Securing the Past

IP Video analytics keep valuable artifacts safe in Indian state museum

Patna Museum is recognized as one of the greatest museums in India. It was built in 1917 during the British Raj to house historical artifacts found in and around Patna. It is now the state museum of Bihar, India’s third most populous state, located in the eastern portion of the country. The valuable items on display include archaeological objects, coins, instruments, textiles, paintings, bronze sculptures and terracotta images by Hindu and Buddhist artists.

The museum also houses a rare collection of paintings depicting everyday life during the British Raj (1858-1942), as well as a fine collection related to the first president of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad. A 16-meter-long fossilized tree, more than 200 million years old, is one of the museum’s special features, along with what are believed to be the ashes of Lord Buddha. The museum’s most valuable piece, however, is the Didarganj Yakshi, or Didarganj Chauri Bearer statue, which was discovered on the Ganges riverbank in 1917.

A 64-inch-tall statue carved out of a single piece of highly polished Chunar sandstone, the Didarganj Yakshi was created in the third to second century B.C. and is one of the finest remaining examples of Mauryan art.

Following a burglary in 2006 that saw the loss of 18 priceless and irreplaceable Pala-period bronze statues of Lord Buddha, the museum’s management undertook a full security review. They faced the difficult security challenges of any museum or art gallery that is open to the public—how to ensure the security of the important artifacts stored in the historic building without affecting visitor access or spoiling their pleasure with intrusive security measures.

With this in mind, the museum management chose to work with IndigoVision and local partner Neural Integrated Systems to deploy a complete IP security management solution throughout the site. The solution was chosen because it delivers high-quality video with low bandwidth and advanced features such as real-time analytics. The IP video surveillance and analytics technology was put in place to protect the contents at the museum.

Real-time motion analytics have been installed on each camera to automatically detect events and help improve operator incident response. Managing analytics at the network edge in this way reduces the amount of data transmitted around the system and improves the system’s scalability.

Virtual trip wires have been set up alongside restricted areas, and the operator is informed whenever a trip wire is breached. These trip wires are a refinement of motion detection by triggering an alarm when someone or something “breaks” a line that has been configured in the image. This is useful in any large area with no-go zones because people are allowed to move in unrestricted areas, but the system registers an alarm as soon as any of them move out of these areas. A “region of interest” can also be specified for motion detection, so only a specific area of the camera view is monitored.

Because the system “understands” direction, alarm discrimination based on direction of approach is possible. A dual trip wire feature allows a second trip wire to be configured for more complex analytics or as a secondary confirmation to reduce false alarms.

Additionally, IndigoVision’s museum-mode analytics function is used to detect theft, such as the removal of a painting or a statue. In this mode, sensitivity is configurable, and moving foreground objects are ignored. Using this analytic function, the operator can quickly determine when an object is moved or removed from the scene.

The analytics automatically generate alarms in Control Center—IndigoVision’s user interface—when they are triggered by events in the camera scene. These alarms are displayed on an interactive map of the museum, allowing operators to instantly locate the source of the problem, and the associated camera view is automatically displayed. Guards can then be quickly dispatched to the correct area to investigate.

Control Center allows the security team to continually view images that are streamed from the 60 analog cameras connected to IndigoVision’s video transmitters. Real-time analytics are installed in more than half of these transmitter modules, which helps the security team to operate the system more efficiently and improve incident response.

The amount of storage required is significantly reduced compared to other IP video systems because of the advanced compression technology and the use of the unique activitycontrolled frame rate (ACF) feature, which is built into the IP cameras. ACF controls the frame rate of the video stream based on the amount of motion in the scene. When there is no activity, video is streamed at a minimal frame rate; the instant any motion is detected, video is simultaneously transmitted at the maximumconfigured frame rate.

The end-to-end security management system ties together the full surveillance setup at Patna and allows the museum to expand security easily as its needs grow. IndigoVision SMS4TM is ONVIF-conformant and integrates with access control and other systems, making it an open security architecture.

The system’s distributed architecture means that no central server is required; one component may go offline, but the rest keep running, ensuring maximum uptime. Patna Museum’s security staff can, therefore, be confident of continual surveillance coverage.

Unfortunately, the current Patna Museum building, built in 1917, is aging badly and will soon be unable to store the precious relics it houses in the controlled environment they need. A new, almost $705 million museum is being planned for Patna, and the contents will then be moved to more suitable surroundings. Japanese architect Maki and Associates and Indian partner Opolis won a competition to build the new museum. The new site is expected to open in 2015.

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Security Today.

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