Wireless security applications are often touted for allowing faster installation times and affording end users considerable savings in material and labor costs, among other attributes. Of particular appeal are wireless video deployments where cameras are needed in remote or challenging sites and transmission through the air is the optimal solution. Examples include parking areas and municipal surveillance systems where mesh, microwave, cellular, 802.11 or other technologies and frequencies may be used to transmit images back to a monitoring facility or station.
A substantial series of developments in wireless technology during the past year will very soon allow integrators to expand their businesses well beyond traditional video surveillance applications. Let's take a look at a few of these key technological advancements and the market potential they are expected to open up. As you read on, keep in mind all the while that training and education will be imperative to building a successful wireless portfolio.
MIMO and Other Developments
The first noteworthy innovation to discuss is MIMO technology, which is now becoming the technology of choice for an increasing number of wireless applications. MIMO — or multiple input and multiple output — allows a radio to reach data rates up to 300Mbps using the same 20 and 40MHz channels of traditional 802.11 connectivity. For this technology to work, two or three antennas are needed for transmission in order to create signal uncorrelation. The larger the uncorrelation, the higher the performances.
In today's market you can encounter 2x2 and 3x3 MIMO products. As you might guess, the former has two antennas per radio while the latter has three. Most 3x3 MIMO products use omnidirectional antennas and are not well suited for security applications because of their limited range. Alternatively, 2x2 MIMO radios are a much better option for security and video surveillance applications. Namely, a 2x2 MIMO radio will allow integrators to use directional antennas, thereby extending the MIMO performances to a useful range. However, don't be tricked by the complexity of the theory behind these products. From an installation standpoint, they are actually quite simple to install as most of them use an integrated directional antenna and don't require much assembly.
When installed properly, a 2x2 MIMO link can deliver up to 150Mbps of real user datagram protocol (UDP) throughput and achieve a range of up to 20 miles in line of sight. This represents somewhat of a revolution in the industry as system performance has almost doubled in the past few years. This also makes it possible for integrators to use wireless links to stream megapixel cameras back to a central monitoring station without having to be overly concerned about image compression and frame rate.
Mobile Deployment Possibilities
Another impressive advancement in the wireless arena concerns transmission protocols and routing algorithms. Without delving into technical details, wireless products are becoming smarter and more powerful, leading to an increased number of possible applications where they can be deployed. One of the key examples of this is called mobility. This term refers to a system that involves one or more moving vehicles communicating with a network of fixed wireless units, usually installed on the perimeter. This could be a police car moving through a neighborhood, a train rolling along a track or a bus operating on a highway.
Streaming live video or data off a moving vehicle without any interruption of service presents a very difficult challenge to resolve. Such a scenario may require roaming between nodes and having very fast and very smart routing protocols that can handle a fast hand-off without losing connectivity with the network. Until a few months ago, the only solution available for these types of applications was a 3G wireless network or a satellite link. Both of these solutions are very expensive and have a throughput that rarely exceeds 5Mbps, rendering it unpractical for video surveillance applications.
The latest developments in mesh technology now allow for the installation of a Layer 2 network in this configuration, and the streaming of up to 45Mbps of live video from a train traveling at 55 MPH using a wireless infrastructure composed by a wireless unit every quarter of a mile.
Given the competitive cost of existing wireless networks, this solution is a game-changer in the transportation industry. Many transit authorities will be able to maintain awareness of what happens around and inside their vehicles without having to send someone onsite. Live video streaming will be possible from every train to the central control room without any interruption in service, all for a fraction of the price of what a 3G or satellite network would cost.
This technology could easily expand to highways, waterways, manufacturing plants and mines, for example, while helping the end user monitor their properties and the adjacent areas. Having roughly 50Mbps of usable throughput could also open doors to other applications such as Wi-Fi connectivity, on-demand content, VoIP systems and more. These are all features that are currently struggling to gain traction as they can be bandwidth intensive.
Training, Education Requisites
So what does an integrator need to do to prepare for taking advantage of this great business opportunity called wireless? The first and most important goal is to build knowledge and expertise on this topic. Proper system design and training are mandatory for integrators who are planning on making wireless a mainstay of their portfolios.