Are you wired? You may not need to be anymore
Tuesday, February 1, 2005

The security industry's options continue to improve when it comes to reliable and quick video and data transmission

Homeland security-based concerns, especially regarding the addition of cameras for surveillance, has stepped up efforts to improve and enhance video transmission, both from a wired and wireless standpoint.

As more cameras are added to the security equation, the means to get clear images and accurate data from multiple points has intensified. As a result, participants in the transmission marketplace are developing solutions that take into account not only the increased number of cameras, but also the desire by end users to access information in various ways, such as via the Internet or Ethernet.

“The whole CCTV industry is based on more and more cameras being deployed,” said Gareth McClean, director of research and development at American Dynamics. “The real driving factor is more cameras covering a bigger area.”

While everyone wants acceptable video quality, McClean said ultimately what is required depends on the needs of end users. The tradeoff may be between resolution or frame rates, he said, as well as cost vs. system requirements.

Fortunately, McClean said bandwidth issues are being addressed by digital technology and improved compression schemes.

Even as wireless and fiber-based systems take hold, McClean said some companies continue to rely on coax cable “because it is cheap to install and deploy.” Still, he noted, the move toward digital systems has opened the way for twisted pair with IP, which allows convergence with an end user’s existing data network.

One of the biggest trends is the move to Ethernet-based transmission systems, noted Skip Haight, director of marketing, International Fiber Systems, which is part of GE Infrastructure, Security.

The digital conversion works well with fiber, he said. There are products on the market that help take digital video signals from cameras at long distances and moves the images along fiber or cable to be viewed via the Ethernet.

Haight said he is still seeing less wireless video, and more fiber. It’s still easier to run fiber or coax when adding more cameras, he said.

However, the need for more cameras in remote locations based on homeland security initiatives, said Dennis Burman, director of marketing for Trango Systems and Trango Broadband Wireless, has fostered “the transition from standard, good-old boy analog to larger deployments that require more remote control of cameras.”

Trango has witnessed growth for such products in the surveillance market, said Burman, especially with the convergence of analog and digital domains.

Large installations, such as ports, are ideal candidates for wireless transmission solutions because of their size and complexity, added Ray Sewell, video products sales manager at Trango.

More cameras can be used per frequency, as well as using wireless technology to communicate between patrols and base stations.

The limitations, he said, are knowing what frequencies are available, what other wireless is out there and checking for conflicts.

It is incumbent on the system integrator to make the communications secure, said Burman. “And as the technology and encryption standards are refined, the security concerns become mitigated,” he added.

Other limitations may be related to distance, said Sewell. “But we get around that with larger antennas on the receiver side.” Distances using analog cameras may be one to seven miles, said Sewell, but that can be increased using a repeater.

Backhaul links also provide long-distance connections, added Burman.

But small projects can benefit from wireless transmission as well, said Sewell, who pointed to parking lots with three to five cameras and requiring less than one mile of transmission. Enterprise applications, said Burman, that combine wired and wireless are other options.

Among systems integrators, Sewell said most are still in an analog, wired frame of mind. “We deal with guys who haven’t done wireless before.”

But, said Burman, the knowledge base is growing.

And the ease of installation will continue to foster a climate for wireless products, said Bill Diamond, co-president and co-founder of Xanboo. Xanboo, which offers wireless video through its relationship with Motorola, is targeting the home monitoring market.

Although not involved in video transmission as yet, Doug Stevens, director of sales and marketing for IMAG Technologies, said access control via Blue Tooth-enabled wireless systems is a reality.

Because of the lower cost of the Blue Tooth module, Stevens said wireless access control is used for entire buildings with data moving from doors to a host controller.

Other wireless access control applications include external gates or elevators, he said, eliminating the need for trenching cables on the exterior or running traveler cables inside.

Wireless began as a retrofit plan, but has quickly moved over to new installations as well. As long as users address security issues such as authentication, encryption and authorization, wireless can be an effective solution, Stevens said.

Still, he said, wireless remains a small percentage of the security market. Stevens said when a larger Blue Tooth bandwidth module comes along, later this year, wireless video is expected to be added to the solutions offered.

“I get calls almost every day for wireless video,” he said. “Video and access control are the biggest security dollars that are being spent,” he said, so it makes sense to develop wireless video solutions.