Executive View Q & A
Executive View Q & A The GSA is holding a day-long training session during G2E on the ins and outs of the BOB (Best of Breed) protocols. What do you hope that session will help accomplish in terms of aiding the industry? What would you say is the biggest issue to overcome in bringing protocols like BOB, S2S (System to System) and GDS (Gaming Device Standards) to the industry? For the benefit of our readers, briefly explain what each protocol does and the role it plays in achieving standardization. In the past year, what are some of the new features or developments that GSA has added to the new protocols and what do they mean to the Why, from GSA's perspective, are standards necessary in the gaming industry? Do you feel that the industry as a whole is coming to accept the GSA protocols, or is there still work/convincing to be done in that regard? What does the future hold for these protocols and standardization as a whole? Are there untapped areas of opportunity or new technologies ahead that will be cause for further or more complete standardization?
Q & A with Peter DeRaedt, president, Gaming Standards Association
This will be a highly technical session to inform anyone attending about the depth of the protocol and its advanced features. At the same time they will get hands-on experience using the simulators and quickly understand the power they have their fingertips.
Although the session is intense, it will open the eyes of those who have never seen or paid attention to what gets communicated in the casino business. It should encourage attendees to start paying closer attention and implement BOB in their products. Operators who might want to attend will be amazed at the level of information they can get their hands on.
Since it is an open protocol, they can either get applications developed or develop their own applications to provide them with what they want. BOB is a multi-system protocol and as such a slot machine can communicate simultaneously to multiple independent hosts.
The biggest issue is industry-wide acceptance.
Protocols are not as glamorous and sexy as say a new gaming device, or a multi progressive system or a downloadable gaming solution, yet they are the key to making all this technology happen. Most operators do not fully understand the importance and power that protocols have in our industry.
One only has to look at what took place in the Class II gaming industry recently to understand the tremendous benefits the GSA S2S standard offers. The Class II industry has eagerly adopted our S2S standard. It is the only solution to link multiple systems together. This offers undreamed of business value to any operator or manufacturer. This GSA standard is playing a pivotal role in the successful introduction of offering a seamless player experience. Features such as TITO, player tracking and central accounting are now available to the Class II world in the same way as they have been in the Class III world. The S2S standard offers the industry immediate business value and it is evident from the numerous properties that are embracing it that this GSA standard is here to stay.
The BOB standard is already going through its third revision and is backed by software simulators, developers' guidelines, third party tools, etc. Five large manufacturers are collaborating in the first industry effort to develop a common software driver that can be deployed both in the game and on the system side. This alone will offer seamless integration. In addition, several other GSA members are independently implementing BOB as they see it as a natural extension to S2S. Clearly our members, who are fully up to speed about the benefits of BOB, are making significant commitments to ensure that open standards will become the norm in the gaming industry.
While GSA members have had the benefit of close review of the standards, non-members have not. GSA changed that when it opened its standards to the world. The current BOB is a natural fit for S2S. All messages are transparent and GSA has always believed in building upon existing open industry standards. We have recently made a successful breakthrough when both IGT and GSA agreed to consolidate our efforts and develop a single solution rather than to develop duplicate applications to run on both protocols. A protocol is an enabler of technology and should be open.
GSA standards are the enabler for entrepreneurs who want to offer new and innovative solutions to our industry, raising the bar with respect to quality and features.
BOB stands for Best of Breed. It is designed to run over standard, off-the-shelf, high-speed network gear at 10 (or 100) megabits per second-10,000,000 vs. 19,200-just like conventional business applications.
Some of the key features of the protocol: BOB is extensible by manufacturers to meet specific operator requirements-manufacturers can layer additional functionality on top of BOB. The protocol is designed to operate without SMIBs-the EGM can communicate directly with the back-end system and the middleman can be eliminated. BOB is designed so that an EGM can communicate with multiple hosts-each host can manage different applications-vouchers, player tracking, progressives, etc. BOB includes detailed logs and meters for all financial transactions-progressives, bonuses, vouchers, wagering accounts and player tracking. BOB views the EGM as a multi-function workstation that can access various services offered by the host systems. BOB can manage the entire player experience, both gaming and hospitality. BOB offers an industry agreed upon way to deal with download, remote configuration as well as a common way to handle central determinant systems. BOB will address all aspects of gaming from dealing with a typical slot floor using Ethernet to a VLT operation-using dial up links etc.
S2S stands for System to System. Today's casinos are equipped with various management systems that collect data from different areas of the casino floor, such as slot accounting systems and player tracking for slot/video games, table tracking and rating systems for table games, etc. However, these management systems are not easily linked and therefore often do not allow the casino a "full view" of their gaming operations and "real time" patron activities. Further, if the casino operates a hotel, information between the hospitality and casino operations is only available if the casino has developed their own system linking the casino management system to the hospitality and POS management systems. The System to System standard provides a communication protocol that enables the casino to link their various casino database systems, while also providing a link to their hospitality/POS systems.
