Decision Support System for Museum Management through Distributed Wireless Sensing

Federico Viani, Italy

Keywords: wireless sensor network, distributed monitoring, museum management, decision support system, indoor occupancy

1. Introduction

In the last years, many integrated smart systems based on wireless sensor network (WSN) technology have been developed at the ELEDIA Research Center of the University of Trento. WSN represents a pervasive technology connecting the real world with its digital representation and its potentialities have been exploited for the monitoring of heterogeneous parameters in many application fields, such as precision agriculture [1][2], wildlife monitoring [3], exposure assessment [4], target localization and tracking [5]-[7], and many others, where autonomic actions are needed through the implementation of the sensing-actuation paradigm [8]. Among these application fields under study, the monitoring and the surveillance of museum areas have been carefully investigated because of their heterogeneous needs and challenging requirements in addition to great public interest [9]-[11]. On the other hand, it is worthwhile pointing out that the key-features of WSN technology, like small size, non-invasiveness, low cost, low power consumption, scalability, multi-sensor, and ease of installation, turn out to be very suitable for the scenario at hand. For these reasons, ELEDIA has developed an open platform called E-MUSEUM for the development of advanced services that exploit the distributed information collected in a museum space through a WSN infrastructure. Each WSN node collects and transmits in a wireless way the information on the monitored area to be processed in real-time by a remote control unit for providing an evaluation of the museum status as well as to forecast museum usage according to measured data trends. The hardware platform was designed and developed for deployment in the “Sala dei Cinquecento”, the famous chamber inside the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy, where MWF 2014 Conference was held.

The details of the installed system and of its capabilities are here reported to give an overview of the present as well as the future potentialities of wireless technologies as applied to museum applications.

2. E-MUSEUM System Architecture

Wireless nodes have been configured to create a mixed wireless network topology (Fig. 1). A subset of devices (anchor nodes) enables coverage extension thanks to the multi-hop strategy implemented within the onboard firmware. All the nodes (i.e., both anchor nodes and measurement nodes) are equipped with heterogeneous sensors for physical parameter acquisition. The measurement nodes are connected to the network through the nearest anchor node, and are estimated thanks to the analysis of received signal strength (the strongest wireless link determines the closest anchor). The wireless node platform has been designed to be flexible for the integration of additional sensors, according to the specific requirements of different museum sites.


Fig. 1. Mixed network topology of the wireless network architecture.

The design process considered highly-efficient power saving strategies in order to limit as much as possible consumption related both to the sensors and to the RF transceiver. To this end, time synchronization methods were introduced to enable precise coordination among the nodes and turn off the transceivers for the longest time possible. The working frequency f=868 MHz was chosen among the available working frequencies of the IEEE 802.15.4 low-power standard, in order to facilitate the electromagnetic propagation of wireless signals throughout the rooms of ancient buildings, usually characterized by thick walls.

Thanks to the real-time and continuous acquisition and collection of physical parameters (e.g. environmental parameters), the ‘museum status’ is constantly updated and the managers and the curators can be supported in the organization/management of the museum environment. Starting from collected data, such a smart platform can enable advanced and customized museum services through simple and user-friendly web interfaces. Fig. 2 shows an example of interactive web tools which provide fast and effective access to the desired information. Besides the sensor data, diagnostic indicators (e.g., wireless signal strength, CPU status, battery voltage, etc.) are made available in order to control the system’s health status and guarantee correct system maintenance.


Fig. 2. Example of user-friendly web tool for remote data visualization and system management.

Once all the information are gathered in the E-MUSEUM database, a set of innovative services are available for implementation according to the museum curators’ requests. Such services include:

  • Artwork surveillance: a subset of WSN nodes that integrates movement sensors is installed for the artworks. Thanks to their reduced size, they enable non-invasive, localized, and constant surveillance of individual artworks for the prevention of undesired events like vandalism and theft. The sensors are low-power and highly sensitive three-axes accelerometers, able to detect both touch and detach events.
  • Non-authorized access detection and visitor counting: the availability of easily deployable WSN nodes installed in proximity of doors and gates and equipped with presence-sensors (e.g., passive infrared sensors and accelerometers) enables the detection of people’s presence and the count of visitors. This feature enables both the protection of restricted areas (through the detection of movement within forbidden zones) and the estimation of visitor numbers in the museum rooms. More complex thermal sensors have also been tested for precise counting of multiple visitors that pass together through gates and doors.
  • Tourist flow supervision/control: enabled thanks to the integration of advanced algorithms for the detection, filtering, and classification of events starting from indirect and simple environmental information (e.g., temperature/humidity changing profiles) collected by the WSN nodes [12].

