Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Corporate Twitter Launch - Internal Communications

Corporate Twitter has been fun -- new medium, new tools.

Below is an email I sent to the company to launch 'Firetide on Twitter' internally. Please feel free to reuse; it's been adapted from an excellent reference I found online, obviously shortened from 20 pages to one (oh, those UK bureaucrats!).


Hello All:

Firetide is now on Twitter at!

Below is more info on this effort:

About Twitter
Twitter is a 'micro-blogging' platform which allows users to post short text messages (up to 140 characters in length) and converse with other users via their phones or web browsers. Unlike email or text messaging on mobile phones, these conversations take place in the open.

The platform is experiencing a phenomenal adoption curve in the US and being used increasingly by media, analysts, editors, as well as our integrator and distributor customers and technology partners. It is free to use with and has the potential to deliver many benefits for our communications and marketing objectives.

Key Objectives:
  • Extend reach of our messages online (e.g. news, web updates) by building relationships with relevant audiences
  • Provide leadership and credibility, increasing our visibility as the experts in 'infrastructure mesh' within the online space
  • Provide an additional, low-barrier method for audiences to interact with Firetide to provide feedback, seek help and suggest ideas
  • Monitor mentions on Twitter of ‘Firetide’, ‘wireless mesh’ etc., engaging with our critics and key influencers to resolve problems and correct factual inaccuracies, and with satisfied customers to thank them for their positive comments
  • Provide live coverage of events (such as trade shows) for those who cannot attend
Types and Sources of Content:

Content will comprise a mixture of Firetide communications re-purposed for Twitter, and content produced exclusively for Twitter and will consist of:
  • Firetide news releases
  • Firetide press coverage
  • Upcoming and current Firetide events and marketing programs
  • Firetide website updates - new or updated sections, new white papers, new case studies, etc.
  • Videos on YouTube and photos on Flickr
To position Firetide as a filter of business intelligence and industry information, we’ll feature links to:
  • Research findings and statistics
  • Relevant industry events
  • Industry insights
  • Educational materials
  • Relevant partner news (resellers, distributors, solution partners)
***If you have ideas for ‘tweets’ or interesting content (photos, videos) please let me know – that would be very helpful!***

Why is Twitter important?
  • It’s establishing itself as the main source of live update information
  • It is increasingly used by our customers and partners
  • Search Engine Optimization – because it is updated frequently, Twitter content ranks highly on Google, and will give us additional exposure.
To keep our followers engaged, updates will be relatively frequent, between 1 to 3 messages per work day. During special events, updates may be more frequent.

To promote our presence on Twitter, we’ve added a link to twitter page from “Contact Firetide” sidebar on the web site and are also promoting it through our regular communications (newsletters, webinars, etc).

To see how well our brand is performing on Twitter, we’ll track mentions of ‘Firetide’ and tone of these messages. We’ll track number of relevant followers, as well as followers who ‘un-follow’ us. We’ll also track click-through on the links in our messages; ‘re-tweets’ of Firetide messages, and overall performance via tools like Twitter Grader.

Please help spread the word by adding the link to your signature.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Firetide on Twitter!

Started a Twitter account for Firetide with a few tweets:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It's All About the Numbers

Interesting games high tech companies play. Below is the email I sent to John Honovich of regarding Proxim's new product announcement (redacted), especially the reference he made to Firetide (italics are mine):
Hi John:

I had to get back to you on this (see, it pays to be a subscriber to your premium service). Correct, what Proxim put in the headline (300/600 Mbps) is actually radio data rate, not usable bandwidth. They indicated that usable bandwidth is 100 Mpbs for ‘300 Mbps’ product. The radios Firetide uses also provide 300 Mbps data rate per radio (that’s 801.11n standard); for dual radio product, our mesh provides 600 Mpbs ‘data rate.’

