Wireless Mesh Comes Together

Oct. 27, 2008
A video system in Richmond, Calif., solves both port and civic security issues

Standing under the metal pole supporting the wireless mesh video and radio array, Jon Sargent looked out onto the entrance of Nichols City Park and remembers what it was like decades ago when he was growing up in Richmond, Calif., as a child. “Back over there were carnival rides for the kids,” says Sargent, an industry relations manager with ADT, as he pointed to a grassy track at the far corner of the park, “and to the right was a petting zoo.”

Today, as Richmond struggles to emerge from what was once a heavy industrial port city to a high-technology suburb of San Francisco, Nichols Park’s carousel and petting zoo have been replaced by the homeless and drug dealers.

Looking for solutions to help curb the growing crime and blight problems faced by his city, Richmond city manager Bill Lindsay, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, police commissioner Naomi Williams, along with other civic and police leaders, researched possible solutions by browsing the internet and talking with other cities that had implemented technology to combat similar issues.
According to the Municipal Wireless State of the Market report (muniwirelss.com), more than $914 million was expected to be spent on municipal wireless networks in the United States this year. A five-year CAGR of 105 percent for mesh networking is projected worldwide by 2009.

Going with Mesh
An RFI was issued for a video surveillance system in November 2006. The specifications requested surveillance cameras be placed in high-crime areas, with an eventual eye on having that video sent directly to mobile police units. The city selected ADT as the project integrator, choosing to go with a wireless mesh network video solution.

So when the port of Richmond received a multi-million-dollar grant from the Department of Homeland Security to help fortify its perimeter security, port executive director Jim Matzorkis and deputy port director Norman Chan quickly bought into the wireless mesh video option.

The result of this very public collaboration has been a model program incorporating community improvement initiatives with high-tech technology partners. This strategic plan not only protects one of the largest working seaports in the state, but addresses immediate and future security and civic issues facing this diverse city.
“We are no different than any other city in transition around the nation,” says Lindsay, who has been Richmond’s city manager since 2005 and previously served in the same capacity for a decade in Orinda, Calif. “Working in conjunction with the port, our police department and various other city departments, we looked to identify the problem areas and how we could economically and realistically address them. This was in no way strictly a police initiative — in fact, one of the main drivers came from our city waste management department, which needed help monitoring illegal ‘hot spot’ dumping. The police also saw the value in helping them track everything from drug-related criminal activity to tagging.”

Port Security
Because of its infusion of $2.3 million in grant funds from DHS, Chan and his staff began immediate work on its installation with ADT’s national accounts manager Jeff Gutierrez. The Port of Richmond, which is located just nine miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, contains 15 terminals of which 10 are privately owned. It is considered a “niche port,” handling only imported automobiles and bulk liquids.

“This is a very special project, keeping in mind that the eventual design goals are to have the entire port and city surveillance systems integrated into a fully operational network,” says Chan, who served as the CCTV project manager at the port. “The system we have installed here was basically for perimeter intrusion detection with the capability of increasing the effectiveness of our response efforts to potential incidents.”
With port security as the key driver for the Port of Richmond’s wireless mesh video security network the ability to support high-quality, real-time video transmission was a key requirement of the wireless mesh technology. Partnering with BelAir Networks, ADT integrated 82 Axis Communications IP cameras (Axis 221 progressive scan CCD and the Axis 223D wide dynamic with MJPEG for analytics and MPEG 4 for storage) and 31 wireless mesh nodes (BelAir200 quad-radio nodes or BelAir100 dual-radio nodes) to monitor the 15 square miles that comprise the port’s perimeter and facilities.

There are an array of both fixed and PTZ cameras that monitor truck and ship traffic, parking lot activity in the huge auto holding areas, as well as license plate retrieval. Although the port’s system is not integrated with the city’s yet, it does run parallel.

“Critical to the delivery of high-quality real-time video security traffic over the wireless mesh network is the high-capacity and low latency associated with the combination of BelAir’s switched mesh backhaul and quad-radio BelAir200 node,” says Ron Robinson, BelAir’s senior vice president of worldwide sales.

Data from the IP cameras are routed back to port administration building, where ObjectVideo analytic software kicks in to provide a virtual tripwire to detect perimeter breaches and exception activity alerts. “The selection of a wireless mesh video analytic system worked for both the port and the city Richmond because it provides them with the flexibility and scalability to move cameras to different locations and to easily expand the system by adding additional cameras and radios,” ADT’s Gutierrez explains. “It also does not require the expense of extensive trenching and wiring which can be particularly problematic at the port where logistic and environmental issues prohibit digging.”

Gutierrez went on to say that a wireless solution of this size was more cost-effective than a wired system: “With the advances in wireless technology and broadband capabilities, it provides a comprehensive system able to move both data and video. Everything we have done is with an eye towards an integrated solution with both parties.”

City Deployment
For Lindsay, ensuring the flexibility, scalability and expandability of the wireless solution was a key factor. On the flexibility side, in order for both public safety personnel and government workers to benefit from broadband connectivity over the same wireless mesh network that supports the video security cameras, BelAir nodes deployed in the city also provide both 4.9 GHz and secure Wi-Fi access. The network is currently comprised of 34 IP cameras and a mix of BelAir200 quad-radio nodes, BelAir100T tri-radio nodes, and BelAir100 dual-radio nodes, depending on the specific access and backhaul needed at a given location.

From a scalability perspective, it was important to ensure that the mesh network could grow easily while maintaining and expanding its performance capabilities. Phase II, already in planning, includes both an increased video security footprint and the intent to leverage BelAir Networks support for high-performance broadband access at vehicular speed mobility.

