Shopping centre unveils major IP investment

Leicester 'Highcross' centre featuring new integrated networks, security and retail applications has just opened its doors to the public.

The Leicester Shires' shopping centre re-opened late last week with a major new internet protocol (IP) based network at its heart.

The centre, now re-named Highcross' as part of its 350-million refurbishment, will use the network to support new integrated retail, security, access control and customer-facing applications.

Andrew Thomson, operations director for Hammerson, the European retail real estate owner of Highcross, said: "This deployment is unique for using pervasive IP infrastructure to run as many systems as possible. When we first looked at doing this there were those who doubted it could be done."

He said for the first time, the traditional retail construction process has been significantly adapted to integrate the building with the IP-based technology infrastructure.

"We previously had to work with very selective protocols for integrating new systems into our networks, writing bits of code or new drivers," added Thomson. "But going down the IP route makes integration infinitely easier to deploy and maintain going forward, as well as allowing us to use the information it gathers in more effective and interesting ways."

The IP technology controls the fundamental workings of the centre, including security, ventilation, light, cash handling, and car parking services across the retail, leisure and residential accommodation areas of the site.

"We'll be able to link footfall data to car parking patterns," said Thomson. Another example includes the new security systems, which will be able to send SMS or operations room alerts to site staff in the event that they detect a fire, while automatically redirecting CCTV to the affected area.

The mixed copper and fibre IP network was designed, implemented and supported by systems integrator, Redstone Converged Solutions and features fixed IP telephony and over 80 Wi-Fi access points (APs) for operational, tenant, guest and public wireless access. It also supports 500 CCTV cameras and a number of public information kiosks.

"We learned a lot from deploying an IP network in Manchester's Bull Ring before this project," added Thomson. "And designing the network into the construction process definitely saved us time and money. It will also allows us to stay at the forefront of exploring things like energy management on a next-generation platform."

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