New leader takes the helm at Firetide

As end user demand for immediate, on-demand access to video surveillance feeds has grown in recent years, so too has the need for reliable video transmission solutions. Firetide, a Silicon Valley-based provider of wireless mesh networks, is one of the companies looking to meet that demand and has more than 10,000 customers in 40 countries around the world.

Earlier this year, Firetide announced a change in its senior leadership naming John McCool as the company’s new president and CEO. Prior to joining Firetide, McCool, who has a background in electrical engineering, spent the past 17 years at Cisco. At one point, McCool was in charge of the company’s switching and data center products before moving into a global sales role responsible for wireless switching, routing and security products.

“At that point, I saw a lot of things in the market that were extremely exciting around networking,” explained McCool. “This entire trend – the change of networking from kind of an indoor, IT-oriented technology to moving to be embedded in devices and the need for those devices to be outdoors – and I got very intrigued with what Firetide was doing in that space and thought it was an excellent place to drive innovation.”

Just last week, the company launched its new HotPort 5020 wireless infrastructure node, which is designed to allow users to place more devices at a lower cost over a mesh network.

“What we noticed for large, city-wide, neighborhood-wide deployments is that people love (the Firetide 7000 Series products), but they’re trying to connect a camera in an inconvenient place or provide an additional connection and, in those scenarios where they have a smaller footprint, we were really looking for lower performance and more cost-effective solution,” said McCool. “The 5020 will connect into our mesh and allow people to hang more devices more cost-effectively over a mesh network. We believe for an average deployment, using both the 7020 products and the new 5000 Series, we’ll lower their costs by about 30 percent in that mixed model. From a Firetide perspective, this will increase our addressable market by about 50 percent.”

Obviously, one of the big drivers for mesh networks is the continued push towards increased mobile video surveillance capabilities. McCool says that Firetide’s technology is “very differentiated” when it comes to mobile platforms.

“When we’re talking about mobile, we’re talking about police cars, bus fleets and trains. The expectation is the same video surveillance technology or Wi-Fi offload that you have that works on the platform or at street level should work inside those moving devices,” said McCool. “We have a half dozen operational deployments of our technology in trains that can provide 100 mbps service with trains running up to 100 kph and (many other) proof of concept trials in process globally, not just in North America.

“We’re also seeing a lot of (bus) fleets coming to Firetide. If you look at the North America/U.S. market in just buses, 55 percent of the buses today have CCTV cameras in them. Just like we saw in video deployments out on the street, they’re going to move to IP-based cameras. When those buses come into a depot, all that video traffic needs to be uploaded into backend storage and analysis systems. This mesh technology is uniquely positioned to provide that bandwidth and multiple connections for an entire fleet into the backbone network.”

In addition, McCool said he believes that there are two primary factors that drive people to look at mesh technology: resiliency and flexibility.

“You can actually have redundant links in the mesh that connect to multiple cameras and you can amortize the backhaul – whether that’s to a fiber link or to some microwave link across the whole mesh. With point-to-multipoint, you don’t have any redundancy, so if there’s an unfortunate event with a car hitting the street pole with that multipoint unit on it, that takes out the entire set of cameras,” McCool said. “Those technologies also really can’t do multi-hop, so you’re limited by the RF coverage you have in a particular area. The deployment flexibility of mesh may allow you to get cameras in places that would not have been convenient using multiple hops on the mesh nodes.”

While there are several providers of mesh network technology in the industry, McCool said what really attracted him to Firetide was that they really differentiated themselves from the rest of the market in terms of capabilities.

“Mesh is not easy. It was difficult to get the functionality to work, the software is a significant investment that Firetide made to make these systems work, to get a channel that knows how to deploy and design mesh-based products, so in that way, from my perspective, it was an excellent platform to come build on top of,” he said. “We consider our market to really be anyone that wants to build a wireless broadband network. The bulk of our business is around connecting video surveillance equipment, largely for public safety, but now every vertical is interested in surveillance or safety of some kind.”

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