“The plan has been to build the system to cover the critical need areas first and then work on the wish list,” says John Tomasello, ADT national accounts installation project manager. “The platform we have established is built to integrate other platforms that are being planned for the city. The GUI we have installed will accommodate things like access control and other eventual technology.”
The funding for the $1.8 million city project has come in part from the city itself and the North Richmond Waste and Recovery Mitigation Fund.

“We think we did this right way by getting input from many varied sources. The bid process was not based on low-bid submissions, but on what technology solutions fit our immediate needs and future vision,” says Lindsay, who emphasizes the design process was meticulous and the implementation has been aggressive. “We are looking forward to working with the business community as we continue to implement this network. We need their support to make this outcome successful.”

Municipal Mesh Surveillance Best Practices

• Solid system design and engineering is the key to ease of implementation
– Clearly defined objectives and a well thought out approach are key.
– Each customer situation is different including goals, physical environment, systems
infrastructure, etc.
– Allocate time and budget to do a thorough design.
– Begin with a thorough site survey.
• Even with a good design, expect the unexpected
– There are many factors impacting success in these broad ranging field
applications, including gaining access to power, tuning camera orientations
to ensure analytic effectiveness, rethinking of camera counts, locations
and angles, etc.
– Budget in anticipation of these occurrences and prepare the team
to address them as they arise.
– Perform tests.
• Plan for flexibility and expansion
– Support for mobile / temporary deployments and incremental expansion.
– Establish long term goals for the platform.
– Ensure design provides for scalability in mesh coverage/capacity and storage.
– Open architecture to support integration of 3rd party environments.
– Program phasing that balances benefit with logical build out sequences.

Systems Integrator Best Practices

• Solid system design and engineering is the key to ease of implementation
– Tight partnership with vendors who are responsive and willing to step up and solve problems.
– Engineering and design contributions by partners are as important as the technology they bring.
– Best-of-breed approach should be based on functional capabilities but tempered by validation of interoperability.
• Even with a good design, expect the unexpected
– Active management and oversight of the deployment process.
– Position key players to actively support the system on an ongoing basis.
– Establish and hold vendors and third-party service providers to service-level agreements.
• Plan for flexibility and expansion
– Work with customer to reach explicit agreement on long term goals.
– Ensure a sufficient force of local service personnel.
– Ensure mesh provider has demonstrated ability to scale.
– Drive for collaboration in funding and support when integrating with external environments.
– Ensure customer understands the opportunities, limitations, and dependencies of the technology infrastructure when considering program phasing.

Carrier-Grade ‘Switched’ Mesh Networking Comes to Video Security

By Ron Robinson

Wireless mesh technology has become a popular alternative to traditional wireline networking for delivering video security traffic from both fixed and pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras back to centralized or remote monitoring stations. Wireless mesh offers a number of advantages over traditional wired video security networks, because it is:
• Cost-effective and timely: traditional wiring approaches require costly, time-consuming and disruptive digging and trenching. A wireless mesh node can be quickly and conveniently co-located with the security cameras it is supporting.
• Resilient: wireless mesh is an inherently resilient architecture allowing for continued transmission in the event of a node failure. Wireline failure generally results in lost transmission.
• Flexible: with no wiring limitations, cameras can be set up almost anywhere and can be easily moved.
To take advantage of this flexibility and ensure ease of deployment and expansion, wireless mesh nodes must also be flexible. Key flexibility features include support for:
• 1-4 radios in a single mesh node;
• multiple access and backhaul frequencies, both licensed and unlicensed, including Wi-Fi, WiMAX, 4.9 GHz Public Safety, 5.9 GHz ITS;
• a range of wireline egress interfaces including T1, Fiber, Ethernet and DOCSIS; and
• a variety of mesh backhaul configurations including multiple point-to-point, point-to-multipoint and multipoint-to-multipoint.
It is also important to recognize that real-time video security traffic and the realities of large-scale deployments place unique demands on a wireless mesh network. The following key characteristics must be demonstrated and proven in large deployments:
• low latency and jitter to maintain the quality of real-time video transmissions;
• high capacity to support the high quantity of bandwidth that video transmission requires; and
• scalability to ensure that the quantity and quality of transmissions are maintained as the network expands.
Most wireless mesh nodes communicate on the same channel of the same frequency in a hub-like multipoint-to-multipoint fashion. As a result, the bandwidth of that single channel, single frequency is shared among all nodes in the mesh simultaneously, resulting in a “shared mesh.” This shared mesh architecture limits the capacity of the network and results in high and unpredictable latency and jitter as traffic grows. Scalability to address increased traffic is therefore limited and, as the network expands, its unpredictable performance makes it unsuitable for latency sensitive applications such as video and voice.
By contrast, in the “switched” mesh architecture deployed in both the City and Port of Richmond (as well as in Minneapolis, St. Louis, Toronto, London and other leading cities), the nodes can provide multiple dedicated and isolated point-to-point connections, supporting diverse paths between each node in the mesh. In the switched architecture, all of the available bandwidth of each separate radio channel is dedicated to the link to the neighboring node, so the total available bandwidth is the sum of the bandwidth of each of the links.
Each dedicated mesh link is on a separate channel, ensuring that forwarded traffic does not use any bandwidth from any other link in the mesh and enabling the network to effectively scale as more nodes are added. As a result, a switched mesh is capable of delivering and maintaining much higher capacities and transmission rates and lower latency and jitter than a shared mesh making it an ideal solution for video security networks.

Ron Robinson is senior vice president of worldwide sales for BelAir Networks.

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