Dean Turnbull, Next Edge, at Fitness Playground.

Next Edge Integrates Integriti, Hikvision, For Fitness Playground

♦ Next Edge Integrates Integriti, Hikvision, For Fitness Playground – Next Edge has integrated access control, alarms, audio and IT solutions for multiple Fitness Playground sites, most recently at Marrickville, supported by a custom-designed management solution.

The Fitness Playground system incorporates Inner Range Integriti controllers and expanders supporting several legacy Concept panels, as well as HID 13.56Mhz readers, Hikvision turnstiles, Hikvision cameras, Hikvision NVRs and Hikvision iVMS VMS, door hardware, duress buttons and more.

According to Next Edge CEO, Dean Turnbull, the team integrated core subsystems using a Next Edge-developed management solution called GymSync, which it has licensed to Fitness Playground. Turnbull said Next Edge was the existing IT provider and took over security when Fitness Playground approached the team wanting a long overdue solution to problems.

“Our engagement is not just security – we look after audio, IT and access control requirements – everything minus mains electrical – that gave us a lot of scope when it came to undertaking a deeper integration,” he said. “Because we were handling all the customer’s technical requirements, we had a more holistic view of what could be done.

“As part of this engagement, we quickly realised that off-the-shelf management solutions were not able to handle the tasks our customer needed them to handle. Our solution was to go back to the drawing board and create a custom sub system management solution called GymSync, which is now licenced to Fitness Playground by Next Edge,” Turnbull said.

“GymSync has since been improved with features to help them deal with record management, automated class check-in on arrival and complex access requirements, including creche member access, sauna booking access, and more, as well as COVID capacity management.”

According to Turnbull, there were a number of other considerations central to the Fitness Playground integration. These included managing access for sauna spaces, which are tied to bookings via online gym membership systems.

“Adding complexity were the access requirements for creche (childcare) members who don’t have a membership level that gives them access to the Wellness area of the facility. These contradictory needs had to be expressed through the system seamlessly, from the point of view of users,” Turnbull explains.

Melding the access control system and the booking system together coherently required extra effort and was part of the driving force for the development of Next Edge GymSync integration platform.


The traditional gym space upstairs is linked to the system downstairs…

Another element of the installation that needed to be factored in was the need to integrate components from the upstairs gym and the downstairs studio to maximise the return on investment. Given the complexity of the built environment, this demanded a network connection that followed a secure path from one location to the other, with door controllers installed downstairs and the Integriti IAC located upstairs. The integration between the sites includes the audio routing system, which also needed to be designed and implemented.

Other challenges included ensuring the security system recognised the primacy of design, while keeping the site secure and accessible. This demanded some creative thinking, particularly in relation to ensuring glass doors with rounded tops, no door handles, and no latches are emergency exit compliant.

Securing Fitness Playground Marrickville

According to Turnbull, around the time COVID hit, a space became available downstairs, giving Fitness Playground the opportunity to expand into an adjacent space. As one of the company’s tech providers, Next Edge got involved to deliver IT and audio, with its remit expanding as the customer sought to resolve issues.

With works completed, the Marrickville operation now incorporates 2 spaces inside a shared tenancy building separated by around 50 metres of covered external footpath along an external street front. The upstairs space remains a traditional gym, while downstairs is a dance and pilates studio designed for scheduled group workouts only.

Access and alarms upstairs are handled by an Inner Range Concept 4000 solution, which has been retained, while the studio downstairs is a new build, and forms the core the integration we’re looking at here. Because of the nature of the dual sites, the installation at Fitness Playground in Marrickville includes completely new components and cabling, as well as hardware and infrastructure from the legacy system.

“There were a bunch of single door controllers that had to go because they couldn’t be brought over into Integriti, but others could be retained, so there’s currently a mix of Integriti and Concept controllers managing the system,” Turnbull says.

“Because Concept still works with Integriti, our approach has been to look at what the client has and to see if anything can be incorporated. We don’t just replace everything for the sake of it. It’s about helping the client in the best way possible, as well as keeping costs under control.”

From the point of view of access, it’s worth noting that every door in the studio is access controlled and covered by motion sensors, including the dance and pilates areas, and every area is also covered by 2 Hikvision cameras, with the access control and CCTV solutions integrated via GymSync, which also handles the audio systems.

“Next Edge has a strategy when we are doing installations in that we centralize the system to minimise hardware in the field,” Turnbull says. “As far as possible, every field device is carried into central racks – that includes security gear, as well as audio and other equipment.”


Racks carry CCTV as well as audio devices. 

This centralisation is expressed not only physically, but in the way the system is managed. For instance, the way the audio system is handled by the access control system so only trainers can program music. It sounds easy enough, but this part of the integration required a custom board and a separate door control channel in each space to deliver authorised access to audio services.”

Selecting Turnstiles

Access control is not only about doors but about member access 24 hours, and this is achieved with the use of high end stainless turnstiles. Getting the right turnstiles at the entry point was a big part of getting this solution right and it wasn’t as easy as it should have been, according to Turnbull.