GDS stands for Gaming Device Standards. Slot machines rely on various separate components to accept money (bill acceptor, coin acceptor, smart card reader), pay out money (coin hopper, note hopper), display information and print tickets. All of these are peripheral devices manufactured by third parties and all have a unique protocol, connector and other technical requirements. That means that a designer of a slot machine needs to support multiple proprietary software and hardware interfaces to accommodate these peripherals. Regulators rely on manufacturers to ensure that these peripherals work appropriately. The amount of information available from these peripherals is limited and for an independent system to verify this remotely, is unheard of.
GSA addresses all the above issues. It has opted to select USB as the standard for communication. In addition the GDS standard supports detailed messages for each device such as manufacturer, firmware version; deals with remote configuration of the peripherals, code download etc. GDS will even offer a unique gaming specific standard connector for these peripherals.
In S2S, we added the WAT (Wagering Account) and Voucher Classes to support devices other than EGMs. We added EGM registration, accounting meters and event filter classes to support centralized EGM management and reporting in Class II (and other multi-host, i.e. server-based gaming) environments. We also added the Player Class to support centralized management of slot player tracking operations in the same types of environments. The Handpay Class, which supports centralized management of Handpay requests and disbursements, is out for member review.
Immediate benefits when used in the Class II segment of our industry are obvious. If you want a new redemption station on your floor, your choice is typically limited to the one recommended by your system supplier. With GSA you will have a choice to select that company that offers you the best service, best features, best price.
In BOB, we spent a great deal of time with the simulators, generating refinements and improvements in the core classes and methodologies. The Central Determination, Download and Configuration Classes were completed and are under membership review. The extensions to both S2S and BOB are critical and will stimulate the next wave of industry change. These include the ability for operators to remotely configure their games, to download new firmware in the case of note change, to change game themes and drive revenue by linking players together in a creative way across multiple gaming platforms from different manufacturers even across properties.
In GDS a lot of time was spent in the completion of the development tools that support the developers and testers. In addition, the touch screen standard was completed, the card reader standard is near completion and the printer standard with template download is under membership review. The GDS committee has been awarded its own usage page by the USB-IF standards setting organization. GDS standard will drive new product offerings, improve development cycles and enhance serviceability on the floor.
For decades now a lot of money has been spent on research and development to implement, maintain and support the multitude of proprietary communication protocols that slot machines and systems need in order for a manufacturer to make a sale. This money can be spent more wisely by not duplicating mundane functions such as sending a message from point A to point B.
Not only are slot machine manufacturers faced with this issue, but anyone who develops a solution for the gaming industry-redemption kiosks, currency equipment, weighing scales, POS systems-all have their own unique language and flavor to simply exchange simple information.
All of this results in innovation not hitting the floor as fast as it could. Whenever a change is introduced in the chain, you need additional information, and as an operator you better get a box of Advil to comfort your headaches and keep your fingers crossed as your support staff works diligently and patiently to ensure that your systems continue to work together.
In contrast, if I buy a computer in a store I can choose the printer I like, the screen I like, take it home and plug it all together and…you guessed it, it works. When an operator today opens up a casino he has a multitude of systems that need to work together in order for him to get the information he needs to make the right business decisions. Most of the time he will not have the 360-degree view of his business that he would like to have simply because the information is not available. Hence his decisions are based on incomplete and sometimes inaccurate data. This will affect his bottom line.
GSA's communication standards are the liberating force within the gaming industry and will ignite the level of innovation we have seen in other industry.
As is evident from what is happening in the Class II world, the industry is experiencing first hand the benefits of our standards. There is no better way to convince an industry about the benefits of standards than to offer solutions to their problems. This makes GSA standards a value add for the industry.
The challenge for GSA has always been how to most effectively communicate the business value of standards. With S2S this has become an easy task, with implementations that can be shown. BOB and GDS implementations are just around the corner, so I expect the challenge of convincing the industry of the business value of these GSA standards will become easier.
GSA has already defined the next steps for S2S as well as BOB, to address current market needs. We have a high level of commitment from our members to complete the next phases of these protocols. At the heart of running a standard setting organization is the need to gain consensus among the membership. Looking at the interest in GSA and our membership growth, I believe that we are succeeding. As gaming is expanding and technologies evolve we will rapidly see the need for additional standards to support our industry's migration. GSA's technical committees have chosen the right technologies, which will make moving forward a lot faster and easier.
GSA will continue to closely follow new technology and make recommendations when they are found to be right for our industry. We will guarantee investment protection by continuously managing these standards and their certification programs. CJ
The GSA is holding a day-long training session during G2E on the ins and outs of the BOB (Best of Breed) protocols. What do you hope that session will help accomplish in terms of aiding the industry?
What would you say is the biggest issue to overcome in bringing protocols like BOB, S2S (System to System) and GDS (Gaming Device Standards) to the industry?
For the benefit of our readers, briefly explain what each protocol does and the role it plays in achieving standardization.
In the past year, what are some of the new features or developments that GSA has added to the new protocols and what do they mean to the
Why, from GSA's perspective, are standards necessary in the gaming industry?
Do you feel that the industry as a whole is coming to accept the GSA protocols, or is there still work/convincing to be done in that regard?
What does the future hold for these protocols and standardization as a whole? Are there untapped areas of opportunity or new technologies ahead that will be cause for further or more complete standardization?