Secure hotel environs can be discreet

Features, Back of House

Rapid technological advances in security augur well for the hotel industry that needs to increasingly invest in and update the solutions it offers, says Bindu Gopal Rao.

The nightmare may have ended but the scars of 26/11 are still etched deeply in the minds of hoteliers. Security has been the priority post the November 2008 terror attacks, with the hospitality industry needing to revamp their security strategies.

The main concern is to ensure that security goals are achieved without compromising or intruding on guests’ privacy, although guests have now become resigned to hotel security screenings.

“We have ensured that our checks do not hamper our guests, while at the same time, we do not compromise on their security. It has been a deciding factor for a number of visitors when choosing to stay at our hotel, to note that we have international standards of security in and around our premises,” says Dilip Madhok, hotel manager, Westin Hyderabad Mindspace.

The hotel has three-tiers of security checks including baggage scanners, metal detectors, and a network of cameras for surveillance throughout the hotel.

At The Leela Palace, Bengaluru, physical security includes physical separation of key areas, for instance, vehicles from buildings or the receiving dock, from parking areas. Access control for staff is used via biometrics, and a swipe card system is present for guests to access their rooms.

We have a written ‘Emergency Preparedness Manual’ in place as well,” explains Colonel M Ramesh, head of security for the hotel.

The solutions might need to be scalable to cover multi-location deployments in case of hotel chains with centralised systems, such that both local operating authorities and a centrally located security department have simultaneous access and control.

Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies provide security and safety packages patronised by leading hoteliers including Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, The Park Hotels, Radisson Hotels & Resorts, Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Ramada, ITC WelcomGroup, and Oberoi Hotels and Resorts.

“Our solutions have received a positive response from the hospitality industry, especially considering the challenges the Indian hospitality sector faces in implementing security solutions. Some of these challenges include the need for personal safety, room and personal possession safety, fire protection, employee scheduling, and productivity, among others,” explains Jagdish Keswani, vice president and general manager, Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies.

From a security standpoint, the major uses of surveillance solutions for hotels would be to monitor the entry and exit points, secure common areas like parking lots, lobbies, elevators, corridors, swimming pools, meeting rooms, and for perimeter security.

TOPSGRUP, an ISO 9001:2008 certified company which offers Enterprise Risk Management Solutions, recently announced a strategic joint venture with Israel’s security specialist SecureGATE to strengthen the security solutions being provided in India; the new company will be called TOPS-SecureGATE.

“We realised that the current security systems in the Indian hospitality industry imposed even after 26/11 are still not fully equipped to deal appropriately with current and future terror threats. We will help our clients in the hospitality business in India, to identify the relevant threat and accurate vulnerabilities and risks at each and every asset, and provide the required counter measures accordingly.

In order to provide our services properly, we are using our ‘Tri Gate Platform’ a 3-D simulation engine that allows us to develop and implement the best effective holistic security solutions,” explains Offer Einav, chief executive officer, TOPS SecureGATE.

Perimeter protection products like bollards, fencing, and access control, is provided by Gunnebo, who recently launched the Crash Rated Wedge Barrier that can stop heavy vehicles (15 tonnes at 50-miles per hour) within a metre after impact.

Another new product is the Secure Air Lock System (SAS), a combination of a two-door air-locking system intelligently connected to the server, to manage access control as well as provide details about people who have accessed the door at a certain time and also provide additional security to the hotel.

“Such a door is aesthetically pleasing while also preventing ballistic attacks; it cannot be broken open by firing. Hotels could use this product to prevent direct attacks as well as damage of collaterals like security system, server, and power system, as any attacker typically tries to attack the nerve centre of the hotel” says Som Gangopadhyay, business line manager, banking and secure storage, Gunnebo.

Access control systems offer protection from unauthorised individuals who may try to enter the hotel premises. In the context of hotels, they would take the form of smart cards, fingerprint locks, and employee identity cards.

Access can be granted through systems using individualised codes, identification cards (smart or proximity cards), and biometrics. Fire alarm system sensors can be fitted in hotel rooms, kitchens, restaurants, lobbies, and meter rooms.

The system can also be integrated with fire fighting systems such as wet and dry sprinkler systems, FM200 gas, or HVAC equipments.

“Most of Zicom’s fire detection systems are connected to our 24×7 online alerts that warn the customers in case of an emergency. Such detectors are placed even in the area between the false and main ceilings, and any emergency in that space cannot be identified unless notified in the initial stage which is facilitated by our iAlert Service,” explains Pramoud Rao, managing director, Zicom Electronic Security Systems Limited.

Surveillance of activities in high-security areas can be managed using highly sophisticated CCTV equipment, which includes pan tilt and zoom cameras, IR cameras, and IP-based cameras with varifocal lenses.

These cameras can be made intelligent with video content analytics software that identifies a security breach and pre-defined security situations like unidentified baggage and loitering of people in high security zone, and raises an automated alarm eliminating human interferences.

The system also becomes cost effective since recording occurs only during an alarm situation, thereby saving disk space and smart recording. This will help detect suspicious behavior, eliminate human fatigue and human intervention, and bring in intelligent video solutions.

