Wireless Video in Theory and Practice

It’s as important to know some of the nuts and bolts as it is to see what your peers are doing in wireless video for first response.

Wireless technology has become ubiquitous in our day-to-day lives, and it's both a blessing and a curse. We find ourselves calling friends as we pull into their driveways to let them know we've arrived to pick them up. (Why get out of the car?) We can check the weather on our wireless-enabled laptop from nearly any Starbucks. (Why look out the window?)

The omnipresence of personal wireless technology has both bolstered and inhibited development of wireless technology for transmission of video to mobile security staff or first responders. On one hand, it's fueled some municipalities' and companies' interest in using such technologies, and anytime interest grows in a technology, it works to bolster R&D at some level. However, it's been challenging to maintain security on certain types of wireless networks precisely because everyone has access to wireless devices. And even though many solutions have now surmounted those challenges, the perception lingers that all wireless video is unsafe for security use.

We've heard more and more lately about the installation and use of municipal wide-area networks that allow mobile police and first responders to view video from schools, courthouses and businesses in real time. “With heightened threat levels, domestic and international municipalities have a renewed interest in deterring crime and terrorism and enhancing the security of their public spaces,” said Mariann McDonagh, vice president of global marketing for Verint. “Transit system and critical infrastructure facility operators also must work with first responders to secure their operations, respond effectively to emergency situations and share critical intelligence with a wide variety of law enforcement agencies to facilitate investigations after an incident occurs.”

There are a number of local and wide-area wireless options available, not only to municipalities but also to private businesses, that can offer both mobile, actionable intelligence and a return on investment through non-security uses.

If you try to learn about wireless video transmission from one or two Web sites or one or two trade show booths, you might come away with a skewed idea of the breadth of your options. There are several ways to implement wireless transmission for security video, and most of them have unique drawbacks and success stories. In this article, we'll examine some of the options available today and highlight some successful and some not so successful projects.

A Word on Informed Cooperation

If you're looking into a wireless network for video transmission for a municipality or an enterprise, you should know one thing at the outset: Chances are, IT will be in the driver's seat on this one. Wireless networks are usually expected to transmit a variety of data beyond security video, and your IT counterparts will be in charge of making sure the network you end up with will support all these functions adequately. In fact, in many cases, security probably won't be the main driver for the implementation. But even if you are looking at a dedicated security network, IT is probably going to be in charge.

That doesn't mean you should shrug off learning about wireless network features and options. IT's knowledge already has wireless covered, yes, but if you want input at the ground level—if you want to look out for security's best interests through collaboration—then you should learn some of the lingo. There's nothing like sitting in on a planning meeting and watching unfamiliar terms fly across the table and straight over your head. See the sidebar below for a start, and check out some online resources as well, such as www.jiwire.com and www.wirelessweek.com.

Broad Configuration Options

There are many ways to arrange for wireless transmission of video for mobile security forces or emergency personnel.

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