The famous Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) has a new high-technology security system.
JOHN POWER visited the iconic stadium last week for a first-hand glimpse into 21st Century stadium surveillance.
Anyone who has visited the MCG will be aware of its special status in Melbourne’s culture. As a venue famous for its crowd-wide humour, raw emotion and theatricality, it inspires mixed feelings of reverence and relaxation – respect tinged with mischief.
It is for the sake of the mischievous minority (and for the general safety of all patrons) that the ground is being equipped with state-of-the-art, 1080i, IP-networked closed circuit TV (CCTV) cameras, supplied by the security company Axis Communications as part of a major security system overhaul won by Integrators Australia.
During a tour of the newly fitted security rooms last week under the guidance of the ground’s security manager, Andy Frances, together with numerous members of the Axis Communications team, it was plain to see that the $3 million security fitout, when complete, will pave the way for a new era of sophistication in ground management.
According to Frances, the ongoing refit involves the phasing out of all analogue cameras in favour of approximately 480 HDTV cameras installed throughout the interior and exterior of the stadium. So far, 15 percent of the new cameras have been installed, incorporating ‘intelligent’ video capabilities such as advanced motion detection, audio detection and detection of camera tampering. According to Frances, Axis camera equipment was chosen for its image clarity and quality. He says the initial assessment process was straightforward, involving the mounting of different brands of cameras in identical positions. Images from each camera were then rated from one to ten according to predetermined criteria and the Axis cameras were a clear winner.
The entire system is run from a main security room near Gate 2, supplemented on match days by duplicated operating systems on the third level (pictured top of page) overlooking the playing arena. Amazingly, just two IT specialists run the entire (main room) Genetec surveillance system – which has a 70-terabyte capacity! On match days, two additional IT personnel work upstairs with Frances alongside members of Victoria Police and other professionals.
The system’s most striking feature is its practicality and simplicity. Despite the massive number of cameras involved, all true-colour images are viewable on fewer than a dozen monitors. Four rearward, wall-mounted monitors satisfy OHS requirements for prolonged visibility and comfort, while every attempt has been made to incorporate touch-screen functionality into the screens to speed up response times and maximise user-friendliness.
WHAT CAN YOU SEE?
The completed surveillance system will provide almost blanket coverage of the interior of the stadium and its curtilage. With the capacity to zoom in on a face from the far side of the ground, the cameras can help security officers identify offenders instantly. In the near future, says Frances, it will also be possible for an image to be sent via mobile phone or PDA to any of the 210 to 250 guards patrolling the ground on match days. Likewise, if a patron or guard report an alleged offender in a specific seat, a camera will be able to zoom in on that seat automatically based on the coordinates.
Just as importantly, the system will be able to play a role in identifying missing children, for example, on busy days. It will be feasible to play back a video of a wandering child’s last known whereabouts or produce a high-quality still image of that person (and their clothing) for broadcast, if appropriate.
THE FUTURE OF SECURITY
As surveillance systems become more sophisticated, their functionality is blossoming to include a range of non-traditional applications. The security system at the MCG heralds a new era of camera-based tools, including people counting, accurate face recognition and associated alarm functions, as well as manual and automatic emergency evacuation responses (such as opening gates or triggering audio alerts).
These kinds of applications, which complement ‘security’ systems with a variety of safety and business-related tools, represent the future of large-venue surveillance. As Frances notes, the system is ‘a good four or five years’ ahead of systems being used anywhere else in the world.