However, when we announced our product, we did *not* use data rate when we said “400 Mpbs” – it’s the actual throughput of the dual-radio product. True, it was achieved in indoor, lab conditions which are quite favorable to MIMO due to multipath reflections created by walls etc. Outdoor throughput will of course be lower and will wary depending on how much one can take advantage of MIMO’s multi-path, but not by the orders of magnitude in stepping down from Proxim’s data rate to usable throughput. Also, I’m quite sure that Proxim’s 100 Mpbs is lab test result, not the field data.
Originally posted by John Honovich
New 300 Mb/s Wireless Video Surveillance Product Offering

Proxim has released two series of high speed wireless networking equipment targeted to the video surveillance market. [...] Key point - though the series says 300Mb/s, an examination of the data sheet indicates that the system is actually for 100Mb/s of throughput. [This is similar to the variance in Firetide's new super high bandwidth product].

Proxim reports that later this year, it will release a 600 Mb/s version. Proxim says there will be a variety of models offered, some of which can be software upgraded for higher speeds while others require new equipment.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wi-Fi Planet Article on Non-line-of-sight Mesh

Firetide Releases New Non-Line-Of-Sight Mesh Node
By Naomi Graychase

June 30, 2009

Firetide has released its new HotPort 6000-900, the company’s first product to operate in the 900 MHz spectrum, which enables clients to run high-bandwidth applications in environments where achieving line-of-sight is difficult or impossible.

The HotPort 6000-900 is targeted primarily at public utilities where it can increase the capacity of existing SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) backhaul connections. With real-world throughput of up to 26Mbps, it enables bandwidth-intensive applications, such as video surveillance, and extends mesh reliability into non-line-of-site scenarios.

Firetide’s “wireless infrastructure mesh” approach has met with success in public and private video surveillance markets. Clients include the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which uses Firetide equipment as part of its Advanced Surveillance and Protection Plan, and the Phoenix, AZ Police Department, which used a Firetide network to protect visitors during Super Bowl XLII.

“When we started the company, we designed the network from the ground up to be a multi-service network,” says Ksenia Coffman, Marketing Communications Manager at Firetide. “Our systems have capabilities uniquely designed for high-bandwidth and low-latency to achieve evidence-grade video. Our virtual Internet switch runs proprietary protocols and to the IT administrator, it appears as though it were a regular switch; its completely transparent, that’s what sets us apart.”

The HotPort 6000-900 mesh is uniquely designed for the noisy 900 MHz spectrum, says Coffman. It employs Firetide’s ‘Smart Adaptive’ mesh technology to mitigate the effects of interference that typically bring down wireless throughput and reliability in this band. “Firetide’s noise-aware data path and noise filtering algorithms enable mesh to better handle interference from other 900 MHz devices, as well as from adjacent frequency bands taken up by cellular and 3G traffic. Tools, such as the spectrum analyzer, which is integrated into the product, allow a network administrator to remotely monitor the health of the network and take actions to further optimize the network performance,” says Coffman.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wireless Mesh Article in SDM Magazine

The article I contributed written answers to:

Benefits that Mesh Well Together

The best way to position “wireless mesh” is to contrast it with other available wireless technologies, explains Ksenia Coffman, marketing manager for wireless mesh network provider Firetide, of Los Gatos, Calif. “If you look at the available wireless technologies, you can see wireless mesh is clearly differentiated,” she observes.

Point-to-point wireless systems. These systems provide connections between two fixed locations, and often offer greater capacities and distances compared with point-to-multipoint and mesh technologies. These connections, or bridges, are ideal for backhaul of other wireless technologies, Coffman explains.

Point-to-multipoint wireless systems. These systems deliver high-speed network connections to multiple remote locations. When towers or tall buildings are available, point-to-multipoint systems can offer cost-effective deployments. However, the central “base unit” creates a potential single point of failure.

“Should the unit lose power or become inoperative, the whole network goes down,” Coffman says.

