Steve Malia

When the economy is doing badly, fewer people are willing to risk their disposable income in casinos, and Las Vegas and Atlantic City have suffered accordingly from the negative impact of the nation’s recent economic woes. More frugal corporate travel policies during the economic downturn have also hurt these convention destinations, as reflected by lower occupancy rates.

But with the economy starting to show positive strides, casinos are beginning to feel a positive impact. The improving economic landscape will likely convince casino owners to resume technology investments, such as video surveillance system upgrades, that may have been put on the back burner during the recession. For casinos and other businesses, now is the perfect time to invest in video. Prices are reasonable, and systems are better than ever. Let’s look at multiple factors that make it an especially good time for casinos to place their bets on video surveillance technology.

More aggressive pricing. The recession slowed down business in many sectors of the economy, including technology providers and systems integrators. To offset the downward trend in business volume, many suppliers have implemented aggressive pricing. Lower prices are a great benefit for customers in any environment. Downward pricing pressures have also required these companies to “work smarter” to maintain the same or improved levels of service while minimizing costs. Customers in the improving economic climate stand to benefit from new levels of efficiency and attention to customer needs that are positive byproducts of the recession. More than ever, video surveillance technology is a “deal” for customers.

Benefits of R&D. It’s been two years or longer since many casinos have even considered investing in video surveillance technology, and the market has changed in many ways in those two years. While IP video technologies were in existence then, they have progressed markedly in the interim. Research and development have yielded newer IP solutions that are more robust, and these have been tested in many demanding applications that suggest they are more than ready to take on the scale and complexity of casino applications. Gaming security professionals looking anew at their choices among higher-resolution cameras will be pleasantly surprised by both the number of choices and image quality that is truly amazing. Standardization of key technology applications can help create simpler, more robust systems that are easier to maintain, upgrade, expand and manage. Video compression levels can be changed to match system limitations. Access to the systems via user names and passwords can be achieved from any point on the dedicated security network using standard TCP/IP so that any networked computer can be used as a viewing monitor and operation center. Standardization of databases and protocols allows for interaction and interfacing with other security components such as access control and alarm systems. Users can now expect open technologies that can be integrated into a total system without locking the user into a single vendor.  As always, the expertise of a systems integrator is critical to research and test various vendors’ products prior to installation.

Lower system costs. IP-based video surveillance systems use many of the same components as other computer systems and can therefore reap the rewards of the giant IT market’s economies of scale. Many of the technologies are going down in price, notably data storage. Especially in the case of a large surveillance system with specific time period requirements for maintaining archived video, the costs of data storage can be significant. With such costs sinking, the systems themselves are becoming more affordable than ever. The economics are changing, too, with higher-resolution cameras now able to be used in lieu of many more standard-resolution models, and network infrastructure transforming how systems are designed and scaled. For example, because most IP network fixed cameras support PoE (Power over Ethernet), installation of these cameras on a single Cat 5 Ethernet cable can provide both Ethernet connectivity and power, reducing installation costs. Combined with the aggressive pricing triggered by an especially competitive market during the recession, these lower overhead costs translate into a real advantage for casinos looking again at video surveillance. It’s clearly a buyers’ market.

The casinos are ready to make a comeback. The rebounding economy is already bringing improvements. More hotels and casinos should take advantage of newer cost-effective technologies to improve their operations (and eventually to provide a return on investment). All in all, it’s a great time to invest in video surveillance technology. — By Steve Malia, vice president, Engineering Services and Marketing, North American Video (NAV).