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!

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