first year as well.

The technical objectives were:

* Transmit live CCTV from each of the hotels to a central location.

* Replace all the analog VCRs with digital video recorders, and remotely access these DVRs from the central location.

* Control and monitor door and gate access remotely from the central location.

The hotels were already linked via an IP network; some links were only 2 MB while others were 10 and even 100 MB. He knew he needed to use this network to achieve his objectives but the hotel networks were already heavily loaded. He needed to find a product that could do everything that he wanted giving speedy broadcast quality transmission but at the same time be a light user of the existing network. At the same time it had to be cost effective and fit into his overall budgetary plan. After researching his requirements for some time he came across Video Domain Technology on the Internet. He initiated an e-mail and a visit to Madeira by Clive Mason, the MD of VDT (UK). The visit was a success; and a solution meeting both his budget and technical requirements was found. A subsequent visit, which included a temporary installation of a NetIP CCTV transmitter, proved the concept. Within two hours live CCTV images were being streamed from existing cameras at the Pestana Village Hotel to the Carlton Madeira Hotel via the hotels' existing network. What impressed the Pestana IT team most was that the transmitter had little impact on the network. Following this visit VDT UK and Pestana drew up a project plan to cover the technical implementation. On top of the technical implementation, Miller had to recruit new control room operators and a rapid response team. The rapid response team would deal with security problems and help with other hotel issues if required. This needed to be achieved and functioning within 12 weeks.

The work begins

Weeks 1 to 7 were planning the project. A UK team of two CCTV installers and one representative from VDT arrived in Madeira and set to work.

The first task was to install additional CCTV cameras. At the same time installation went ahead with the IP transmitter and DVRs.

Next came the installation of the monitoring station computers.

Finally, the monitoring software was placed on one of the 10 computers and tested. Once tested the computer image was copied simultaneously to the remaining nine.

By week 11 the monitoring station was built and fully functional, the CCTV, NetIP video transmitters and DVR installations were complete. Most of the staff had been recruited. All that was left was to train them and go live.

The training was completed during the last week of the project; the monitoring station went live four days earlier than the projected 'go live' date. Pestana met both its budget and technical requirements. Ongoing re-education is taking place to utilise the system to perform facility management as well as security tasking, but early days are showing encouraging signs. Pestana now plans to roll out a similar solution using Video Domain Technology products on mainland Portugal.

Video Domain products are distributed in South Africa by Emergency Reaction Services.

For more information contact Morris Maram, Emergency Reaction Services, info@ersos.co.za, www.emergencyreaction.com



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