Multipoint-to-multipoint (or wireless mesh) systems. These systems are by their very nature self-healing for resiliency, Coffman notes. Redundant links eliminate single points of failure associated with conventional wireless networks, while multiple paths overcome line-of-sight issues. On a wireless mesh network, unlike with a point-to-multipoint system, any mesh node can act as a “head end,” allowing multiple command centers to be set up, at any point in the network, she describes.

The flexibility of mesh allows it to be deployed in any of the above scenarios — point-to-point for backhaul, point-to-multipoint, or “true” mesh for complete redundancy.

Some deployments start as point-to-multipoint, later to be reconfigured into a mesh topology, when security needs call for ubiquitous coverage, Coffman says.

Full article

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Remote Surveillance Article in Security Products

My contributed story ran in the March issue of Security Products. It was a fun project to write and get contributors for:

Out of Sight

Taking advantage of the latest high-throughput wireless network technologies

By Ksenia Coffman | Mar 03, 2009

Out of sight never means “out of mind” for security professionals. But how do you provide security at remote locations without deploying foot patrols 24/7 or burying fiber to extend surveillance reach? Many organizations tasked with ensuring public safety and securing critical infrastructure are increasingly turning to wireless security and surveillance to cover remote areas without breaking the bank.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wireless Issues For Critical Applications

Nice to be getting great quotes (of course, I wrote them myself, but who's going to notice :)

Excerpts follow:
Wireless Issues For Critical Applications
Minimize Potential Problems In The Enterprise

In the opinion of Ksenia Coffman, marketing manager for Firetide (, however, wireless mesh networking is the best choice for critical applications. Coffman says wireless mesh networks provide redundancy and multiple paths to ensure reliability of critical information, be it enterprise application data, alarms, access control communications, or video transmission.

Coffman says high-performing wireless mesh infrastructure is not trivial to design or deploy, and professional-grade wireless equipment is a considerable investment. “Before making a wireless move,” Coffman notes, “enterprises should carefully weigh the costs vs. the benefits. In an outdoor setting, for example, wireless makes a lot of sense, but it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.”

Wireless vs. Cable

Ksenia Coffman, marketing manager for Firetide (, says she doesn’t see cable going away and enterprises switching to 100% wireless, especially in an indoor environment (or the “carpeted space,” as she calls it). “However,” Coffman notes, “in outdoor areas or in a mobile environment, wireless makes a lot of sense. A typical example would be a large enterprise campus, university campus, or a large medical facility.”
Full article.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

PR Opportunity Pipeline

I thought I'd post this "behind the scenes in PR" chart. My total pipeline or "PR opportunities" is currently 210; it was close to 250 at the end of last year, before I reset the "complete" row. In 2008, we made 42 announcements! All in all, I've churned through 120 opportunities before I put them in the "dead" pile.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Toshiba, OnSSI and Firetide IP Video Seminar

Toshiba Security invited us to participate in an IP video seminar they put together at Milpitas, CA (here's the promo). Well, they invited OnSSI, and OnSSI's VP of marketing called me. So I (selflessly) attribute the invitation to my relationship with OnSSI. Of course, wireless video is a good addition to any camera vendor's seminar: it's new, it's challenging, it's creative. Quite a few people came up to me and said "I'm here because of Firetide."

The audience was primarily dealers/integrators, with some consultants, distributors, and end-customers. Today was well attended with about 50 attendees total over both AM and PM sessions. The best part is that it’s at no cost to us; our investment was time and getting a presenter there. I presented the PM session, since our sales manage had to take off for the airport. I got more questions than OnSSI and Toshiba; there was a definite interest in wireless, especially in mobile video surveillance.

I had an interesting discussion at lunch with a manager (owner?) of SightMind; they offer franchise opportunities in IP video surveillance. I picked his mind a bit about IP camera vendors: Sony is first in their book for superior image quality; then Panasonic. He considers Axis to be "a safe choice", but not necessarily the best, although Axis' strong point is the most complete product line out of all the vendors.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Wireless Video Surveillance - Niche or Mainstream, Part 1

I posted this question on a LinkedIn group I belong to and got many thoughtful response, so I thought I'd repost here (without attribution).

