Ty Morrow knows that Freeport, Texas, is “where fun happens.” He also knows that bad things could happen; and, as chief of police, it’s his duty to see that fun overpowers the bad. And one recent addition to his staff is a wireless network that supports security video in this coastal city.

Wireless mesh networking is not brand new. Military, local public safety and some businesses use it and networks can carry much more than security video. Unlike wired designs, they can also more easily be moved.

Basically, a wireless mesh network is a communications network made up of radio nodes organized in a mesh topology. They are often made up of mesh clients, mesh routers and gateways. The clients are often laptops, cell phones and other devices while the mesh routers forward traffic to and from the gateways which may, but not have to connect to the Internet.

The coverage area of the radio nodes is called by some a mesh cloud. Access to the cloud depends on the radio nodes working in harmony with each other to create a radio network.


Self Healing Abilities

A mesh network is reliable and offers redundancy. When one node can no longer operate, the rest of the nodes can still communicate with each other, directly or through one or more intermediate nodes, a kind of self forming and self healing ability.

Wireless mesh networks can be implemented with various wireless technology including 802.11, 802.15, 802.16, cellular technologies or combinations of more than one type.

One important video charm of wireless mesh is its cost effective and dynamic high bandwidth networking over a specific coverage area. The infrastructure is, when all is said and done, a router network minus the cabling between nodes.

Whatever tech nuts and bolts are hidden behind his network, Morrow sees diverse applications. But he originally proceeded with caution. “We conducted focus groups to understand our city’s needs,” he says.

Integrator ADT Security Services is providing and installing the first phase of the wireless video surveillance system in a public housing project and 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. Adds Morrow, “The video surveillance system will help focus on high-crime locations and to protect critical infrastructure that could be targeted by terrorists.”

For monitoring at Freeport’s public marina, the cameras and network will give boat owners 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, too.


Infrastructure and Terrorism Angles

In the second phase, added cameras will 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.

At its heart, however, is the flexibility and reliable of the wireless mesh network.

Texas A&M University is another mesh believer.

The challenge: to provide administrators and campus police with IP video surveillance visibility in high-rise dormitory elevators. Using wireless mesh networking from Fluidmesh Network, Jason Bone, Lieutenant, Texas A&M Police, reports that “We thought it would be a very expensive undertaking and that we’d have to hire a third party to install cable into these elevator cars. This wireless system proved a much better way to go.”

Jamie Bradford of Lensec Systems Solutions served as the integrator on the project. Coming up with a cost-effective technical solution was a major concern, because there was no pre-existing IP connectivity to the elevator cars. Wireless connectivity had to be attained inside the elevator shafts in order to connect the cameras mounted in the elevator cars to the larger campus network. A definite need existed for video in the cars, but wired connectivity was difficult and very expensive, because of the high cost of traveling cables and the labor rates elevator manufacturers and service companies charge for access to the elevator shaft.

The wireless option was the most cost effective from both equipment costs and installation labor. It also made for a quicker installation and less downtime on the elevator. The installation, Bradford reports, took less than four hours per elevator.


Handling HD Video

Cosimo Malesci, a wireless mesh net expert for Fluidmesh, says that the approach is more reliable, easier to install as compared to fiber and copper and able to send more data including high-definition video and H.264 compression.

While government and public safety are among the main drivers, education, parking lots, healthcare and connection among buildings is growing, he says. Configurations can be point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, mesh and combinations.

Mobility is another business benefit.

The growing use of megapixel and HD network cameras and the rising demand for mobility in video surveillance places new demands on wireless network infrastructure to support new applications.

In addition, mobile video surveillance to and from moving vehicles is increasingly popular with law enforcement, first responders and transportation agencies interested in augmenting their fixed security systems. At the April ISC West in Las Vegas, wireless mesh network provider Firetide talked to enterprise security leaders about infrastructure mobility solutions deployed in subways, trains and buses for surveillance and public services. Examples include Amtrak in New York City, Seoul Subway and Mumbai Metro projects.

With mobility controller functionality, devices such as IP video cameras, Wi-Fi access points, or RFID readers, maintain network connectivity while traveling at high speeds by providing the bandwidth and intelligence needed to manage connectivity between the mobile and fixed nodes, ensuring fast and efficient handoff and delivering seamless video surveillance and other services.


Mesh in Vehicles

Infrastructure mesh is also being deployed for wireless offload of recorded mobile video. The Town of Los Gatos, Calif., has deployed such a solution. “Prior to deploying wireless offload, police officers had to run over 100 feet of cable to their vehicles to download the video,” says Chris Gjerde, information systems manager for Los Gatos. “As you can imagine, they did not enjoy that part of their daily routine. We also noticed that outdoor connectors often had to be replaced, each failure creating a call for service to our outdoor networking contractor. Wireless mesh saves us both time and money, and the high-tech approach is a hit with our personnel.”

Such nets can cover wide areas, too.

In Melbourne, Australia, an extensive wireless IP video surveillance network boasts 130 square kilometers of mesh coverage. Most importantly, the system needed to meet the requirement to transmit high-resolution and HDTV live video feeds. Forty-two Firetide outdoor mesh nodes form the infrastructure backbone of the project, supporting close to 50 outdoor IP video surveillance cameras.