Look Mom, No Wires!
The municipality of Carolina, the fourth largest city and industrial capital of Puerto Rico, implemented a mobile command center with Firetide-based wireless video surveillance. It has assisted police in apprehending drug dealers and confiscating arms in remote mountain areas, prevented car thefts and burglaries in several commercial and local shopping centers and monitored crowds at special events.
As surveillance video has grown increasingly popular, it’s popped up in more places. It watches the cashier in retail stores. It captures license plates as cars enter and exit parking lots.
Installation of wireless camera system can be convenient and applicable in different situations, especially at night. It also provides more flexibility to users because it can be easily accessed in remote locations to observe both indoor and outdoor environments. It is supplied with power from batteries rather than wired electricity, so it’s more portable, and it can be hidden from view.
It can even be used to watch from the corners of downtown office buildings, including the city of Chicago, with its ‘Operation Virtual Shield’ project that uses a combination of unified fiber and wireless mesh networking to make data available in real time.
Under the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) and lead supplier IBM, the project builds on a unified fiber network in downtown Chicago and is enhanced by a wireless mesh network provided by Firetide.
Already a large installment with 3,000 cameras, Operation Virtual Shield is slated to eventually cover the entire city with thousands of video surveillance access points.
Key to collecting and transmitting the video data is Firetide’s mesh technology, which supports wireless public safety applications ranging from traffic control and VoIP communications to covert and overt video surveillance. The Firetide system allows Chicago’s first responders to access databases rapidly and is configured to allow the addition of thousands more video access points in the future.
The system features some security cameras that can detect gunshot sounds that prompt the cameras to turn toward the sounds before automatically calling 911. The system can also read license plate numbers.
Not So Fast…
The Chicago system has been hailed by security specialists; it also has been questioned by civil liberty advocates who fear the system could represent an invasion of privacy. It poses a pervasive and unregulated threat to privacy and it shouldn’t be expanded until the city imposes some rules on its use, said the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. Instead, the ACLU recommends requiring individualized suspicion either of criminal activity or a threat to public safety before a camera operator uses the zoom, facial recognition or automatic tracking technologies. It also said the city should prohibit recording of activity in private areas, like residences and private businesses. It added that the city bar dissemination of stored images captured by the cameras except under specific circumstances and require public notice and the opportunity for public input before a camera is installed.
While Chicago’s project has raised concerns about possible privacy abuses, the project for the city of Freeport, Tex. has not. The city is using ADT Security to provide and install the first phase of a wireless video surveillance system to help reduce crime in a public housing project and a marina. Later planned phases of the system will help protect critical infrastructure in one of the nation’s largest ports and home to the fourth largest oil reserve and 29 chemical companies.
The project’s first phase, expected to take two months to complete, will include a wireless mesh network to transmit video from IP-based cameras located throughout the city to be recorded in city hall and monitored 24/7 in the nearby Freeport Police Department headquarters.
The first cameras will monitor a large housing project, where drug trafficking, vandalism and illegal dumping have been a concern. The system also will monitor Freeport’s public marina, providing boat owners with the capability to log onto an Internet site to check the security of their boats. An access control system will be installed to limit entry to the docks.
The second phase of the project will add cameras to monitor three bridges that provide the only vehicular access to the city located between the Gulf of Mexico and an intracoastal waterway. At that time, major chemical companies are also expected to link their surveillance cameras to provide a system capable of monitoring a larger area.
Later phases will expand the system to cover a sports complex, area high schools and the downtown shopping district. The entire multimillion dollar project is expected to be completed in 2012.
Wireless Goes Mobile
Wireless is also working in the municipality of Carolina, the fourth largest city and industrial capital of Puerto Rico, to monitor special events, remote areas and troubled neighborhoods. The city implemented a mobile command center with Firetide-based wireless video surveillance. Since last December, the mobile command center has assisted police in apprehending drug dealers and confiscating arms in remote mountain areas, prevented car thefts and burglaries in several commercial and local shopping centers and monitored crowds at special events such as music festivals, park inaugurations, and museum openings.
“The public loves the mobile command center. Almost every day, we get requests from someone to bring the command center to their neighborhood. The public knows that where we have used it, criminal activity has gone down and people feel secure there,” says Lt. Jose Matta, director of the Monitoring Center in Carolina.
