Keeping an eye on Biancone

Fountain of Neptune to be monitored

Editorial Staff
May 7, 2009

The Florence city council's latest promise to get tough on vandals has brought about a new high-tech surveillance system to guard the city's sixteenth-century fountain of Neptune in Piazza Signoria.



The fountain has been the target of many acts of vandalism in the past, including an incident in 2005 when Neptune's hand and staff were shattered into more than 30 pieces when a drunken youth climbed onto the statue with two friends.


The state-of-the-art surveillance system that will guard the ‘Biancone' (‘big white man,' the statue's local nickname) was custom-made by engineers at the University of Siena and includes special cameras and an alarm system.


A surveillance camera placed 40 meters above the massive monument will detect intruders. If someone crosses into the restricted area, the camera sets off an alarm to alert local police. Two other cameras will automatically zoom in on the intruder, taking high-resolution footage that will allow authorities to identify the face of the intruder and follow his or her movements.


If the intruder moves away from the fountain, nothing occurs; if the person gets closer to Neptune, an alarm sounds, lights can be switched on, illuminating the fountain, and a warning can be broadcast via loud speaker. The system may soon be upgraded with sensors on and around the monument.


Local authorities are also considering the same high-tech surveillance system, which cost a total of 200,000 euro, for other city monuments.  ‘It is a very cutting-edge system that can be adapted to other contexts and thus used in other situations,' says University of Siena engineer Alessandro Mecocci.


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