Electronic Eyes: How M2M Surveillance Saved a Historic Landmark

If you’re looking for an unusual juxtaposition of past, present and future technological achievement, a good place to start is a hill just east of a small Slovakian mining town. Banská Štiavnica was once home to an order of Jesuit priests, who erected three churches and 19 chapels, and then filled them with frescoes, sculptures and other works of art depicting Christ’s journey to the cross. The architecturally, artistically and religiously valuable site known as Calvary Hill was once an international destination for pilgrims but has since suffered from neglect. Its revitalization is underway, however, thanks to a local organization and a unique application of machine-to-machine (M2M) technology.

In 2008, a group known as the Kalvársky Fund decided that the Banská Štiavnica was worth saving. The group began restoring the buildings to preserve the architecture, the art and the religious symbolism associated with the site. Just as the Kalvársky Fund took note of the site’s cultural value, however, metal thieves around town began paying attention, too. Construction crews toiled throughout the day, but at night, thieves made off with the valuable copper wire from the site’s power cables. These copper thieves were interrupting the power supply and halting work for days at a time. The restoration project began to take on a one-step-forward-two-steps-back pace.

Copper theft is a huge international problem driven by record-high prices for the precious metal on the black market. In countries across Europe, including the U.K., Romania, Belgium and Italy, copper theft has risen by as much as 80 percent year-over-year since 2011. And in the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security reports that copper theft is costing private companies and public utilities more than $60 million a year. Construction and renovation sites are prime targets, but thieves also like to look at railways, port authority and shipping sites, as well as luxury home developments. In many instances, these are inside jobs in which a security or construction employee works in tandem with thieves, allowing them unsanctioned access.

To save the project and get a better handle on perimeter security, the Kalvársky Fund needed a security system that could deter metal theft on its sprawling, open property. The group settled on a video surveillance solution that employs M2M technology. The president of the fund, Martin Macharik, says a mobile M2M camera has made the difference between restoring the Slovakian site and continuously delaying work to repair damaged power lines.

M2M: The Future is Now

The term “M2M” refers to the connections between devices that allow for remote sensing, monitoring and activation. Those connections are being used to improve more and more products, services and business processes around the world. Through connectivity, M2M applications are ushering in the Internet of things, an idea the market has been talking about for years and is now seeing realized.

Across industries, M2M is helping companies gain competitive advantage, increase business efficiency, comply with regulations and even preserve natural resources. Machina Research says there are 2 billion M2M connections today, and the firm expects that number to skyrocket in coming years. By 2022, there will be 18 billion M2M connections, according to Machina Research, a compound annual growth rate of 22 percent.

The Slovakian site constitutes one of an increasing number of M2M success stories. Traditional security options were cost-prohibitive on such a large site, so the Kalvársky Fund sought out an affordable mobile video surveillance system that could cover multiple locations and be controlled remotely. The EyeSee, a solution from Deutsche Telekom partner Jablocom, fit the need.

In the security field, M2M technology not only connects cameras wirelessly, but it also links alarm systems via the Internet and alerts users when sensors indicate a fire, break-in or other problem. Such M2M solutions typically cost little to install, and they save owners from the daunting task of continuously and manually evaluating camera images. Instead, the software in a mobile surveillance camera analyzes images and sensor data and contacts owners via a mobile network if there is a security issue.

The EyeSee solution at the Calvary Hill site in Slovakia uses an infrared motion detector and senses human body temperature to recognize movements once the construction crews leave for the day. A motion in picture (MIP) detector regularly takes snapshots at the site, compares them, and then records changes. A sensor also picks up changes in atmospheric pressure if an intruder opens doors or windows, and an acoustic alarm can register the sound of breaking glass. A GSM surveillance camera equipped with a contact sensor prevents anyone from altering the camera’s position or angle, while an especially sensitive microphone registers sounds above a certain noise level. Depending on their needs, users can set their profiles to prevent false alarms. In the open-air mode, for example, the camera scales down the sensitivity of its sensors, while in the business or house mode, the camera pays particular attention to movements of people, gusts of wind, significant changes in temperature or loud noises. The owner determines how stringent security needs to be by adjusting the reporting parameters and sensor sensitivity levels from an online portal.

Preserving Baroque Art With Modern Technology

Had it decided to renovate Calvary Hill in a previous age, the Kalvarsky Fund would have had to employ far more expensive and less efficient means to monitor the site every night. Today, advances in M2M technology mean that the group can protect its precious architecture, art and copper wiring easily and efficiently. If the EyeSee solution registers a burglary based on the sensor data, it automatically calls the site manager or sends a text message, multimedia message or e-mail. A fund employee gets a photo on his mobile phone that he can then deliver to local police.

That process has led to the apprehension of at least one thief and the subsequent security of the Calvary Hill site. By leveraging M2M, the Kalvarsky Fund is successfully restoring a Baroque gem. The ease of deployment, increasing user acceptance and plethora of applications are setting the stage for similar M2M success stories across industries and across borders.
By Markus Breitbach

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