Museums house valuable items that generally are protected by surveillance. Occasionally, exhibits receive rock star attention in the media and require the best security technology offers. Earlier this year, the traveling “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” drew nearly half a million visitors to the Atlanta Civic Center.

To protect the pharaoh and his treasures, Arts and Exhibitions International developed a sophisticated digital surveillance system to be installed at all its stops in North America. The Bosch system was designed to be mobile and easy to deploy and manage, which helps with a traveling exhibit.

The system includes about 40 Internet protocol (IP) cameras installed above the gallery walls to monitor the artifacts and stream live video footage to two DiBos digital video recorders (DVRs), which record to a 16 terabyte disk array. If a display case is bumped or disturbed, radio frequency identification tags on the case will trigger an alarm through the exhibit’s intrusion detection system. A video management system sends these signals to the DVRs, which call up the associated camera on the operator’s workstation and help security staff to swiftly respond to incidents.

Not all installations are as high profile, but cultural public venues, such as museums, have unique requirements. Museums make valuable items available to a constant flow of people without intrusive security. The greater challenge is typically the obsolete analog surveillance installed five or 10 years ago; digital systems are replacing them. Digital provides greater speed and storage and remote IP capabilities, all of which can be crucial for public facilities.

When it comes to handling a transition from analog to digital, Bob Banerjee, product marketing manager for IP Video Products at Bosch, said, “I often get asked ‘What are the options?’”

There is a variety to choose from. The most pure approach, Banerjee said, is to rip out existing outdated technology and install a new IP-based video management system. But rarely is such a costly and time-consuming option—that also requires retraining staff on a new system—advisable or necessary. More often, he said, he focuses on a step-by-step approach tailored specifically for the building. Too often, clients are being urged to take on a wholesale switch out, he said, when a more measured approach would have sufficed.

One approach is to install an encoder that converts analog data from cameras to IP video for a network. In a typical museum, for example, there could be 30 analog cameras already installed, with coax or fiber connections to a security room and a rackful of DVRs. As the museum transitions to digital, DVRs can be removed and replaced by encoders, with coax cable leading to an IP network. In this case, the video footage is directed to a backend server where it can be shared over the Internet or Intranet, allowing a centralized security manager to track video from another location.

“You have to ask why would you want to replace analog cameras with digital,” he said. “What would be your gain?”

While some take a cautious approach, the popularity of IP cameras is increasing as they are gradually replacing analog cameras. Museums with the available resources are, in some cases, investing in some of the technology that IP cameras can offer. Embedded video analytics, for example, can detect motion to recognized specific behavior patterns. But they can cost $300 to $400 per camera.

Ioimage makes analytics with a hybrid approach; plug analog cameras into the ioimage encoder, and have immediate IP capabilities, said John Whiteman, ioimage president, Americas.

“There’s so much talk about IP taking over the world, but IP is at only about 15 percent of the market,” he said. “There are still a lot of analog systems being sold.”

As in the scenario described by Banerjee, with the ioimage encoder, installers can take the analog system from the camera, run software algorithms on the video feed and connect to the network. Whiteman said the company, which has been selling the encoders for several years, has thousands of customers using the encoder that way.

Unlike some solutions, the ioimage system’s software is embedded. The company launched the product to high-end security facilities, such as nuclear power plants or airports, but as the technology became more affordable, it reached manufacturing, commercial, industrial and even cultural markets. In fact, the Vatican is a customer.

IP cameras were first installed at the Vatican in 2005. The system consists of IP cameras with built-in analytics software and the video encoders using pan/tilt/zoom tracking, which is monitored from a central security location. Those with a lower profile and less financing than the Vatican are still opting for the encoder solution in the short term, as digital cameras make more inroads.

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at claire_swedberg@msn.com.