Experimental validation

In order to assess the efficiency and reliability of the E-MUSEUM system, a preliminary implementation was deployed on October 2012 in the “Salone dei Cinquecento”, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, thanks to the kind authorization of the Florence municipality. A set of 23 WSN nodes controlled remotely (according to the inputs/needs of the managers/curators) and equipped with environmental sensors was installed within the museum area at different heights to give in real-time a complete three-dimensional map of the ‘status’ of the monitored area in terms also of occupancy, visitors presence, etc.


Fig. 3 (a). Experimental validation exploiting vertical environmental profiles in museum test site.


Fig. 3 (b). Experimental estimation of museum status through environmental distributed data.

Fig. 3 shows a preliminary analysis of the acquired data during a famous event called “Notte Bianca” during which the museum is open both day and night. This event is particularly representative because it enables the clear understanding of the potential of the system to estimate the occupancy level, evaluated as a percentage of the maximum number of people that can occupy the museum area, starting from the basic principle that regulates the temperature and humidity vertical profiles, described in Fig. 3(a). Fig. 3 (b) shows how the pattern of occupancy changes during the event (30/04/2013) with respect to the two days before and after.

The outcomes of the experimental activities carried out in the “Salone dei Cinquecento” museum site give some insight into the potential of the E-MUSEUM platform as a reliable and effective tool for connecting cultural heritage with the communities of the ‘smart cities and communities’ of the future.


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[3] Viani F., Rocca P., Lizzi L., Massa A. (2011) “WSN-based early alert system for preventing wildlife-vehicle collisions in alps regions,” in International Conference on Electromagnetics in Advanced Applications (ICEAA2011), Turin, Italy, September 12-16.

[4] Ioriatti L., Martinelli M., Viani F., Benedetti M., Massa A. (2009) “Real‐time distributed monitoring of electromagnetic pollution in urban environments,” in Proc. 2009 IEEE Int. Geosci. Remote Sens. Symp. (IGARSS 2009), Cape Town, 12‐17 July 2009, vol. 5, pp. 100‐103.

[5] Viani F., Lizzi L., Rocca P., Benedetti M., Donelli M., Massa A. (2008) “Object tracking through RSSI measurements in wireless sensor networks,” Electron. Lett., vol. 44, no. 10, pp. 653-654.

[6] Viani F., Rocca P., Benedetti M., Oliveri G., Massa A. (2010) “Electromagnetic passive localization and tracking of moving targets in a WSN infrastructured environment,” Inverse Problems, vol. 26, pp. 1-15.

[7] Viani F., Robol F., Polo A., Rocca P., Oliveri G., Massa A. (2013) “Wireless architectures for heterogeneous sensing in smart home applications – Concepts and real implementations,” Proc. IEEE – Special Issue on ‘The Smart Home’, vol. 101, no. 11, pp. 2381-2396.

[8] Viani F., Rocca P., Oliveri G., Massa A. (2012) “Pervasive remote sensing through WSNs,” in EuCAP 2012, Prague, Czech Republic, March 26-30.

[9] Menduni G., Viani F., Robol F., Giarola E., Polo A., Oliveri G., Rocca P., Massa A. (2013) “A WSN-based architecture for the E-Museum – The experience at “Sala dei 500″ in Palazzo Vecchio (Florence),” Proc. 2013 IEEE AP-S International Symp., Orlando, Florida, USA, July 7-13.

[10] Viani F., Oliveri G., Donelli M., Lizzi L., Rocca P., Massa A. (2010) “WSN-based solutions for security and surveillance,” in IEEE Microw. Conf., Rome, Italy, Sept. 28-30.

[11] Viani F., Donelli M., Salucci M., Rocca P., Massa A. (2011) “Opportunistic exploitation of wireless infrastructures for homeland security,” in Proc. 2011 IEEE AP-S International Symposium, Spokane, USA, July 3-8.

[12] Rocca P., Benedetti M., Donelli M., Franceschini D., Massa A. (2009) “Evolutionary optimization as applied to inverse problems,” Inverse Problems – 25th Year Special Issue of Inverse Problems, Invited Topical Review, vol. 25, pp. 1-41.

Cite as:
F. Viani, Decision Support System for Museum Management through Distributed Wireless Sensing. In Museums and the Web 2013, N. Proctor & R. Cherry (eds). Silver Spring, MD: Museums and the Web. Published May 30, 2014. Consulted .

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