Putting Wireless to Work for You Part 2: Video Surveillance
Wireless video surveillance is a technology that stirs a mix of emotions in many systems integrators. From excitement to skepticism, attraction to fear, the list could be pretty long. The reason, in large part, is misinformation.
Many manufacturers have executed very optimistic marketing campaigns despite a great deal of integrators still having limited knowledge of wireless systems. As with any technology, wireless transmission has its limitations. Fortunately, things have been changing rather substantially the past few years with more reliable wireless products, friendlier user interfaces and better training programs.
The combination of these factors has given way to a new era for wireless security systems, which are now becoming an important source of revenue for many security integrators across North America. Moreover, new developments in the field such as multiple input/multiple output (MIMO) transmitters and receivers, and ‘on-demand’ pricing strategies are expanding the reach of wireless technology.
These developments are making wireless an attractive solution for security integrators to specialize in because it allows them to be more competitive in the market and sets them apart from the competition.
Putting Wireless in Your Portfolio
Before getting into the technical details of wireless video and how to successfully include it in your portfolio of solutions, let’s give a look at the opportunities you will be able to go after with it. Unless you are running a nonprofit security integration company, which would be pretty unique, this is probably what you care the most about at the end of the day.
You should really consider wireless as a transmission system along the same lines of wired solutions and offer it as an alternative, as well as a complementary technology to fiber and copper. By having the ability to successfully install and maintain a wireless video network, you can offer your customers a cost-effective alternative to fiber.
Today’s wireless systems are faster to deploy than fiber or copper, offer similar performance in terms of reliability, don’t require any trenching, and are easier to expand or modify in the future. Oftentimes, by using a wireless technology you will be able to offer a solution to a customer that other integrators don’t have access to. This fact can go a long way in helping you win business. In addition, there is the possibility that university campuses, municipalities, police departments and traffic authorities will be all over you as soon as you propose such a solution.
Although this sudden increase in popularity might feel good, you need to figure out how to get solid business from it, which might not be that easy in the beginning. Make sure you qualify your prospects well and try to set their expectations at a level that you can meet or exceed. The last episode of TV’s “CSI” is probably what they are comparing you with. Bring them back to earth.
In order to help you grow your business, many wireless equipment manufacturers have some sort of channel partner program in place. You should take advantage of it as much as you can because it is designed with the sole purpose of generating business. By becoming a dedicated partner, you will receive preferential pricing, access to leads and RFQs, and marketing funds as well.
There is enough business out there that some companies are now specializing in wireless integration and that is the full extent of what they do. Although that might be a bit extreme as a first step, don’t be surprised if wireless becomes a substantial revenue stream for your company.
A common mistake many integrators make is considering wireless as their last resort in case everything else fails. If that is your credo, just stay out of it all together. You will be like those people you see on the highway on a Sunday morning going 30mph with a desperate look on their face simply because they only drive it once every six months. If you decide to get into wireless, you need to be committed.
3 Approaches to System Layout
In order to get you started, an overview of the stage at which the technology is today is probably helpful. As you likely know, wireless systems can be divided into three main groups depending on their topology: point to point, point to multipoint, and mesh. The three systems have different applications and in order to be competitive in today’s marketplace, all three are needed.
The most common use for a point-to-point system is to create a single link between two points. It could be a single camera in a parking lot; it could be an intercom system at a gate a mile away; it could be a wireless bridge for data between two buildings.
On the other hand, a point-to-multipoint system is the best solution to use if you have clear line of sight between the head-end and each IP edge device in the field. Such a system allows you to create a star topology that works well in midsize deployments.
Then there is a mesh solution, which is the best way to go in case you have a large area to cover and not all the locations have clear line of sight to the head-end. In addition, mesh allows you to create a redundant system by establishing multiple links to transmit the information back at the head-end. This feature is particularly important if you work with public safety applications.
The type of topology to use is often dictated by the layout of the system and by the requirements of the customer. What you want to keep in mind, though, is they serve different purposes and that it is not uncommon in large networks to use all three topologies on the same site. By choosing a wireless solution, try to find a manufacturer that offers all three topologies. Particularly at the beginning, having a single point of contact will give you one less thing to think about.
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