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Glittering CCTV System is Gold

WHEN LONG-TIME Spokane, Washington, father and son jewelers Doug and Brian Toone decided to relocate the Jewelry Design Center, they wanted it to captivate the public, just like the rings and necklaces they purvey. Their new 27,000-square-foot two-level store would have a unique Northwestern look. The architecture would incorporate a natural-wood lodge-like exterior; inside, two large trees would serve as the building’s main interior supports. A spiral stairway leading up to the exclusive, invitation-only show area would also be built from natural logs. Another feature would be a security system as carefully crafted as one of the Toones’ artisan-made diamond rings.

Audio Visual Innovations (AVI), a Spokane-based audio-visual installation company that has been designing and installing video surveillance systems for the last seven years, was hired to create a robust system at the new store that would protect a multimillion-dollar inventory. Paul Stryker, owner of AVI, says that the owners wanted “the latest technology, with lots of storage space, lots of cameras. It had to be user-friendly and very expandable.” The owners also wanted to make sure that captured video would be of a quality admissible as evidence in court. The images had to be digitally watermarked to prove they were not tampered with.

After investigating options that would meet his client’s desires, Stryker selected the DX-TL5000Uadvanced digital video recording system by Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, Inc., of Irvine, California.

“The DX-TL5000 is state-of-the-art,” says Stryker. “We opted to start with 750 GB of hard drive space because of the number of cameras and the length of time for archiving images. Another advantage is that it’s expandable, making it simple to add more cameras and storage space, and the picture quality is excellent. It’s also flexible and simple to configure and operate and is IP addressable.”

Construction on the new design center began in June 2005. During the framing of the facility, the new building was prewired for up to 36 digital cameras. All the wiring is hidden, with cameras placed in fairly unobtrusive locations “so that customers don’t feel like they are being spied on while they are in there, but so we still get the coverage,” Stryker explains.

The design includes motion-detection alarms that cover all display cases, the store’s back door, and the roof. A central station monitors the alarms 24 hours per day. There is also around-the-clock CCTV monitoring of every entrance and access point into the design center and of the employee and customer lots, as well as of all-glass display cases on the showroom floor and in the upstairs high-end viewing and private viewing rooms. Currently there are 30 cameras in operation.

Stryker credits Mitsubishi with excellent technical support, noting that he met with the company’s lead technical support manager and members of his team early in the project to become acquainted with the system. “They allowed me to sit down and play with the unit for several hours,” he says.

Camera output is fed to an electronics room where the system’s server and two video DVRs reside. The DVRs are tied to the design center’s secure, password-protected network. The Toones can remotely monitor the cameras through any Internet-accessible location, and employees can view any camera on any computer screen within the store. An additional monitor is mounted on the wall by the door to the employee parking lot. Although the area where the store is located comprises upscale retail shops and hotels, and there have been no previous security incidents, the owners wanted employees to be able to see if any dangers awaited them in the parking lot before exiting.

In addition, in the service area where the jewelers design, build, finish, and engrave the jewelry, there is an individual high-resolution pen camera mounted on a flexible arm at each technician’s workstation. The cameras focus on the hands of the jewelers so that customers can view the jewelry in creation on overhead 19-inch flat LCD monitors. Stryker designed a custom switch so that when a technician leaves the bench, the system automatically switches that screen’s content to a marketing message or advertisement.

Upstairs, behind the locked door of the invitation-only viewing room, the most valuable jewelry is kept. There are CCTV cameras monitoring the two glass display cases in that space, as well as an ingenious built-in cabinet. When not in use, the cabinet looks like a picture hanging on the wall. With the turn of a key, however, the picture lifts up to reveal a recessed 18" x 18" jewelry case with an impact-resistant Lexan cover.

When the store opened in August, the system was set to default so that the owners and employees could become used to how it operated. Stryker says that since then he has tweaked the recording parameters, setting all the cameras to record only on motion detection, thus increasing the system’s storage capacity from 4 to 29 days of recordings. He has also adjusted camera angles for maximum viewing space per camera. “All the cameras have varifocal lenses, so we had flexibility in what we were seeing,” he states.

Stryker says that the system, which cost more than $50,000, has functioned perfectly since the initial installation tweaks. The owners and employees have had little problem using the equipment, he adds.

Stryker is currently in the process of upgrading the system by adding 12 26-camera slave units and replacing the existing DVRs, which run on Windows, with Mitsubishi models. The proprietary software that runs the system is Linux based, a fact Stryker likes because it avoids “the inherent problems that Windows-based DVRs have, such as crashes and freezes. It makes programming much easier and is not prone to viruses.”

Today, when customers enter the store, they pass an eye-catching 14-foot statue of a polished stainless steel diamond set around sculpted column rock. It is emblematic of not just the merchandise found within but also the jewel of a security system that protects the building and its staff.

(For more information: Jeff Kiuchi, product marketing specialist, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America—Security Products Division; 949/465-6440; e-mail:[email protected])

—By Ann Longmore-Etheridge, associate editor