The keys to video survellance in impossible topography

Video surveillance serves to report crimes and protect officers in the field, at times allowing them to detect situations in remote areas and determine how to enter. Video is essentially police awareness, extending the eyes and capabilities of law enforcement. But what about those areas where cameras can’t be deployed because of obstacles that prevent line-of-sight for microwave solutions?

A long-awaited broadband communications alternative is here; this strategy depends on non-line-of-sight (NLOS) capabilities that make video camera backhaul possible in the most challenging locations—TV white space broadband.

White space is the term for the unused TV spectrum that became available when television broadcasts transitioned from analog to digital. The FCC recently designated unlicensed spectrum for broadband use. This means that wireless Internet service providers (WISPs), municipalities, public safety agencies, and many others will have the advantage of using vacant TV channels to deliver service to previously unreachable rural areas at a lower cost.

By harnessing the NLOS capabilities of TV white space (TVWS) frequency bands, service providers can now deliver speeds comparable to traditional wireless networks (up to 16 Mbps over the air in the current generation). While the range varies depending upon the terrain and obstacles in each individual location, users can typically expect an area of high throughput extending 3 to 7 miles from the base station.

Up until now, the focus of this new technology has been rural deployment in order to deliver high-speed Internet connection to under-served regions, which is particularly important to public safety. Although this still remains the primary purpose, the ability to improve wireless connectivity is expanding to other applications as well.

Recent wireless deployment of video surveillance networks have become a hot topic. Surveillance cameras are being used everywhere, from shopping malls to parking lots. And now, thanks to TV white space, cameras can be deployed in more secluded locations like forested greenbelts and hidden alleyways, improving security for officers and community members alike.

Getting broadband to tough terrain

Carlson is one of the few companies leading the charge toward turning TVWS broadband into a reality. Carlson’s award-winning RuralConnect broadband radio system enables the signal to surpass almost any obstacle due to its propagation characteristics, which operate with large amounts of multipath interference. Additionally, Carlson has partnered with TVWS spectrum manager, Spectrum Bridge to ensure a seamless, interference-free network.

The two have been collaborating to find a way to make the technology viable for broadband communication. Craig Domeny, Carlson director of engineering explains, “This spectrum, which opened up when TV became digital, is a luxury no one had five or even three years ago. The non-line-of-sight propagation characteristic of UHF spectrum makes it ideal for broadband in challenging locations. The design of the radio is focused around achieving high data rates and equalizing multipath and fading effects for NLOS communication.”

Using white space for video

With data rates to support high-definition video, Carlson’s RuralConnect can be used to create point-to-point or point-to-multipoint networks with priority-routing support for voice, data and video traffic. Its applications extend to IP video surveillance and traffic monitoring. The dynamic broadband radio utilizes the superior TVWS spectrum to deploy campus-wide, citywide or regional wireless video surveillance systems and wireless broadband networks in a cost-effective manner.

Although public safety agencies will benefit from TVWS “indoor broadband access” in many ways, including the ability to supplement emergency communications, offer online officer training, access critical data resources and more, they can now add “outdoor broadband access” to the list of benefits. For example, first responders can use the network to manage their outdoor video surveillance systems via broadband security cameras.

Video surveillance and law enforcement go hand-in-hand. The network can be deployed in a number of configurations to extend Wi-Fi connectivity and surveillance to city parks and university campuses, provide additional security for hospital grounds and government buildings, and to mitigate and manage traffic on city streets.

City management improves decision-making by collecting and analyzing the data in real-time via advanced monitoring systems and smart sensors. Homeland Security efforts include video surveillance in remote locations like water storage reservoirs, nuclear power plants, airport perimeters, and military bases.

White space video in action

Wilmington, N.C., recently installed the unobtrusive TVWS broadband video surveillance system inside its community parks. City officials originally intended to use the system to help monitor and secure its parks facilities. However, the surveillance capabilities soon evolved into a public service for the community in which residents had access to public Wi-Fi and could view, for example, when the flowers were blooming or the size of the crowds before planning a visit.

“We are excited to see how local cities across the country are exploring innovative technologies using TV White Space to provide additional services to the community,” Rod Dir, CEO of Spectrum Bridge, says. “Spectrum Bridge is unlocking the value of spectrum by enabling high-speed, low-cost bandwidth across wireless applications with its unique spectrum management technology.”

The Spectrum Bridge shared-spectrum platform ensures radios are operating on the best available frequency for the highest performance and quality of service, which is important in any public safety environment.

Improved safety for officers

TVWS broadband technology gives officers more efficient ways to manage locations that don’t have line-of-sight (LOS). The lower frequencies of the unlicensed TVWS spectrum reduce the need for LOS links, which allows for lower antenna heights and longer ranges. TVWS digital video monitoring can be effectively implemented in alleys and far sides of buildings, outskirts, secluded pockets of downtown areas, and other NLOS areas without degradation of signal.

Even where there are “black holes” for communication, or where handheld devices won’t work, law enforcement can still have video surveillance. Radio communication black holes can be a matter of life and death, particularly for rural communities.

Similarly, even in cases where statewide radio systems are installed to allow for intercommunication between emergency personnel, some towers may not be able to supply the coverage needed in heavily forested, mountainous, or rugged areas. This, too, creates big, black holes where emergency responders have no radio coverage, let alone security video or traffic surveillance. With access to systems like TVWS broadband and RuralConnect, municipalities and public safety entities can fill the gaps in coverage and secure the perimeter using surveillance cameras.

IP cameras can be used in conjunction with TVWS bandwidth for an excellent NLOS solution. Most IP-based cameras feature dual video streams for high and low resolutions. Many public safety applications require high-resolution images and high scan rates, while in other applications, such as monitoring critical infrastructure or construction sites, lower resolution and frame rates are acceptable.

Surveillance where it’s needed most

One of the most frequently asked questions about TVWS is how to find out if it will work in a specific location. Although site surveys are not necessary, a Carlson engineer can quickly determine the available channels in a location and perform a detailed propagation study that provides users with an approximation of coverage, range, and signal strength.

“TV white space technology allows for tactical deployment of wireless surveillance,” says Kiely Cronin, Carlson sales engineer and TVWS product specialist. “Because the system doesn’t need extensive infrastructure, it can be quickly deployed where it’s needed.”

When it comes to using wireless technology for challenging terrain, TVWS broadband is a fast, reliable and cost-effective way to connect via Internet or to deploy a security surveillance system.

James Carlson is the CEO at Carlson Wireless Technologies, a California-based company that designs and manufactures wireless equipment for broadband and backhaul. Carlson is a radio engineer with more than two decades of experience developing rural connectivity solutions.

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