“One of the main things the customer wanted to add was tailgate functionality and with the legacy turnstiles we were having trouble getting that functionality to work,” he explains. “In addition, the original gates were big and bulky. Fortunately, around the same time, a new generation of Hikvision turnstiles was arriving and the client liked the look of them – they like them even more now they are installed.”

Turnbull says the major challenge of this part of the installation was that techs were unable to configure the existing turnstiles in the field.

“Hikvision’s unrestrictive approach allowed us to setup/configure and maintain our customer’s system ourselves – this was a key element in our decision to recommend the Hikvision product to our client.

“Importantly, HikVision had also arrived at a design aesthetic with its latest turnstile range that the customer was very happy with – as soon as they saw the latest version, they wanted it.”

Something else that appealed to the client about the Hikvision gates is that they were very quick to open – even when fitted with the heavy 900mm turnstile glass required for wheelchair access. The client also likes the integrated lighting in the gates – green to communicate that access has been successful and red when access is denied.

“These gates are fitted with an HID reader,” says Turnbull. “To install it, we removed the Hikvision controller from inside the turnstile, flipped the plastic bracket that held the circuit board, then mounted an HID reader on top of it – it fits beautifully.”

Along with access control and security sensors, the system includes duress buttons in key areas, which are important for 24-hour operation.

“The new duress buttons are connected to Integriti, as well as to our GymSync software, and are also linked to the Hikvision cameras,” Turnbull explains. “The way this works is that if a staff member hits a duress button, the associated camera takes a few snapshots and then sends them to email distribution. This allows system managers to identify who hit the duress button and why.

“This is a very effective solution and helped us respond to a cardiac arrest at the site not long ago and to save a person’s life. The fact this is a 24-hour site makes functionality like this very important – the incident occurred at 9.30pm at night but we were able action a medical response almost instantly.”

On the CCTV side, things are straightforward. There’s a Hikvision NVR upstairs and another downstairs, with both NVRs having 32 cameras.

“The reason there are so many cameras is that the system is designed with a double redundancy approach – every angle of view is duplicated, with a camera covering the same angle of view from either side of each space,” Turnbull says. “Camera performance from the Hikvision domes is strong and it needs to be, given the strong backlight in reception and the variable lighting across the site.”

Challenges of the Installation

With any gymnasium, atmosphere is key to retaining members, and Fitness Playground takes this to the nth degree.

“Every Fitness Playground gym is architecturally designed with every property given a theme that must be applied to everything across the site, including the form and function of the electronic security solution,” Turnbull says.

“Given the nature of the site and the requirements of Fitness Playground and its architects, we approached every public space product decision considering that design aesthetic.”

According to Turnbull, the client’s aesthetic passion provided governing principles around which the solution revolved, particularly in public areas. He says this created challenges for installers, as well as opportunities to deliver a unique solution. When visiting the site this aesthetic imperative is very clear to see and it impacts on the security system in multiple ways.

Electronic security solutions and networking equipment are often squeezed into whatever spaces remain after fit-out, and that’s the case at Fitness Playground, too. There’s a small room in the reception area that plays the role of server room and riser – the rack containing switches and NVRS are located here, as are the expansion panels and door controllers for the Integriti system.

Looking at the cabling disappearing through the top of this space into the bowels of the building I can’t help drily pointing out that cabling must have been fun, and Turnbull laughs.

“It’s always challenging with these older buildings,” he says. “But this integration was made more difficult by some of the new design features, too. The 2 locations needed to be cabled – there’s a 25mm conduit carrying multiple cables along the back of the building to handle that. The cameras in each space are cabled locally, but the access control components need to be connected, and all the audio controls come from upstairs to the server below via a remote input/output box so they can be driven by access events.”


This dance space is much bigger than it looks…that textured paint job cost $40,000.

Given the size of the site and the complexity of the integration, there was a lot of wiring to be done and the build demanded that some of it go in before walls and ceilings were completed, after which point there would be no access to those areas, ever. This imperative applied equally to CCTV camera cabling, as well as to the wiring for the complex public address and audio systems.

“One of the issues the installers had throughout the site is that there are very few easy access points,” Turnbull says. “In some areas this is because the original building was constructed before networking was conceived, but in the newly built areas, there were aesthetic restrictions. These included walls that gave no access points after construction, as well as a wall construction that was difficult to work with.”

According to Turnbull, the complexity of the space was an issue from the get-go because the building is not square.

“From the start we had problems because the builder was working off square plans when the site is a rhombus,” Turnbull explains. “And the internal walls are double-layer gyprock because the end user wanted to use architrave lighting from underneath. It looks great but it’s not easy for techs when it comes to installing field devices.”

Adding to the challenges, some areas have beautiful frameless glass doors with curved tops – these needed special attention, especially given the user insisted the doors have no handles.

“The latch sets that we have on the doors we had to argue for – the door is designed from an aesthetic standpoint – installing a magnetic lock on a curved glass door tidily is impossible,” Turnbull says.

“We looked at the saddle locks the architect recommended – when the door closed the saddle lock flips over and holds it – but we realized these would be a problem because if saddle lock falls into the lock position when the door is open there’s a risk of it breaking the glass when the door shuts.

