A Whinnying Installation
The world of thoroughbred racing is one of breathtaking excitement, mystique, blue bloods and, above all, high stakes. So when the proprietors of Lexington, Ky.-based Stonestreet Farms decided to safeguard their equestrian fortunes they did not — pardon the expression — horse around. They elected to “pony up” for a best-of-breed video surveillance and access control system that met all their n-e-i-g-h-s.
Secure Concepts Integration (SCI) was enlisted to design and install the solution, which required coordinating several stakeholders to strike a delicate balance between enhanced security and leaving the ongoing activities of the farm and its horses undisturbed.
This scenario laid forth a host of challenges that SCI overcame with equal measures of resolve, ingenuity and technology. The result is a fully integrated system featuring both wireless and network connectivity, with the added value of time-and-attendance functionality — among other capabilities — to help streamline the end user’s daily operations.
Thorough Thoroughbred Security
Having long established Jackson Family Wines as one of the most respected and highly acclaimed group of wine brands in the world, vintner Jess Jackson has also harbored a lifelong fascination in horses. Looking toward thoroughbreds as a retirement business, in 2003 Jackson started investing in the animals and purchased a farm in Ocala, Fla., and two others near Lexington, Ky., collectively known as Stonestreet Farms.
“Being high-profile and controversial, Jackson felt vulnerable at his newly acquired Stonestreet Farms in Lexington,” says Roy Abney, president of SCI. “Having grown accustomed to the more sophisticated security standards in California, Jackson instructed his California-based security manager to ‘Protect my horses!’ ”
Saddled With Horses’ Schedule
In response, Mark Mulligan of Automated Gate Systems, the company that maintains Stonestreet’s automated entry gates, was contacted. After evaluating the scope of the project, Mulligan turned the assignment over to SCI and Abney, a long-time business associate of his.
Founded in 2004 by Abney, SCI is a small systems integration company consisting of 10 full-time employees and presently services 38 installed accounts. The firm, which recently began operating under the umbrella of Henderson Services, a 90-year-old electrical contracting company based in Louisville, Ky., offers a variety of integrated systems services, with 80 percent of its portfolio focused on access control and video surveillance.
Following Mulligan’s recommendation, Abney discussed the job with Jackson’s California-based security manager before teaming up with Andre Lobanoff, farm manager for the Lexington location. Through those conversations the necessity to secure the property with a full-time security detail while meshing with good horsemanship became a central theme. Farm management was adamant the added security could not affect the daily operations of the farm.
As Stonestreet management began to understand the potential of the proposed new integrated access control and video surveillance system, he decided to bring Stonestreet’s CFO into the talks.
Management worked with SCI to understand the possible peripheral benefits and how to integrate them into the overall plan. That added value included: manpower accountability and time management (time and attendance), emergency notification of an accident on the farm, notification of late-arriving employees, and rapid clearance of emergency vehicles.
The project, which commenced in April 2006, would span 460 acres of farmland, encompass 1,280 man-hours of labor, involve the coordination of a multitude of providers, include leading technology from several vendors and cash out at more than a quarter-of-a-million dollars.
Video Goes Beyond Photo Finish
In addition to Mulligan, SCI worked closely with Jaime Simpson of Abaco Networks to design and develop a highly integrated solution that leveraged advanced wireless technology from Alvarion to reduce the required number of full-time security personnel and their recurring costs while eliminating the need for trenching. Abney also relied heavily on SCI’s Tim Overbee, who assisted as a project manager.
The installation also included American Dynamics, Toshiba, Vicon and Axis for video; Kantech and HID for access control; Optex for motion sensing; and Cisco and Dell for networking.
The access system, which centers around gates on the farm’s property as opposed to doors, was designed with operational efficiency in mind. Its reporting ability includes daily and weekly time-and-attendance reports for HR/payroll, as well as individual reports for barns, maintenance, administrative and security personnel. The system sends an instant E-mail notification if any employee reports late to work; any user’s access card (e.g. employee, veterinarian, vendor, guest) can be tagged so a notification is sent announcing their arrival; and any expired, stolen or unrecognized card automatically triggers an E-mail alert.
The intrusion facet of the system features duress buttons in multiple locations that generate E-mail bulletins and text messages sent to both Stonestreet and Jackon’s base in California. The system also produces alerts for severe weather conditions and medical emergencies, such as bites and kicks from horses.
The video aspect of the system includes a combination of analog and IP cameras strategically placed in a variety of areas encompassing the farm’s five barns. The majority of them are fixed day/night units, with a few being pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) models. All are trained on the perimeter of the particular building or site to which they are attached.
One of the most noteworthy elements of the project involved what Abney calls “The Talking Car.” The security cruisers on the farm are equipped with laptops capable of viewing all the cameras in real-time as well as retrieving archive video. All the messages mentioned above are sent to the laptop, where they appear onscreen and are communicated via text-to-speech technology to annunciate all alarms. Specific instructions are also provided to guide security personnel what to do given the specific nature of the event.
Finally, the implementation of wireless and network connectivity allowed SCI to achieve a high degree of integrated communications between the various system components.
Clearing Steeplechase-Like Hurdles
Don’t be deceived by the matter-of-fact description of the systems and technologies; the Stonestreet project was rife with unique circumstances and challenges. There was a litany of obstacles that had to be overcome both before and during the installation.
“The most significant obstacle was the aforementioned prohibition of trenching due to the inherent danger of breaking the leg of a million-dollar horse,” says Abney. “That made the connection of all the security points extremely difficult.”
Another major issue was the requirement to deploy the technology during just a 32-day window prior to Kentucky Derby festivities while working around the horses’ highly regimented schedules. SCI discovered that timeline wrinkle just three days after receiving the signed contract.
Additionally, the farm’s thick canopy of trees wrecked havoc with the integrator’s efforts to ensure reliability of the wireless equipment. In general, the entire undertaking wa
s complicated by a harsh and dusty environment.
“There were even a few unforeseen obstacles, including the quarantine of a barn for more t
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