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Security as a business strategy

The application installed in a hotel demonstrates that by mixing the right engineering with the right technology, security solutions can be developed with great benefit for customers.

by NVT

In mid-2006, the Real Intercontinental Hotel in San José, Costa Rica, began the implementation of a CCTV system to increase the degree of security of its facilities and thus offer a differentiating element for its visitors with respect to other establishments in the Capital of Tica with similar characteristics.

The idea of implementing this system and later using it as a marketing strategy was very intelligent on the part of the hotel management, who saw with concern the increase in crime rates within hotel establishments, in which every day, regardless of where they are in the world, new cases of theft are reported, whether in the rooms or in the convention spaces, as the theft of computer and audiovisual equipment has become a lucrative business.

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In Costa Rica, a nation whose economy is mainly supported by tourism and agriculture, specialized criminal gangs have emerged, who register for the high-tech events and seminars that take place in this Central American country, and who expect the slightest carelessness of visitors to illegally take over their assets.

To prevent this, the directives of the Real Intercontinental hotel implemented the security system in question. Fabián Malcmann, general manager of the company Integral Security Systems S.A., which was in charge of the installation of the security technology, agreed to comment on the generalities of the project.

Security for a large institution
In a hotel, the installation of a security system must be carried out with the greatest meticulousness, since the highest standards of surveillance must be guaranteed without affecting or deteriorating the exterior image of the buildings. Additionally, it has to be implemented with skill such that there are no failures that force the operators of the equipment and maintenance personnel to permanently invade the facilities.

The technology implemented in this success story was crucial to avoid such inconveniences, as it simplified the same installation by using smaller amounts of exposed cable, as well as the permanence of technicians in common areas. In other words, it was non-invasive.

It is important to note that the Real Intercontinental is an executive hotel, which does not mean that they do not receive families on vacation plan; more than 85% of the people who visit this establishment do so in a business plan, while the annual occupancy rate ranges between 89 and 92%.

It currently has 261 permanent employees (for the same number of rooms), not counting banquets and events, because in these cases the number increases between 80 and 150 people. By next December, the hotel's management has planned to inaugurate a new tower, which will involve an expansion of the security system, as well as the number of employees, which will reach 396 employees (same number of rooms).

On the underlying motivations that the hotel had to install the security system, Mariano León, head of internal control of the entity, said: "the hotel understood its orientation towards business travelers and saw in the system that was going to be installed, a possibility to control in a better way the performance of its staff, as well as customer service."

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Progressive assurance
The project as such is divided into three segments. The initial phase began in June 2006 and included the installation of 80 cameras. By December of the same year the project added 16 new capture units, thanks to the construction of a new section known as the restaurants (composed of three restaurants and a bar).

The intention of the directives, said León, was to have a system that protected all the spaces, (both internal and external), of the hotel, so corridors, common and employee areas, parking areas and those dedicated to loading and unloading were covered. "Basically the design that was used in the hotel was that if one camera lost sight of a guest or employee, another camera would take it from the front," Malcmann explained in relation to the idea of the project.

Then it was necessary to adapt this project to the spatial requirements to avoid that the aesthetic part was violated by the presence of multiple cables exposed to the public, so the challenge was to assemble a system with a high degree of "cleanliness".

By the time implementation began, PVD line equipment was not yet available to the public, leading to the use of conventional transmission/reception systems. Subsequently, all the cameras were linked to the new equipment, which has, among other advantages, a built-in power source.

When the aforementioned migration was made, the cameras of the first phase were connected to five equipment of the type NV-716J-PVD. Passive and active receivers were also used, including an NV-1613 J unit, an NV-3213 J unit and an NV-3262 J type equipment.

In the development stage of the restaurants, when PVD equipment was already available, an NV-16PS10-PVD was used to supply power to the cameras, while for reception an NV-1662 J was used.

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The cameras used are from Pelco's Premier series, which already come with their RJ-45 connector. In the first stage, of the 80 units installed, 72 were fixed and the rest domes or PTZ units. In the second phase, where 16 more were linked, only one of them is of the dome type. The lenses of the cameras as well as their resolution vary according to the location they are going to be given.

The recording equipment is also Pelco. Six units are currently in operation, each with a capacity of one Tb. The monitors installed are of the LCD type; each DVR has a 19" screen.

