Coffman: Obviously, the major benefit with wireless mesh is the cost reduction. Typically, the cost of mesh would be 10-20 percent of the cost of fiber. It will not give you 1 Gigabit but it will give you sufficient bandwidth for your project at 1/10th of the cost. It is very important that the network is designed, engineered and deployed properly, which is why we recommend that customers work with certified developers and installers because the margin for error is not as wide as on a fiber or cable deployment. Now, people are more aware that wireless mesh is not plug-and-play. Firetide has a certification program that the channel has to go through and we spend a lot of time educating our channel. We always recommend that the end-user selects an installer who is certified on a particular technology.
What new developments are we witnessing in wireless mesh networks? Is there a mesh standard in the works?
Coffman: There is an 802.11s standard for mesh that is being worked on but it’s far from ratification. I don’t think mesh is moving in the direction of the standard just yet, like we are seeing with ONVIF and PSIA on the IP camera side. Even if it does, there still will be proprietary extensions that the customer may want to opt for to truly realize the value proposition of Firetide’s mesh, for example.
Capacity is a big driving factor in mesh developments—we are always thinking of way to increase the efficiency of the protocol or we’re watching developments on the radio side. 802.11n was the big development a few years ago. Now we are working on increasing the efficiency of the routing protocol itself so there is more bandwidth available to the data traffic rather than management traffic.
What does this mean for Firetide?
Coffman: Video surveillance and security, as well as the municipal, commercial and transportation sectors will always remain our focus. But we are expanding into point-to-point wireless for smaller projects and we are going into enterprise indoor/outdoor Wi-Fi and wireless LANs. By doing so we have increased the size of our addressable market by a factor of 10. This year, we also expect that 20 percent of our revenue will come from OEM partnerships.
You mentioned that part of Firetide’s focus is in combining wireless mesh and WLAN to deliver an all-wireless network (300 Mbps) that can support voice, video and data applications that use up a lot of bandwidth. Do you foresee other capabilities that mesh networks will be able to support in the future?
Coffman: The market is changing so rapidly. For example, we are on our fifth generation of mesh product. Every two years we are bringing out a new mesh solution. But the secret sauce is really not in the hardware but in the routing side. You can probably expect us to look more at license bands, in addition to 4.9 GHz. Our routing is radio agnostic and it can work on a licensed band as well. As we expand more into the service provider market, we could potentially bring out a licensed product.
Stay tuned for more coverage on wireless mesh networks in Security Dealer & Integrator’s April issue.