Monterey Bay Aquarium sees Clearly with Innovative Video Surveillance Solution

Monterey Bay Aquarium has produced significant insights into the life history of sharks, sea otters, and bluefin tuna. The aquarium also was the first to exhibit a living kelp forest, and in 2004 it was the first to successfully exhibit and return to the wild a young great white shark. It is, therefore, no surprise that the Monterey Bay Aquarium desired the most innovative and state-of-the-art cameras as a key component for its security system.

The Challenge

The aquarium has a huge campus, with multiple separate properties and an average annual visitation of two million people. Until recently, the Monterey Bay Aquarium relied upon close to 60 analog cameras for its video security needs. With such a large area to cover and with so many people to monitor, this type of system proved increasingly unreliable to its growing security needs. The aquarium’s security staff also found it a major inconvenience that accessories and other parts for the system were exclusive to the original provider, limiting the security team’s options both technically and financially.

The footage from the analog cameras was monitored on monochrome screens and useful viewing of surveillance video was quite difficult at times. The quality of the images was low, and the inflexible nature of the cameras resulted in many blind spots throughout the aquarium’s large campus.

The aquarium also has some very challenging lighting situations, requiring more specialized, versatile cameras to properly capture images. “We have some difficult light levels here. The reflections of the water tanks can make certain areas lighter on camera than they are in person, or vice-versa,” stated Thomas Uretsky, Director of Security and Emergency Management for the facility.

“The system needed more flexibility, multiple views on one camera, the works”, said Uretsky. “Blind spots needed to be eliminated, and we wanted as close to a 360-degree view as possible.” Uretsky turned to a San Jose, California-based security integrator. They were tasked to research the market. Ultimately, they recommended Arecont Vision for the camera solution.

The Solution

Uretsky and the team at Monterey Bay Aquarium collaborated with Arecont Vision regarding the scope of work; where the coverage was needed, and how to best fit in into their budget. Monterey Bay Aquarium chose ExacqVision as their video management system, another solid partner to help upgrade their prior surveillance system.

 A range of different Arecont Vision cameras were ultimately deployed to serve the aquarium’s varying needs. Arecont Vision MicroDome® cameras were ideal for the ticketing area and customer lines. The series includes Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) models, which can achieve clear images across extreme lighting conditions, such as those found in some of the indoor spaces at the aquarium. MicroDome cameras have an extremely low profile and only a 4” diameter, making them ideal for discreet security surveillance. “They are small and nearly invisible to anyone who doesn’t know what they’re looking for”, said Uretsky. “The fact that they have such a small footprint makes them ideal for us in the ticketing and front entrance areas.”

Another video surveillance application at Monterey Bay Aquarium required customizable features that would simplify future changes that may occur at the aquarium, saving time and money if construction or remodeling were to occur. As well, with a concern for budget optimization, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Security Manager, Kevin Wright, was pleased with not only the flexibility, but also in the footprint. “The SurroundVideo Omni cameras are some of our favorites because we are getting four cameras in one. They have the most flexibility,” said Wright. “Our blind spots are much more limited, and we don’t need to use nearly as many cameras as we previously had in those areas.”  Although each camera offers four separate views, only a single PoE (Power over Ethernet) cable and a single software license is required for integration with the Exacq software, further reducing costs.

Arecont’s SurroundVideo Omni series utilizes a patented 360o track where each of its four-megapixel sensors can be moved to cover virtually any angle. Remote motorized focus simplified installation with the Omni G2. It also has the ability to interchange lenses.

 The Results

The system has performed incredibly well to date. Not only was it installed on time, but it was completed within budget.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium monitors the system locally, 24-hours per day. The images are viewed on a dynamic video wall in the new Security Operations Center. While most footage is viewed on-site, some cameras have been enabled with the Exacq software for remote monitoring at satellite offices. For example, holding areas for rescued sea otters can be viewed remotely by a research team.

Arecont Vision cameras have helped the aquarium’s security department in a variety of ways, one of which is increasingly common: addressing bicycle theft. Individuals will sometimes access a public recreational trail that runs along the aquarium’s main campus to steal unattended bikes parked by visitors or staff. Unlike the previous analog surveillance system, Arecont Vision’s megapixel cameras can provide the security department with good views and high-resolution images when reporting such incidents to the police department.

The project at Monterey Bay Aquarium fulfilled a vast array of surveillance requirements — indoor and outdoor scenes, large and small spaces, low- to high-lighting conditions — and Arecont Vision cameras addressed each of the challenges. The deployment of the new cameras made an impression on Uretsky and his team. One installation inspired ideas for another, and Arecont Vision helped make these potential security solutions a reality as well. The continual partnership between the aquarium, the system integrator, and Arecont Vision has resulted in an ongoing collaboration between the three entities.

“The reason we went with Arecont Vision was because it has a niche where a lot of manufacturers don’t, with its multi-view cameras”, said Uretsky. Arecont Vision pioneered the first multi-sensor megapixel panoramic cameras in the surveillance industry in 2006, and has continued to enhance their capabilities, introducing adjustable-view Omni cameras in 2014.  “These cameras have been fundamental as we systematically replace our old cameras with newer, megapixel versions. We are always improving and always adding cameras, so each time we’ve installed them we’ve been pleased.”

Arecont Vision is the leading manufacturer of high-performance megapixel IP cameras. Arecont Vision cameras are made in the USA. MegaVideo® and SurroundVideo® massively parallel image processing architectures are now in their 5th generation and represent a drastic departure from traditional analog and network camera designs. They will be available to answer questions at The Great Conversation on March 5 and 6, 2018.