Vicom gets into the long-distance biz

Camera system for Cal. Forestry covers 26 miles and more
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

EL DORADO, Calif.—When you think of “the largest” surveillance systems in the country, you might think of the thousands of cameras deployed in Chicago or New York City, but also consider a new surveillance system deployed by El Dorado County here to help fight forest fires: Some cameras send back signals wirelessly across as much as 26 miles.

Designed and installed by Vicom Wireless, a 10-person integration firm based here and focusing on broadband wireless transport of video surveillance, the current system features three Pelco Esprit HD cameras beaming back information over Exalt microwave radios at 5.8 GHz, with 200 Mbps of aggregate Ethernet throughput. Vicom hopes to eventually expand the system to as many as 25 other locations in El Dorado County.

All of which is easier said than done, said Jim Cinquini, president of Vicom Wireless, but “I thought wireless video surveillance was an absolutely untapped resource ... with the cost involved to dispatch aircraft, which is the normal course of things when fires get reported by the public,” wireless cameras can be a real cost saver for the California Department of Forestry.

One of the more difficult pieces of the integration was finding cameras that could offer compass information so the department could triangulate just where, exactly, the fires were. “That took some talking to some folks,” Cinquini said. “There are places you can get PTZ mounts that have compass information, but they can’t display it.” So he integrated the information into the OnSSI video management software, and the information now displays as part of the video image.

Cinquini thinks there will be more uses for long-range wireless systems, and he hopes in the future to incorporate thermal cameras, which could help with not only fire spotting, but search and rescue and the prevention of fires by spotting people as they enter the forest. It will be important, however, to show longstanding reliability of the system.

“The state will not tolerate the signal going down,” he said. “They get very upset when the cameras don’t work. So far, I’ve had one failure due to some condors cutting through the power supply.”