A primer on wireless network topologies for video surveillance

Reviewing the pros and cons of mesh, point-to-point and point-to-multipoint technologies

In recent years, there has been incredible growth in the video surveillance market due to an increased need to secure the world's ports, airports, cities and transportation infrastructure as well as schools, hospitals, government and other critical environments. This is a market whose growth has exploded over the past five years, and that ABI Research forecasts will be a $41 billion a year market by 2014.

Now more than ever, organizational demands have hastened the search for better, more cost-effective security applications, and in many instances, rapid deployment of security systems has become essential. But as critical as improved security has become, budgets to accomplish this goal are by no means unlimited.

Organizations of all kinds are being challenged to install video surveillance in areas that are too remote, too costly or even physically impossible to reach with additional wired cabling. As a result, wireless solutions have been a boon to the video surveillance market as they enable the ability to cost-effectively leap over these barriers, allowing a virtually unlimited number of video surveillance cameras to be deployed quickly, easily and affordably.

Though there are many wired video surveillance networks already in use today, the need to expand and scale those networks cost-effectively and in a timely manner introduces an opportunity for wireless solutions to take over where wire left off. And for new wireless video deployments -- such as the many new networks that are being deployed in the U.S. (which has only a fraction of the amount of cameras deployed as other areas of the world like the UK) -- the ease of initial deployment, flexibility, scalability and cost-effectiveness of wireless technology makes it the ideal candidate.

More importantly, beyond cost savings, scalability and ease of use, wireless has proven time and time again in real-world deployments to provide the necessary performance and reliability to ensure the ongoing operation of even the most mission-critical video surveillance networks. But the fact that wireless has proven itself as a reliable alternative to wired technologies is just the beginning. What wireless technology is best for wireless video, and what is the difference between systems?

Today, there are three predominant wireless technologies that are being utilized for the successful deployment of wireless video surveillance networks -- wireless mesh, point-to-point (P2P), and point-to-multipoint (P2MP). Each technology has its own merits, and each has its own place in the video surveillance ecosystem. What's important is to know the capabilities and limitations of each technology, and then make the determination on which technology is right for your particular network based on how well each technology delivers on the specific requirements of your deployments.

The following is a primer on these three primary wireless technologies, and how each of them stacks up as a solution for video surveillance networks.

Wireless/Wi-Fi Mesh

Wireless mesh technology refers to modified Wi-Fi radios that connect to each other in a daisy-chained or "multi-hop" fashion, enabling traffic to be passed from radio to radio en route to its final destination. Wireless mesh networks enable many cameras to be connected together via a wireless network that blankets an area, and does not require that a camera have a direct connection (wireless or wired) to the termination point (command center, network operations center, etc.).

Over the last few years, many wireless mesh companies have poured a lot of marketing dollars into establishing wireless mesh as the ideal wireless technology for video surveillance. Not all mesh technologies are alike, but in general, the same claims are made by all when talking about the fundamentals of wireless mesh -- and this includes the self-configuring, self-healing nature and the built-in redundancy/reliability of the multi-hop environment.

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