The world is increasingly moving towards a wireless future, and the benefits are obvious. Wireless technology also plays an ever increasing role in a wider variety of industrial applications. Given the obvious benefits which the technology delivers to security systems, should it have a more prominent role in data transmissions, or do questions over its reliability makes it something to avoid?
The transmission of security data has always been something of a challenge, especially when video is involved. Even back when mainstream video was in the region of 330 TV lines, systems delivered low quality images, at very low frame rates, across PSTN lines. At that time, wireless video transmission was used for ‘problematic’ sites.
Where infrastructure was lacking, and the required civil works to implement it were not financially viable, wireless transmission was the tool of choice. Often the transmission rates on wireless links exceeded those of hard-wired links. However, typically installers and integrators wanted the security data returned to a cabled link as soon as possible!
The point of this reminiscence is simple; wireless transmission of security data, including multiple video data streams, is nothing new. Within the security industry, it has been used for a number of vital systems protecting high risk applications. Sites operated by Governmental departments, the police and law enforcement agencies, military bases and other critical infrastructure have all used wireless transmission where problems have been encountered running traditional hard-wired links.
Indeed, the core technology that underpins high bandwidth wireless transmission is regularly employed in some of the most critical applications imaginable. Whilst the profile of such solutions have risen in recent years, it is important to understand that there have been a core of manufacturers concentrating on the needs of the security sector for decades, with regard to wireless connectivity for security transmission.
The reasons for the increased profile are simple. As video demands have grown, so too has the need for bandwidth. Manufacturers who offer Ethernet bridges have spotted this demand, and see video transmission as something of a target area. Whilst choice is always a good thing, it is important to ensure that the companies you partner with have an understanding of the market, but more importantly, fully comprehend security philosophies with regard to system design and continuity of service.
Typically, video surveillance applications will use wireless technology in a ‘last mile’ capacity. It is still uncommon to find applications where the entirety – or even the majority – of the transmission path is wireless. The technology will either be used to bridge certain obstructions that either cannot be hard-wired or where the civil works would be too costly, or link a number of buildings in a small geographical area.
With a single site, there will usually be a LAN that covers all buildings. However, if a company has two or three buildings in a small geographic area, it can be more cost-effective to employ wireless links than to attempt to install dedicated infrastructure. Such distributed applications not only carry the cost of civil works, but often having to gain necessary permissions makes the entire process something of a non-starter.
Increasingly councils are taking this approach as the preferred option. Sites with tall buildings do not have problems with line of sight, and often one building on an estate will receive signals from all others, and this central point can then transmit the video over traditional links to the local police, council control rooms, etc..
Often, where a site is bisected by something that makes hard-wiring problematic, wireless transmission can sometimes be the only answer. It could be a road, a river or a railway line which needs to be crossed, and even if bridges exist, it is not best practice to have cables for security solutions where they can be accessed.
However, when looking at ‘last mile’ applications – applications where the hard-wired infrastructure falls short of its intended recipient – the most common reason to select wireless technology over a hard-wired option is cost!
The cost of the required civil works to extend traditional cabling over a short distance such as one kilometre will make the expense of a wireless bridge seem insignificant.
Understanding how much bandwidth is available and how much is needed is critical in planning, designing and deploying a wireless application. If this basic information is not assessed at the outset, the full potential of any system will not be reached and the risk of compromising data is higher.
Redundancy is another often-raised concern, and always comes with a cost. If any part of the system fails, the whole system fails. With wireless, spare pre-configured units can be held for fast replacement should the link fail. It is a misconception that the wireless element is a weak link in a system. The use of wireless would require no more redundancy back-up than a wired, fibre or broadband link.
Wireless technology offers solutions where hard-wired alternatives cannot. While the technology has a very high degree of flexibility, it is too often used as a problem-solver rather than a first choice in security solutions. Maybe with a little more understanding, such attitudes will change.
The benefits of mmWave
Alex Doorduyn, Director of Business Development and Sales (Security and Surveillance), Siklu Communication
Wireless systems are becoming more and more proliferate, and today make up an important part of communication systems. There are many benefits to providing wireless systems when compared to hard-wired options. These include the ability to be installed anywhere, reduced wiring demands, discreet and aesthetically pleasing connections and a high degree of cost-effectiveness
Undoubtedly, one of the most valuable benefits to deploying wireless is the ease of installation. Simple installations mean savings of both money and time, and more time translates into more installations.
Another important advantage is the fact that wireless devices may be bundled with existing wire systems. In these cases, the installer can be flexible in choosing locations and points in which to deploy solutions.
There is, however, one particular type of wireless connectivity which provides additional benefits: millimeter wave (mmWave). These solutions facilitate a forward-looking architecture and are significantly more modular than the market alternatives. The flexible topology (ring, daisy-chain or mesh) allows for scalable configurations. With mmWave solutions, security is enhanced due to low beam widths and relatively low radio transmit power; this also reduces the probability of intercept and detection.
Additional benefits include simple installation without any need for Telco knowledge, advanced alignment functions which alleviate the installation process with automatic functionality, a small form factor, no requirement for spectral analysis, the ability to utilise existing network components and a low level of potential interference.
Connectivity allows integration with existing hardware, and a host of technology advances have substantially driven prices down.
It is pretty clear why the world is going wireless. Installers and integrators should not settle for just any wireless solution, but should seek out ‘deploy and go’ mmWave products. With the congestion-free spectrum not requiring analysis, devices may be up and running in less than 30 minutes. This technology represents an affordable and attractive proposition for wireless systems, helping to extend deployability and improve performance and reliability while reducing cost.