Here's my original query:

Wireless video surveillance -- niche or mainstream?

Would love to see your comments on whether use of wireless transport in IP video surveillance is entering mainstream, or is still considered niche. Also, what are your thoughts on factors that may be hindering adoption: complexity, lack of integrator expertise, lack of throughput, cost vs benefit, etc.?

Wireless is one of the ways to be considered; like all the top tech tools, in the hands of the right companies wireless can make the difference. It depends a lot on the environment. Optic fiber can cost sometime more than double. A good 20 to 27% of the world wide solutions can be implemented on wireless, or even better a non wired solution. To have a real convergence of the video surveillance systems excluding the non wired side seems impossible.

For sure wireless implementations require high competences, plus the real challenge is normally lodged on the end user side. Does he really wants to take the "risk" of the non wired? At the end of the story, is 60%confidence plus 40% cost calculation. If one or the other missing, then, the result is wire.


I think it's mainstream, in the sense that it's commonly used and generally works. At the same time, it's still certainly a fraction of all deployments - it can't be more than 5% of all cameras, maybe less.

To me, the big thing with wireless is the cost. Industrial class wireless gear is going to cost $3,000 - $5,000 per camera. When this price point drops by an order of magnitude I think this will open up wireless usage significantly. One way to get far lower cost is to use cheap SOHO wireless access points. However, that's risky or unacceptable for most wireless video surveillance deployments.


In my experience, right now it's a niche used primarily in existing applications and add-ons. In new installs, it's an expense that's typically not necessary. Hard wire CAT5/6 and their infrastructure is much less expensive than wireless routers, and in high-end video applications the throughput can be an issue.

We do use quite a bit of point-to-point 5.8mhz transmission for longer distances, and that segment is picking up every month.


While it may be a bit niche is the more common, run-rate market (building security, etc.) wireless is very popular with wide area projects such as town centres and university campuses, if not for the entire network then at least for some links between locations.

We have had significant success with wireless in Australia for town centre projects using multiple different wireless vendors and different network topologies.

The most successful applications I have been involved in work mostly with distributed storage systems so as to reduce the reliance on the wireless infrastructure. This is great because it means that the recording/storage (which is arguably the most important part of the system) is not affected by adverse weather such as rain, hale, snow, etc. which, as we know, can have significant impact on the performance of the wireless signal.

In many of these sites, cameras are grouped together, for example there may be 4 cameras on a street scape that are within a reasonable distance of a central location, such as a utility store. This makes it easy to wire them back to a single switch (for example a low cost PoE switch) which then connects to a local server and the wireless access point. This way we only use the wireless for retrieval of footage and live viewing, which also means we can deploy a lower cost access point in the location due to the lower level of reliance/bandwidth required.

Then of course, there is a large amount of reliance on a competent installer, of which there are few with wireless experience. There are so few that many of the wireless vendors in Australia will offer the time of their own experts to do the wireless survey in order to train people up quickly and instil in the them the requirement to always do a survey before specifying a product.


I plan to pitch a "Wireless Video Surveillance - Niche or Mainstream" column to a security publication; we'll see what happens!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sign of Times

This must be a sign of times: I contacted my counterpart at a company that provides complementary products to Firetide's with an offer to collaborate on a PR project. After a few days I got this email from someone else at the company:

"XYZ forwarded me a voice mail message you left maybe a week or so ago about a PR opportunity regarding [the deployment].

XYZ is no longer with the company, and I’m following up on their activities. I’d like to talk more about this with you at your earliest convenience. Please feel free to drop me a note, or call me at the number below."