Axis offers products with better compression standards and high definition video quality that cater to the requirements of the hospitality segment, such as small form factors so the cameras can be placed discreetly.

The new gen eration of cameras support H.264 resolution thereby reducing bandwidth consumption, and allowing megapixel functionalities for better image quality. Says Prakash Prabhu, country manager, Axis Communications, India: “We have seen very good response from the hospitality sector; the players in this segment are keen to adopt the latest technologies.”

Metal detectors including the door frame, hand-held, ground search varieties, anti-bugging devices, weapon detectors, and integrated turnstiles are another important aspect.

Car park management solutions enables the parking operator to offer a fast and efficient system for the entire gamut of security management, which includes magnetic strip cards, touch plate and proximity cards, or RFID transponders. Cutting edge technology RFID systems for improved productivity and enhanced guest experience are now available.

“We have developed dual technology cards which work for both door locks and guest recognition. With the passive RFID tags, we can now supply an efficient asset management and security system for expensive artefacts and guest room items. In addition, one of our RFID solutions effectively manages parking of vehicles,” says Commodore SK Sawhney, director, Dolphin Em Technologies Pvt. Ltd.

MindTree offers Intelligent Video Surveillance Solutions (IVSS). This helps in the shift from decentralised, local surveillance infrastructure to a more centralised monitoring station covering several remote locations via a private network or the internet. In addition, it provides a lot of intelligence for efficient storage and retrieval of video as well as automated detection of events.

“The Digital Video Recorder (DVR) and Video Encoder help to aggregate videos from multiple cameras and process them centrally. The Video Management Solution (VMS) helps users to monitor and administer the complete video surveillance installation from a central location.

Video analytics improve the intelligence of the video surveillance installation while reducing the number of guards needed to monitor the feeds; it automatically raises alerts based on predefined rules at the commissioning.

It is scientifically proven that security officers are likely to miss security events or incidents after continuously watching a video for 20-minutes,” says Sharmila Saha, vice president and technology evangelist, video surveillance, MindTree Ltd.

Post the David Headley fiasco, the issue of counterfeit passports was highlighted. This month, 3M is launching a security-cum-productivity solution that can be used during the check-in process.

“We offer a travel document (passports and ID cards) reader which will capture all relevant information and transfer it directly into the hotel property management software. With one scan or swipe, guest details are populated into the hotel property management software, and any discrepancies in the machine readable zone of the travel document due to attempted forgery are immediately highlighted with the result of the check digit,” says Ravi Chandwani, general manager, security systems division, 3M.

Hoteliers not only consider security as something of utmost importance, but also extremely confidential. “It is Hilton’s policy to never elaborate on security, and health and safety measures at our hotels, other than to say that the well being, and safety and security of our guests and team members, are of paramount importance, and we make every effort to ensure that all practices and standards are in line with strict safety and security regulations,” said Stephen R. Magor, general manager, Hilton Chennai.

Adds a Taj spokesperson: “The deployment of equipment and the level of security around our hotels is determined on the basis of constant liaison with local government agencies and other authorities.

Our security staff has been given rigorous training, not only in use of equipment but also in the application of consistent security standards. Details of our security systems and protocols are not made public for obvious reasons.”

An important aspect to note is that technology comes with an added cost and needs to be constantly upgraded in a rapidly changing dynamic world. The set-up cost is considerable but this is now considered a necessity for hotels in India.

“Our guests have come to expect that all security measures are taken to ensure their safety at all times. Companies are also very concerned about the security of their associates when travelling and we must reassure them that measures have been taken to deliver that secure experience,” says Madhok.

“While increased costs are inescapable, the return on investment (ROI) comes from safety in the face of enhanced challenges/ threats. Enhanced safety is also an important selling point as a product, just like F&B services,” adds Ramesh.

Today, sectors like tourism and hospitality view security as a strategic imperative, an investment not an expense, and are willing to invest in fool-proof security systems.

“Our approach in the future for the hospitality segment will be to integrate security systems with productivity improvement systems, and work towards enhancement of such solutions to provide an integrated infrastructure which would be an unobtrusive but complete and effective security solution. We are developing futuristic RFID solutions which would hit the markets by middle of 2010 and which is a step in the right direction,” opines Sawhney.

In terms of the future for security in hospitality industry, it lies in conversion of more data into intelligence – the true value of CCTV monitoring and other data stored is only realised when the footage is analysed. “Smart Video Analytics can be used to detect suspicious behaviour/body language, thereby, preventive measures can be taken to prevent mishaps and disasters. IP surveillance is another trend wherein this process can be done real-time,” says Rao.

Technology is transitioning from a standalone, analog video output system with tape storage to networked, digital video, revolutionising the manner in which video information is analysed, archived, distributed, and managed. “In addition to the technological advancements, recent geopolitical events have caused an increased global focus on physical security in both private and public environments. Furthermore, the commoditisation of video hardware has put downward pressure on equipment prices, thus further facilitating the proliferation of video surveillance units. These factors, combined with the shift to networked, digital solutions, have created exponential growth in the creation of raw, digital video data.

In future, we intend to provide facilities to integrate our solution with other systems such as access control, fire prevention, and public address systems. This will help the users to have a unified command and control over all security and safety related systems,” adds Saha.

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