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The Museum Director’s FAQ Sheet
Reading Time: 10 minutes; Technical Knowledge Required: None; Emphasis: Management Advantages of this product.

What is the Acuity-vct System?

The Acuity-vct is an advanced CCTV system with features specific to cultural properties that are not found in any other system. While some competing systems do have similar features, none are as robust or fine tuned for false alarm resistance as the Acuity-vct and no other system is scaled to the cultural property budget like the Acuity-vct.

The Acuity-vct does everything that any other CCTV system can do and much more. It is entirely “open source” meaning any company that installs CCTV systems or even computer networks can provide and install the Acuity-vct. Acuity saves money by not needing a dealer network and can pass this savings on to you. Since anyone who provides and installs CCTV systems or computer networks can provide and install the Acuity-vct system, the customer benefits from greater competition. And since it is an open source product you are never locked in to one service provider.

The Acuity-vct system is entirely a computer network product except for the cameras. Its brain is simply a server, users view and manipulate the camera images on PCs, data travels over a standard computer network, and all of the computer network equipment and computers are available from any supplier. If your institution uses Dell computers, you can use Dell products for our system. If you use HP or IBM products, that’s no problem. Since our system meets all computer network standards, all that we require is that you use components that meet those standards which you almost certainly already do. And since our system becomes part of your computer network you can obtain service for all of your computers under one service contract for further economy.

The Acuity-vct system uses any camera model of your choice from any manufacturer. They can be analog or digital and they can be existing cameras using coaxial cable or modern digital cameras using network cables or even fiber optic cables. The cameras plug into your network and a server on the network runs the application software. Authorized employees on the network can view images on their standard PCs. You can enter your password and view any and all cameras from anywhere in the world via the internet. Install a camera in your security control room and watch your guards at work all night long. Camera viewing is done through your familiar internet browser.

A guard in the museum’s control room can monitor all activity on cameras in galleries simultaneously on multiple monitors and call up images on the PC operator terminal for enlargement, enhancement, or other purposes. But there’s more. Your facility manager can call up images that you permit him to view to check on his work crews. Your curator can check the progress of work by the installation crew and your events manager can check to see if the evening event is being properly set up all from their existing PC.

Every camera image is recorded, but video tapes, DVDs and similar media are a thing of the past. Recording occurs on standard hard drives and images stored for as long as you care to store them. Users can instantly find activity of interest and recall it from storage. Searching through video tapes is no longer necessary. The system has many advanced features. For example, each camera in the building can be set to a different recording rate, resolution, etc. Everything is programmable.

In addition to general CCTV surveillance, the Acuity-vct has advanced features that allow it to be used for museum object protection. It is not only an anti-theft system for paintings and three dimensional objects but also an anti-touch system that alerts you when a visitor gets too close to the work of art or object on display that is protected. Programming is simple and intuitive. The user uses familiar computer tools to draw boxes with their mouse around items they want to protect. Now, any motion near the protection box is detected and the system alerts the guard. Many systems have features like this but none does what the Acuity-vct does. None is as reliable and false alarm free and no other system is as robust.

Other features have been developed for resolving rare book and archive reading room and museum study room security problems. And other features enable the system to adapt easily and quickly to the changing cultural property environments. It is with object protection that the power of the Acuity-vct system is so apparent. The system is intelligent. It can be taught the difference between good motion and bad motion. It knows that the reflection of a car headlight on a window is different from a touch or theft. It can learn that a camera flash is different from a touch.

To a security person, a museum’s day is divided into three distinct periods. During the day the guards protect works of art and other objects, but as we all know, our quality of protection is only as good as our guards. If we can afford a CCTV system, it is only as good as the guard watching it. At night the building is empty and the alarm system protects the collection from intruders. During what we often call “gray hours” we are quite vulnerable. Gray hours are those hours of the day that alarms are off but guards have not reported to duty in galleries. Staff is present and often contractor activity occurs. Many museum incidents occur during gray hours in the morning or at the end of each day. A CCTV system can improve security during gray hours but only an alarm on each object on display can really make the collection safe. With the Acuity-vct the guard in the control room doesn’t have to pay attention to the monitors. If something happens, the system notifies the guard and even tells him what action to take. You can even have the computer alert a patrolling guard on his pager.