Ouch! I contacted my counterpart (thanks, LinkedIn), to see if they moved someplace else, and with an offer to send me a resume, but did not hear back.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Security Magazine Story

Security Magazine's Bill Zalud posted a story from an interview with Orlando Police Department and Firetide's integrator Avrio Group:

What's in Your Playbook

It’s that excellent hang time in the clouds that’s in the 2009 playbook for Agent Jeff Blye of the Orlando Police Department. Special events – from sports and car racing to political rallies – are a growing business, which also carry unique and sensitive security concerns. Security industry analysts contend that – this year – special event security will be one of the few shining lights in terms of growth and use of security technologies.

But for public law enforcement agencies and private enterprises, special events have an additional challenge: Often, events call for more and higher level security involving agencies and organizations that may not routinely interact and for a short period of time.

Systems integrator Mark Jules of Avrio Group, who advises to Blye, describes a solution that is based on wireless mesh and that can be implemented atop existing street light and utility poles for a temporary high security fix. “It’s a combination of a camera, a wireless device and all the electrical components needed to simply hang the unit on a pole and plug power into it.” His firm worked with the City of Phoenix when they hosted the Super Bowl, in Denver for the Democrat National Convention; St. Paul for the Republican National Convention and also works for a variety of federal agencies.

Blye, an Orlando Police detective with primary responsibility for electronic surveillance, is assigned to a multi-agency task force covering IP video surveillance within Orlando and Central Florida area.

His 2009 game plan: “Our idea was to purchase wireless mesh technology surveillance equipment for deployment at varying activities whether it be a county fair or a National Socialist Movement rally or at large immigration rallies.” In anticipation of special events challenges this year, the solution was deployed at the 12 Hours of Sebring Race and a Barack Obama rally.

“Once you’ve got this system configured, it’s basically pointing antennas at each other for it to talk. At the Sebring Race, we were able to set up an eight camera system within a couple hours. We had it configured within an hour or so out of the back of my truck. And then the hardest part of any installation is just getting elevated to mount the cameras up on poles. So that’s actually the most time consuming aspect of any installation that I do is just basically the site survey. What poles am I going to put it on, how am I going to get up there to hang it and where am I going to get power from?”

Boxes from the integrator provide an AC outlet. Blye runs an extension cord down to any pole that doesn’t have power already and power it off a simple generator.

Blye’s team is bigger than the integrator and Firetide as the wireless mesh provider. “We are part of the Target Department Stores’ Safe Cities Initiative. Our system is IRIS or Innovative Response to Improved Safety. And the first phase is 17 cameras that are going to be deployed on wireless mesh backhauled to the Orlando Police Department where we already have a preexisting command post.”

Such 2009 solutions are versatile. “I can take analog output from a preexisting surveillance system, put it into a video encoder which now converts that analog to IP, plug a mesh node into it, assure that it’s in range of my other mesh nodes and can then look at the cameras from that analog output.”

Hang time this year may get longer. Said Blye, “Our school board in Orange County has cameras at all their schools. It would be nice that if there was a high risk incident at a school I can then tie into their system with a mesh node, stick an antenna outside, put a mesh node on a command vehicle and manage the scene.”

This year, it’s obvious that wireless mesh will go well beyond video surveillance for special events, as one example. Jules’ firm is seeing customers that want to also pull access control, gunshot detection and data. “And all of that can be done, you know, back through the Pole Cam as result of the mesh,” he said.

Firetide’s Ksenia Coffman commented, “We set out to develop a reliable wireless infrastructure. And it’s very similar to getting a distributed wireless Ethernet switch. So really it’s the same connectivity that you would get from your cable except that you can place the nodes in any location you need. Video is really the test of wireless mesh technology or any wireless technology because of the bandwidth requirements for evidence grade video.”

I really need to stop using "really" so much!

Inaugural post

Yay! First post on the newly created blog. I plan to blog about being a marketing professional in Silicon Valley. It will be a bit difficult as I'll only be able to write about the things for "public consumption" (wearing my PR hat), but we'll see how it goes.