"What led the hotel management to lean towards NVT equipment was the need to have reliable equipment, with excellent warranty and impeccable support, because they could not afford to have a team that worked for three months, after it stopped for a month and returned to work for five months, to stand again; in other words: they needed a first-class service with an immediate response. In the case of Pelco, the decisive factor was the support offered," Malcmann explained.

Making an analysis of the project, perhaps the most important technical/logistical challenge for the integrator was to always offer the latest state-of-the-art technology, because in the configuration stage of the system, before the tender, many mistakes had been made, so the integrator had to stick to this model. Subsequently, Integral Security Systems added to the negotiation the upgrade of equipment at no cost, facilitating the use of NVT technology from the very beginning.

A system suitable for today's realities
The system implemented in this hotel could be described as a solution perfectly adapted to the technological realities of Latin America, where for many experts it is still difficult to think about the linking of CCTV systems over IP networks.

It is important to keep in mind that in the new stage of expansion the cameras will be located about 750 meters from the control room, so technically it would be very beneficial to use the IP system; but why wasn't it done this way?

For Fabián, there is no doubt that IP technology is the future, but he said that if he had to choose between the modality in question and the conventional one on UTP, he would opt for the latter for several reasons.
The first is that if it is a LAN (Local Area Network) there is no problem with IP, but in the case of Costa Rica when a company wants to open to a WAN (Wide Area Network), and requires an external network link, it can be complicated, because in this nation the government handles everything related to telecommunications; this could change if the FTA with the United States is signed, since one of the fundamental elements is the opening in terms of communications.

In addition to the above, there are also the costs since an IP system requires special equipment that must be adapted to the needs of the system. "They have to have the ability (the equipment) to handle multiprotocols, and we are not talking about a switch that is bought in a store on any corner, but about equipment of the size of Cisco," said Fabian Malcmann.

Third, there is the conflict that arises with information technology officials. "In all the projects that I have managed, the IT departments are too jealous of the bandwidth and what is going to be introduced into the networks (...) when video is streamed, a significant amount of bandwidth is consumed and they don't like that." The recommendation would then be to implement a parallel network, but an IP system is justified if the existing network infrastructure can be leveraged; setting up another network raises costs a lot," Malcmann said.

He then prefers to use UTP because it is simpler, it is an application that offers a lot of flexibility, and the costs are very low. He said that IP technology is still a few years away in terms of development and cost reduction, added to this in terms of resolution, as he assured that conventional systems offer a much better quality of view than IPs.

Technology for a while
The best way for a technology to prove its effectiveness is when the same end user requests it for future projects. This is the case of the Real Intercontinental hotel, which plans the construction of the new executive tower; this work will have eight floors and 112 rooms. The construction will be protected with the same modality of electronic security of the first and second stages, and will add 48 new cameras.

The novelty of the installation of the new tower is that it compromises the concept of substations, which can be explained as follows: in the communications room of the new tower, which is where the equipment of the telephone exchange will be concentrated, a computer cabinet will be located where three NV-16PS10-PVD units will be located; each of these units will be supported by UPS, so that it has local power supported, and if the power supply fails, they will continue to work thanks to the fact that they are connected to the hotel's power plant. This is in itself what a substation means.

The advantage of this model is that the cameras are wired to and from the substation to receive power and return send video; thus, the UTP cable of category six of the cameras that will be installed in the new construction will not have to travel the 700 meters, but 150. Each NVT device receives 16 cameras, but sends only five cables, which will take only 15 cables to the control room, 33 less than you would have by wiring the cameras directly from the location site to the control room.

This will be essential to obtain savings in wiring, in the diameter of the same pipe and space in the racks, among others. The installation also simplifies diagnosis in case of failures.

On the experience of having worked with NVT, Fabián Malcmann said: "Many benefits were obtained, both in the cleaning part, and in the savings for wiring, all with high video quality. NVT technology allowed us to work with UTP cable at greater distances, which would not be possible with coaxial, as the costs associated with it, amplifiers and power cables would have made the project prohibitive."

Network Video Technologies, Inc. ( develops and promotes CCTV transmission systems for sending real-time audio and video over common unshielded twisted pair telephone cable. Founded in 1990, NVT is incorporated in the state of California. All products are guaranteed for life and are listed and/or meet UL, CUL and CE requirements. For contacts in Latin America you can contact Rafael Madrigal in the mail [email protected].

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