Several museums protect every work of art on display using this feature. Ceiling mounted cameras look down on paintings and sculptures. One camera can view many objects. Visitors can get very close to labels and object but if they come within inches, the system alerts the guard. This protection is far better than guards because it never sleets, never goes on strike, and never goofs off. It works 24/7, even during those hours that guards have not yet reported to work. And if a guard calls in sick, your collection remains protected. By not having to call in a substitute from a contract service, one major university museum saved $30,000 in the first six months of operation.

Until recently, we only had wireless alarms hidden behind paintings or in exhibit cases to protect the collection. But Acuity-vct enables a camera to view a gallery, allow visitors to move freely within the space, but alerts the guard in the control room and in a nearby gallery when someone attempts to touch or remove the protected object. An attempted touch causes and alarm but it also calls up the recorded video of the infraction on a monitor showing a video clip of the violation beginning few seconds before the infraction actually occurred. A “beep” occurs and the guard’s attention is drawn to the screen. The guard sees the infraction occur without even intervening. In the gallery, the touch causes a pre-recorded human voice to sound. You program the message such as “Please step back from the exhibit”. The event can also trigger a pager, carried by the gallery guard, and displays the gallery of the infraction causing him to respond. If you have set the system to record only when motion is detected, the computer activates the recording to full resolution so no action is missed.

While it is not possible to eliminate every guard by installing the Acuity-vct system, it is possible to reduce the number of guards and their associated salaries, benefits, insurance, pensions, uniform costs, training costs, etc. The payback on a system in a medium sized museum can be from 3 to 5 years and in many cases just a year or two.

Because the Acuity-vct system is what is called a hybrid system, it can use either of the two types of cameras in use today: analog and digital. Analog cameras are most widely used in museums because they are smaller, more attractive, less costly, and their quality is generally suitable for most museum applications. And a hybrid system can use any type of CCTV wiring. If you have an existing CCTV system, each camera uses a dedicated coaxial cable but most modern digital CCTV systems require computer network cable. The Acuity-vct allows you to use both types simultaneously. Existing camera circuits can continue to use existing wires and any new cameras can be installed using network cables so these are ready for the future all-digital cameras that you may wish to eventually use as they get smaller and less costly. The Acuity-vct system, therefore, extends the life of your existing cabling another ten to twenty years saving about $1000 per existing camera in re-wiring costs! And in new construction projects, because it uses computer network cable, the cost of the system is generally lower than competing systems.

Like all modern CCTV systems, images coming in to the Acuity-vct server are recorded on computer hard drives. An array of drives is used and can be scaled to your specific needs. If you add cameras, simply slip in a new hard drive. Retrieval of images is instantaneous using a very familiar user interface. Training for a typical guard on the use of the system takes about an hour compared with days on other systems. Video from all cameras in the system is stored for 30 days or longer if you prefer.

Many systems use Windows software only, at the server, but the Acuity-vct gives your IT manager the ability to use the more reliable Linux operating system if he or she prefers.

Because the Acuity-vct uses what are called “advanced video analytics”, the system is quite intelligent. In one museum we needed to monitor all after hour activity in a lobby but the escalator’s constant movement caused conventional systems to remain in constant alarm. The Acuity-vct “learns” that the repetitive motion of the escalator is OK but when someone actually comes down the escalator, it can distinguish that movement as not being OK and alerts the guard.

With all other systems, chrome, kinetic sculpture, reflections from floors and windows, and many other conditions cause false alarms, but not with Acuity. The Acuity-vct system can be taught to ignore allowable motion, and alarm for other motion. In the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the Acuity-vct protects Elvis Presley’s sequined costume but movement around the costume causes the sequins to reflect and conventional systems false alarm. And don’t even mention flash photography which really disrupts other systems. But Acuity learns that reflections from sequins and camera flashes differ from someone touching the objects, so no false alarm occurs.

Probably the greatest advantage of the Acuity-vct system is its comparative cost. Nearly every other comparable system lacks the museum-specific features and refinements. None has the advanced library reading room feature Acuity has. Most are proprietary to one vendor, locking you in to them forever. And many have very costly licensing fees which you must pay annually. With the Acuity-vct system you pay for the product and its installation and never pay for software or hardware licensing again. If you don’t need or can’t afford the object protection features, you can purchase an unlimited or per-camera license when you do need them.


Want more?

Read how you use the Acuity-vct to protect a period room or historic house.

Read about the Library and Archive Reading Room Surveillance System.

Pros and cons of Digital Video Recorders vs. Server Based Systems

Read how the Acuity-vct system can be a back up to your alarm system.

Beware of Hidden Fees Charged by Many Manufacturers