Plan the network
Carpenters like to say, "Measure twice; cut once." The equivalent message for wireless network integrators might be "Site survey, site survey, site survey." Successful project plans will include site-specific details of the RF environment, the availability and location of fiber and power assets, bandwidth allocation, where networks are most likely to scale and more.
There's a strong administrative element to planning a wireless network too. Governance is extremely important. All stakeholders need to collaborate early and project managers should call together any anticipated detractors and pundits.
"Bringing everyone together as early as possible does more than help all parties feel they are part of the process," says Jules. "It also reduces the chances of an expensive mid-deployment work-stoppage or network redesign."
At this stage of the process, this is a good time to create any necessary procedural rules or schedules. How often will your cooperative agencies or departments meet? When and to whom will status reports be delivered? A communication plan minimizes frustrating speed bumps.
Deploying the gear and integrating the backend
When deploying a network, it's important not to underestimate how long it may take to obtain any necessary permits. Deployments must not unduly affect traffic flow, business activities, or other city functions.
With the network planned and camera and wireless network equipment mounted at predetermined locations, it's a priority to address how the camera pod will interact with the backend servers and software. Backend servers usually store video data, and contain the intelligence to perform analytics, help manage network load, provide user access policies and control cameras.
At a point in the process, someone within a law enforcement agency will determine the destination of feeds and how they are viewed using software such as Ocularis, developed by On-Net Surveillance Systems Inc. (OnSSI). Ocularis provides sophisticated software tools for camera control, video recording and managing and distributing multiple video surveillance feeds.
Manage network projects and performance
Managing a network project is the next critical element of success. The logistics start with the preliminary site survey and continue at an intense pace through final testing and approval. It's essential that people on the team have a grasp of all the pieces so they can be tuned and serviced as projects move forward.
According to Jules, "It's not enough to be a good RF engineer or enterprise systems manager. We require that each of our engineers responsible for a subsystem is aware of the impact they will have." He adds that any good project need be ready for rapid change. "Once they've gained comfort with an existing system, clients quickly discover new opportunities," he says. In other words, be prepared to scale.
Mitigating radio interference and optimizing links is an important part of managing any project. It costs money every time installers or inspectors need to evaluate equipment, the goal is to get it right the first time.
For quality control and task management, Norris makes great use of progress notes. "Issues logs, risk logs, change control logs, and other similar tools are important throughout the process," he advises. Along with a designated client team member, he documents and tracks all logs through final signoff.
(4) Scaling the network
When scaling-up a network to provide video surveillance that cover entire districts, or even cities, organizations should consider a number of common questions: Where is the demand for new cameras? What are the requirements for accessing mounting assets? Will new cameras, enclosures and network equipment meet a city's aesthetic requirements?
According to Lerman, there are logistical, topographical and even political challenges in creating a scalable city-wide wireless surveillance network. Key to successful implementation, while meeting cost and time constrains, include: the use of existing city-owned assets; creative public-private partnerships for the use of mounting assets not owned by the city; and using existing fiber infrastructure for transport.The project manager also needs to account for lengthy permitting process and right-of-way issues when dealing with utility companies.
Using an Ethernet-based approach, a wireless mesh network can scale to thousands of nodes by interconnecting meshes. Even very large mesh systems — networks of networks — can be managed using a single IP address if so desired.
When adding new surveillance coverage, wireless mesh networks can, and should, leverage existing fiber and Ethernet assets to offload video traffic to the wire. This aids in load-balancing and helps optimize how mesh networks use the available radio spectrum.
Even when existing fiber assets are available, the condition of the fiber, its conduits, and policies for accessing can hamper schedules, drive up costs and increase project risk. Wireless mesh can eliminate many of these obstacles, speeding implementation, testing and acceptance by end-users.
The cost savings of using wireless mesh over pulling new fiber, in areas where a fiber infrastructure is not available, is significant. Costs as high as $300 per linear foot are not uncommon for projects requiring trenching. If it costs $300 per linear foot to trench, at 20 feet that's $6,000. For similar cost, two mesh nodes will provide transport over several miles without ever touching a jack hammer or shovel.
Bo Larsson is CEO of Firetide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.