The mobile command center was funded by the city which has been expanding its fixed video surveillance system for the past five years with a combination of fiber optics-based and Firetide wireless fixed video surveillance of parks and downtown areas.
The mobile command center is equipped with a Firetide mesh node with two Sony PTZ cameras on a mast extending more than 30 feet high. Four additional Sony cameras and nodes can be deployed around the vehicle to create a mesh to cover larger areas for surveillance. The video is saved for 15 days but can be transferred to CDs if needed for evidence.
Wireless Mesh for Security and Surveillance: Indulgence or Necessity?
In the physical security world, mesh has come to be perceived as a viable transport for large-scale video surveillance deployments. However, mesh is more expensive than low-cost point-to-point. So why are customers opting out for (seemingly) more complex and more expensive technology?
Where customers see the value in the flexibility of mesh is the ability to use the same set of equipment for both mesh coverage (i.e. street level connectivity) and the point-to-point backhaul – to send the aggregated traffic to the command center for viewing and storage, or to interconnect multiple meshes, each with numerous cameras.
An important consideration is end-to-end network management – there are fewer ‘moving parts’ in the deployment, and you don’t have to worry about interoperability between different sets of equipment (one for camera connectivity and one for backhaul).
Another advantage of mesh topology is the ability to grow the network incrementally, as security needs change or new funds become available. Quite a few end users start their networks as a few point-to-point links, or point-to-multipoint, and then reconfigure the networks to full or partial mesh – by filling in coverage gaps with additional mesh nodes. If they started with true point-to-point equipment, they’d have to rip it out and start fresh.
Many law enforcement end users have mesh gear for portable or temporary deployments; they don’t know what topology they may need for a specific situation. So having the gear that can do all three topologies – point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, and multi-hop mesh – is a big advantage for them. Otherwise, they’d have to get three separates sets of equipment, which are two or three times more expensive.
Mesh is the only topology that provides on-the-fly redundancy, due to self-healing and self-forming nature. Sometimes people say that mesh is an “overkill” and “why do you need redundancy in the first place?” If the network is designed properly (the skeptics continue), you don’t need redundant links anyway. Aside from special situations when moving machinery can block your line of sight (such as in ports, mines, industrial facilities, warehouses, or construction sites), is there a case for redundant links in installations that don’t experience variations in line-of-sight conditions? Absolutely! Today’s wireless equipment is extremely reliable, the infrastructure it goes on – not so much. Weather, age, defects in construction, drunk (or distracted) drivers – these are the ‘hazards’ that often call for redundancy in wireless design.
So, the flexibility of mesh allows for ease of installation, reliability and can result in significant costs savings. The fact that mesh can be deployed in multiple configurations, and combinations thereof, is an advantage that many customers appreciate.
Thanks to Ksenia Coffman, a senior marketing manager at Firetide, for the insightful information. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cordless/Wireless Video Intrusion Alarms Win!
The Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) in Napa, Calif. had a problem. For several weeks vandals hit the school district’s Bus Yard office, numerous school buses, a construction shop and the Napa High School gym locker room.
Approximately 20 school buses were entered during the last part of January. The suspects removed all the fire extinguishers and left them around the bus yard. They also discharged several of the fire extinguishers, two inside a bus.
The suspects caused extensive damage to NVUSD structures in the form of graffiti, discharging fire extinguishers inside buildings, including damaging windows and doors. The suspects also took NVUSD property during the commission of the crimes. Additionally, graffiti was also found on the new turf field at Napa High School. The loss and damages to the Napa Valley School District are estimated to be in thousands of dollars.
The Napa Police Department, in cooperation with the Napa County Sheriff’s Department, installed a new wireless video intrusion alarm system in the affected areas. On February 13, 2011, the Videofied system captured two suspects on video entering one the NVUSD structures. After viewing the video clips, officers were able to identify two suspects. Through additional investigation, another five suspects were identified. All of the suspects were middle school students of the NVUSD. Ultimately, six juveniles were arrested and one was cited for their involvement in the crimes.
“We get daily alarm calls, but a lot of them are false,” says Jon Thompson, deputy sheriff for the Napa County Sheriff’s Department. “With this system we know that the call is legitimate. It’s a better use of our time, and we’re able to better solve crimes.”