“Another issue was that no matter how hard we pushed for it, Fitness Playground did not want to put a handle set on these doors for reasons of design, so we ended up needing to find a solution that would fail safe no matter what.

“The answer was to keep the lock in a powered state – strikes are constantly energized so they’re going to burn out a bit earlier as the solenoid is constantly holding the lock closed. But doing things this way also means the door will always unlock when there’s a loss of power. Because there’s no handle, this was the only way to do it.”

Something that’s interesting and challenging about this site from the point of view of CCTV cameras is that the ceiling and attached services infrastructure are designed to be invisible. The way this is achieved is by making the ceiling high and painting everything black. This makes the ceiling very hard to discern when standing in the spaces, but the cameras also lose the support of reflectance.

Turnbull points out that there are also a lot of mirrors in the dance space. These can have an impact on camera performance as well, with bright reflections evident during classes.

“The key thing in this application is that the customer didn’t want elements of security to impact on the feel of the space – that was a very important part of the install,” he explains.

“In terms of this application, the cameras aren’t coming out of the back of the NVR in a typical configuration, instead they’re carried into the Hikvision switch and then into the NVR with mobile apps used for accessing the camera footage. And it’s integrated in such a way that if there’s an access event or a duress event that images are being mailed to the manager immediately.”

According to Turnbull, something else that needed to be resolved was an issue with a rear door.

“The customer wanted it to have readers on both sides, but this created a situation where when anybody went out of the door, an alarm was activated, which is what a 2-sided door will do,” he explains. “The way it’s been set up is that the reader inside the door and the reader outside the door go back to the panel on a single channel, which resolves the alarm issue.

Other curve balls involved the customer changing designs after the specification.

“Fitness Playground doesn’t do things by halves, and we needed to be flexible enough to accommodate this,” Turnbull says. “For example, we were asked at one point whether we could hide a card reader behind a double gyprock wall, so it was invisible to the user. This created potential challenges around servicing, as well as how to indicate to users where to badge cards. In the end the readers were flush-mounted, which was the best option.”

Walking The Site

Walking through Fitness Playground, what strikes you first from a security perspective is the sleek foyer turnstiles controlling access to the studio spaces beyond the reception area. These units control access between reception and the rest of the site and when Turnbull drives a couple of access events it’s easy to see how responsive they are.

The site’s CCTV solution is relatively unobtrusive, given the backend is rack mounted and management is via mobile app. Walking the site gives an opportunity to look at CCTV cameras – a pair in each space. While these are visible in the reception area and Pilates studio, in the dance studios we need a torch to find them against the dark ceiling.


Luckily I always carry a mini Maglite…

As we go along, Turnbull points out salient features and challenges, including those curved, frameless doors, and the audio and PA systems. The whole site is very well done, with no rough edges or shortcuts visible. This is a high-end fitout with subtle touches everywhere. The dance spaces are more reminiscent of a nightclub, than a gymnasium.

We also take a look at the sauna, which is access controlled and integrated with the booking system – everywhere you go, you need to be authorized to go. Spaces are tight in here, which would have made the work tricky for technicians.

In one dance room Turnbull points out that there are subwoofers beneath the deck to deepen the sound and enhance the experience of the music. As an example of the seriousness which the customer views the aesthetic there’s a particular dance space with a paint job that cost $40,000. Even for such a large room it’s a serious amount of money.

According to Turnbull, one of the issues in that same space from an installation point of view was that lack of access points through walls or ceilings for maintenance.

“Everything electrical that’s been put into that room needed to go in during the build and had to be installed very carefully, because it can’t be accessed again,” he explains.

Next, we look at the rear door which needed 2 readers on a single input, then the childcare room, which has been protected using the access control system – it’s a nice space, functional and with an excellent ambience. Finally, we check out the Pilates room. It has 2 cameras to give redundant views, and has large windows at one end, as well as special lighting, both of which challenge camera performance.

According to Turnbull, after a camera was installed in this space, the client decided on a suspended ceiling.

“There wasn’t sufficient cable to drop the camera down so that change required some careful fishing so we could bring another cable across from the other side of the room,” he explains. “There are speaker cables sharing the internal space, which made the process more complicated.”

Conclusion

Walking away from Fitness Playground my sense was of a well-balanced solution incorporating much more than you’d expect, thanks to the GymSync integration, which integrates CCTV and access control for remote management, and brings in audio and public address, as well as the booking system.

You expect 24-hour operations to be at the cutting edge when it comes to automation and remote management and this site doesn’t disappoint. This Fitness Playground integration highlights customer willingness to invest in solutions that are seamless in operation, and strong on situational awareness. The customer’s preparedness to hold out for a turnstile option that met its operational and aesthetic needs is also instructive.

“This was a challenging integration, with complexities of space and access, as well as the need to customise in layers to meet the overriding aesthetic demands of the site,” Turnbull said. “Fitness Playground is delighted with its new system, particularly with the Hikvision turnstiles, and we are very pleased with it, too.”

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