A Discussion looking at the use of RFID and Computer vision technology use in Casino gaming tables

I have had many debates on which technology better suits use in casino gaming environment’s.

When it comes down to the crunch, you really need to clarify the Why or the What questions. Firstly, why you want to use this and What are your objectives?  There is almost always an issue that comes to light, which tends to lead to the question, is this a reactive solution or a proactive solution you are looking for?

Nevertheless, both RFID and Computer Vision (CV) in my mind provide solutions for different situations. Yes there is crossover in some, but in my view, CV is a broader solution and has many benefits than just security of assets.

Computer vision is a form of artificial intelligence where computers can “see” the world, analyze visual data and then make decisions from it or gain understanding about the environment and situation. One of the driving factors behind the growth of computer vision is the amount of data we generate today that is then used to train and make computer vision better. Our world has countless images and videos from the built-in cameras of our mobile devices alone it’s just that the data being processed is visual, rather than, say, numerical or textual.  the computing power required to analyze the data is now accessible and more affordable. As the field of computer vision has grown with new hardware and algorithms so has the accuracy rates for object identification. In less than a decade, today’s systems have reached 99 percent accuracy. We can, therefore, expect to see greater use of computer vision across an even wider selection of industries in the very near future. (bernardmarr.com)

RFID is an acronym for “radio-frequency identification” and refers to a technology whereby digital data encoded in RFID tags or smart labels (defined below) are captured by a reader via radio waves. Although RFID technology has been in use since World War II, the demand for RFID equipment is increasing rapidly Today, RFID is a fast evolving market with a bright future. One thing driving the demand for RFID is Omni-channel retailing for the growing eCommerce inventory tracking and management systems. (www.abr.com)

RFID has been used and tested for many years in many industries. It’s a fantastic solution for asset tracking and as casino chips are a valuable asset, it may seem a straight forward solution for casinos.  It can help protect your playing chips from internal and external fraud, both theft and counterfeiting but integration may come at a hefty price point. There are systems out there that add on some value with more “smarts” and give you tracking of bets and to some extent tagging the chips to the players who have purchased them. All of which can give you the important data sets. But it still may require some human intervention to sign in players and enter the correct cash buy-in amounts and so forth. It is also not going to know if players decide to divide the buy in chips to half a dozen unknown players who will play around the casino.

Besides the cost of New RFID Chips, there is also the cost of the receivers on the table which both have heavy capital outlays. Nevertheless, if you trust the data and the staff implicitly, you may be able to offset the cost by having less labour and supervision at the tables and pit levels, so operations cost could be reduced.

Computer Vision (CV) on the other hand, can offer similar security levels when looking at buying in chips across the table and to some extent chips in the float. It can add the ability to count notes or cash coming in and the value of cards being dealt, as well as monitoring the action on the table for turnover bets, win, loss etc.

On top of this, an integrated CV system can track players by facial recognition, casinos don’t need to capture faces of the players and worry about privacy issues (though I don’t know a casino that doesn’t already collect similar data from surveillance systems), Some CV systems can simply give the facial features a unique tag that can be used to track the play habits and movement.

The smarter systems have the ability to use this data in an Artificial intelligence or AI engine to relay important messages to management. Over time the AI /ML engine (Machine learning) can learn habits which may be tagged to unusual or suspicious play, this may be to simply alert the customer service team for service recovery or even to recognise problem gambling habits that form part of your Responsible Gaming Initiatives.

CV systems have the ability to track both carded and non-carded play and systems can be set to record only after set thresholds are met. This removes the need to store large amounts of data that may be deemed less valuable for the casino. As far as privacy goes, in general the AI / ML engine can be far more reliable with sensitive data than some human interventions.

As far as capital outlay goes, most tables only need to add some discreet cameras at the table. These generally blend into the normal tables structure, so overall it can be a lower capital cost. Some systems are offered on a subscription fee service, with little or no capital investment. This means you are always updated with the latest technology and improvements and not stuck with expensive hardware that may be superseded.

CV systems can also allow the ability to “remote in” and watch live table action after an alert is sent. These actions can be instant, streaming images to other devices or direct to the surveillance departments system for safe keeping or to the onsite jurisdiction department.

Overall, in my view CV systems offer way more flexibility than RFID. They focus more on customer service points, providing proactive intervention and management tools. As well as financial tracking, player rating and crowd counting ability, if you change your layout or games or want to add betting boxes there is less costs in expensive table hardware,

CV can read the cards drawn to verify the game result and feed data to systems, if casinos don’t use intelligent shoes, adding new features and capabilities is easier as the product evolves, so it’s more future proof in general.

The accuracy of data is often debated when looking at these two products. I’ll be honest, there is not many perfect systems that are 100% correct, 100% of the time. But it’s possibly more accurate than relying on any human intervention alone when it comes to rating, so it goes back to the purpose of the system you need.  CV systems like RFID have both improved since there were introduced 15 years back.

RFID may offer higher accuracy tracking actual chips and have less environmental factors to interfere with the results. But if players are swapping chips, tagging them to a single player can also be tricky. So, it’s a trade-off between what your objectives and needs are and how you value the data.

Chips can be designed in a way that improves the accuracy for CV systems, that learns over time and the software is improved with more data. Given the many uses of CV and the speed of development in the sector due to world security issues, I believe the value proposition is greater.

Certainly smarter tables may not be for everyone. Adding new evolving technology can be expensive but the ROI can be self- evident for many competitive jurisdictions. The smart operators know what’s smart for their business and would probably take a smarter approach to investing in evolving technology, by looking at flexible ownership solutions.

The debate over the use of both of these technologies has been a hot topic in many of the jurisdictions, with some places showing more preference to one over the other. This may have a lot to do with certain products marketed in these areas or simply come from experience in using past systems around the world.

It would be an interesting to get some feedback from operators. Please feel free to leave comments or your evaluations of the product you are currently using with such technology , either below in the comments sections or on the linked in Page

  • What technology serves my gaming needs best , RFID or Computer Vision Technology?
  • What is and important factor to you in your casino in adding smart features to a gaming table?
  • What Features do you rate as important and why?
  • What issues did you have, and How did smart technology solve these issues?

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