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IP Cameras Fly High In Space Museum


Low-light capabilities meet surveillance needs at high-tech museum.


A full-fuselage trainer is the crown jewel of the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery, Seattle. Although the museum was unable to acquire a retired space shuttle orbiter, the trainer is very similar. The FFT was used as a test bed for upgrades to the shuttle fleet and for astronaut training such as extra-vehicular activity (EVA) and emergency egress.

During their design and manufacture, the space-travel-related artifacts at the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery, Seattle, were top-security projects closely guarded by NASA. Now watchful eyes again protect them and the entire interior and exterior of the newly constructed addition to The Museum of Flight campus. This time, however, some of those “eyes” are IP-based video cameras from Samsung, Ridgefield Park, NJ. Ten Samsung IP cameras, tied into the Museum of Flight’s existing video management system (VMS), help ensure the physical security of the new facilities, artifacts, staff, and visitors.

Video from the cameras is used to monitor all activities at the new Space Gallery, including reviewing incidents on the premises to prevent future occurrences, searching for children separated from their parents, and providing a visual deterrent to crime. Video also enables visual inspection of exterior doors to confirm the status reported by the building’s access-control system.

Brandon Knutson, security and safety manager at the Museum of Flight, considered other network camera brands for the new facility but concluded that Samsung cameras offered the same or better features at lower prices. “The image quality is on the top end compared with our other IP cameras,” said Knutson. “Also, the Samsung organization and their local representatives have been genuinely interested and committed to this project.” Other factors in the decision were Samsung’s broad product line, the cameras’ lowlight capabilities, and embedded content analytics.

New cameras expand surveillance

Samsung cameras installed to watch the Space Gallery building include three SNB-5000 1.3-megapixel HD box cameras with Samsung SLA-M2882 auto-iris varifocal lenses, used to monitor a public entry, service entry, and admission sales counter. Another three 1.3-megapixel, HD, vandal-resistant, fixed-dome cameras, Samsung SNV-5080, monitor public entries; one is mounted on the exterior of the building to monitor an additional entry point.

Two SNP-3301H interior H.264 network pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) dome cameras mounted at opposite corners of the Space Gallery allow security staff to monitor any violations of established visitor and staff expectations. Two additional exterior vandal-resistant PTZ dome cameras, both Samsung SNP-3120V, sit high on the building’s exterior to monitor parking and the Airpark, an outdoor area with several significant aircraft, including a Concorde supersonic passenger jet, the first jet-powered Air Force One, and the prototype Boeing 747.

The exhibit includes the FTT’s cargo bay with the inertial upper stage (upper left) and a Hubble 2 space telescope (center right).

The exhibit includes the FTT’s cargo bay with the inertial upper stage (upper left) and a Hubble 2 space telescope (center right).

Eight of the Samsung IP cameras are power-over-ethernet (PoE) models with power supplied by a 16-port Altronix (Altronix Corp., Brooklyn, NY) NetWay 16M mid-span. A Pelco (Pelco, Clovis, CA) 24-V power supply powers two exterior PTZ cameras. Knutson created the system specifications and design using the museum’s request-for-proposal process; Aronson Security Group (ASG), Renton, WA, provided the system drawings, installation, and integration.

In addition to security benefits, the Samsung cameras also boost operational efficiencies. After hours, video helps to verify the identity of vendors when providing remote access to the Space Gallery. Customer-service staff benefits from the ability to monitor the size of lines at admission counters and to call upon additional service agents as needed. Remote surveillance also enables the staff to confirm the status of tables, stages, and other equipment for private functions.

Part of a larger system

The Museum of Flight is a mid-sized campus comprising several buildings. The security staff monitors the video-surveillance system on a regular basis and the system is always recording to post-incident review. Other museum departments have live access to select cameras using their desktop PCs for operational purposes.

The video-surveillance system is managed using OnSSI NetDVMS software and Ocularis client software, both manufactured by On-Net Surveillance Systems Inc., Pearl River, NY. The OnSSI NetDVMS video-management system runs on two Microsoft servers located to minimize network traffic. Each server uses onboard HDD storage for live and archived video. An on-board RAID controller provides redundancy for the operating system and applications. The main components of the network are linked by fiber and subcomponents are linked by network cabling. There are 51 cameras in all, including 21 IP-based cameras and 30 analog cameras connected through video encoders.

The Samsung cameras all head-end to a local network room where they are connected to a managed-network switch. A Dell server in the same equipment rack provides 4 terabytes of storage for the ten Samsung cameras and six other IP cameras nearby. The system uses off-the-shelf PCs and 19- to 42-inch LCD screens to monitor video. All equipment uses uninterruptible power supplies and emergency generator backup.

What comes next

The museum has standardized the use of IP cameras moving forward. IP also provides superior image detail over analog. Knutson said he sees a “sweet spot” balance of image quality and bandwidth consumption with 720p HD images provided by 1.3-megapixel cameras using H.264 compression. IP cameras also provide easy camera set-up and settings control using a Web browser.

The video system is not integrated with other systems, but the museum has wired door contact switches and sensors to the alarm inputs on nearby IP cameras. This configuration allows the camera to send an email whenever a sensor is triggered. Finally, IP cameras provide easier expansion by using Cat-6 cabling to the nearest network switch and PoE for camera power.

The cameras have been invaluable in monitoring exterior doors as contractors and visitors come and go. “The security challenges we anticipate are people crossing physical boundaries around exhibited artifacts, tampering with the artifacts, and too many people occupying the building at one time,” said Knutson. Such application will likely use the onboard intelligent video analytics of the Samsung cameras, specifically the crossing-line and disappearing detection rules.

Inside and out, the Space Gallery has state-of-the-art security equipment to protect artifacts that were once extremely high tech. With the assistance and protection provided by the security system, those artifacts will be available to the public even as the system that protects them progresses in the future.

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