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The Art of Integration

When Christie’s, a leading art business and fine arts auction house, decided to upgrade physical security systems at its New York City headquarters and regional offices, it turned to Diebold to leverage legacy equipment, incorporate new technologies, and integrate a number of systems into one platform. The change allows security to monitor the entirety of its U.S. operations through a single command center.

Founded by James Christie in London in 1766, Christie’s has offices and salerooms in 53 worldwide locations—among them London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, and Hong Kong. It holds approximately 450 sales per year of fine and decorative arts, jewelry, photographs, collectibles, vintage wine, and more. Christie’s global auction and private sales in 2008 totaled $5.1 billion. In the last few years alone, the auction house has handled the sale of notable items such as the painting Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas by Claude Monet, the private collection of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, the black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiff­any’s, a 1707 Stradivarius violin, and props, costumes, and other items from the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The security upgrade began in January 2009 with a search for a systems design and integration provider. “We started the vetting process about six months prior to the decision,” explains Steve Wrightson, director of security for the Americas for Christie’s.

The goal “was a centralization of security systems. We had independent platforms at ten of our regional offices that we wanted to integrate into our central command station,” at Christie’s headquarters in New York’s Rockefel­ler Center, says Wrightson.

Other issues that Christie’s wanted addressed were video retention time, the quality of video, and the integration of card access and CCTV systems.

“Before the upgrade, we had 24 independent monitors that were all hardwired back to independent DVRs. There was no integration,” says Wrightson of the previous setup at the regional offices. “We had card-reader access control systems and CCTV systems, but these were independent,” as were the water and fire detection systems, he says.

At the central command, “Originally we had 24 really antiquated 19-inch monitors that we split into a 16-view setup. So [security personnel] were looking at about an inch of live video,” Wrightson recalls.

Diebold was selected to handle the job. Chief among the reasons Diebold won the contract was that it guaranteed to avoid any interruption in security systems’ performance throughout the upgrade. Other companies that Christie’s had considered in the bid process “wouldn’t guarantee that all our existing systems wouldn’t be offline,” states Wrightson.

The project began with systems designers from Diebold visiting each U.S. office and assessing the security situation. “They worked very closely with the in-house security engineers, and between Diebold and Christie’s, we came up with a tailored system for each office,” Wrightson says.

For example, both the Los Angeles and Chicago offices held important, highly valuable works of art. It was decided that at these two locations, there would be “increased coverage across the board—more card-access points, increased monitoring. We would dedicate a monitor [at the command center] just to these offices,” he states.

Diebold handled the system’s design and Christie’s security engineers handled the actual equipment installations, including an upgraded access control system, DVRs, and IP CCTV cameras. At each regional office, “it was less than a month per site from design to implementation,” Wrightson says.

The upgrades and the refit of the command center began in mid-2009. Here, Diebold both designed and installed the upgraded equipment during a process that took roughly a month.

“What was great during the retrofit was that all of the existing systems were up and running, so we never had a lapse in coverage,” as promised, notes Wrightson. “Diebold understood that we didn’t want a lapse at any point.”

The CCTV feed, alarm, access control, and fire system input from all the regional offices now flows through Christie’s secure corporate network to the security command center. There it is monitored around the clock on new equipment that includes “six desktop monitors, two independent 20-inch TVs, and six 42-inch monitors that are all matrixed so that we can place any cameras from any DVR on any monitor that we like,” explains Wrightson.

The upgrade was also done with an eye to the years ahead. “When we were designing, we kept in mind evolving technologies—future-proofing as far as the infrastructure was concerned,” he explains. What lies ahead for Christie’s security will probably include an IP megapixel platform and the integration of the GPS tracking systems used on art and other items being sold by the auction house.

Aside from the usual software and other IT glitches that need to be overcome, the upgraded systems are functioning as expected at all the regional offices and at Rockefeller Center. “We’ve had no issues with the system. Everything has been great and we’ve received great technical support,” says Wrightson.

(For more Information: Diebold, phone: 330/490-4000; Web: