Case Study: Housing America

Jan. 16, 2013
Wireless mesh radio networks protect housing complex facility wide

When your facility is a multi-faceted, multifamily development that needs video security and additional safety and accountability, you need robust and reliable communications. In the example of the Milford Redevelopment & Housing Partnership (MRHP), Milford, Conn., a mesh network radio communications deployment fit the bill.

In 2011, MRHP released an open architecture bid for a facilities-wide wireless video security and access control system. The objective of the wireless infrastructure was to provide a highly reliable and available high-speed 100MB connection to multiple cameras that would allow high quality remote real-time viewing to system users across the network.

MRHP provides housing assistance to low income residents through the management of programs such as Low Rent Public Housing and the Housing Choice Voucher Program--Section 8. These programs are income based and the eligibility requirements are set by HUD.

The MRHP facilities span nine main properties in Milford and include both high-rise apartment buildings and multifamily residential complexes. MRHP Executive Director, Anthony Vasiliou, wanted to provide a high level of tenant and public safety across all properties, including comprehensive video security coverage of all interior and exterior public spaces and integrated access control for several of the larger building complexes. Vasiliou is a major proponent of using technology as a force multiplier, allowing small housing authority staffs to provide a greater range of tenant and facilities safety and protection services.

Challenges presented

The main technology challenges were the integration of the various vendor products into a leading edge, integrated and cohesive video management solution and implementing a highly available IP infrastructure using both wired and wireless connections to cameras. In addition, cameras had to literally be mounted in lots of interesting and untraditional spaces.

The main wireless challenges for the project were the sensitivity of the megapixel cameras and propensity for latency. In addition, there was a shortness of certain communications links in the multi-family building complex. Finally, there were acute vertical angles of certain links, from high rise roofs to neighboring complexes, often across city streets. In the end, Fluidmesh radios were specified to meet the challenges of the project. .

Why wireless mesh?

The main benefit of deploying wireless at MRHP was the significant cost savings versus trenching and piping for the numerous cameras installed to cover the perimeter of the housing properties. Many of the required camera locations were one or two story multi-family residential buildings, with no common wiring or LAN network in place. Wireless connections proved to be the only viable way to install those cameras and connect them back to the network.

An additional benefit was the form factor of the wireless mesh product; with the combined radio and antenna, the installations were esthetically pleasing, unobtrusive and contained a small footprint. This was important to the overall look of the properties and the desire by the end user to keep security devices in general unobtrusive.

Overview and project planning

Initiated in September 2011, the project was completed in March 2012. Valley Communications Systems Inc., Chicopee, Mass., responded to the public bid along with many other vendors and provided the best design at the best cost to win the business. "Fluidmesh was specified in the bid as one of the recommended wireless vendors for the project, because we knew from experience that they built excellent wireless solutions," noted Project Integrator Fernando Flores, Valley Communications Systems. "Fluidmesh provided us outstanding support in our wireless network design process for MRHP, as well excellent installation support and training during the implementation," he adds. "The deployed MITO series radio is easy to install and configure and the form factor is durable, small, light and easy to work with. We have lots of previous experience designing wireless IP camera networks for schools, reservoirs, large enterprises and other housing authorities." The MITO series is a MIMO-based tri-band wireless Ethernet product line designed and manufactured specifically for multi-service backhaul applications.

“One item of interest from our perspective as the vendor and general contractor," Flores noted, "was that due to the SW design and sensitivity of the cameras, it was necessary to have the three major vendors perform remote troubleshooting and then come to the site for a multi-vendor day-long session to optimize the network. Exacq Technologies, Arecont Vision and Fluidmesh Networks had technical representatives participate and with some excellent collaboration, the network was optimized and all three companies gained insight and made improvements to their solution sets as a direct result. It was a great example of ‘walking the walk’ by all three companies,” he said.

"This installation exemplifies how our wireless technology is able to handle a large number of megapixel cameras and still provide great video quality and network reliability," said Cosimo Malesci, vice president and co-founder of Fluidmesh Networks, Buffalo Grove, Ill. "A network like this could have never been completed with a standard 802.11 based wireless system. Wireless technology has improved substantially over the last decade and is becoming a solid alternative to fiber for many customers."

Vasiliou is satisfied with the system and the additional features and functions it provides. "Fluidmesh was fully committed to this project and to making this system work flawlessly," he said. "The outcome is that we have a fabulous city-wide network to tie together various structures in the development and other technologies to move it to our headquarters." Vasiliou explained that MRHP uses the technology not only for surveillance to protect their tenants, but they also use it to enforce lease agreements, as well. "As a Housing Authority, we're also concerned about finding activity associated with lease violation to get tenants to adhere to the lease agreement. We can see unauthorized dumping and vandalism in the common areas. We can also use the system during storms to make sure everything is okay or if we need to put in extra resources. I'm super pleased with the system, as are my maintenance and my leasing departments," he added. "The wireless technology enabled us to restrain costs, place cameras in optimum locations, and shift precious dollars to other areas of the project."

The system has greatly improved tenant and visitor safety, helped MRHP manage their facilities and other subcontractors faster and more efficiently and has helped MRHP and local law enforcement better manage crime. The underlying framework that allows the security system to operate around the clock, including the wireless links, must have a high level of availability and the system consistently operates at or near 100 percent

Valley Communications has begun an add-on order for MRHP, with 10 new cameras, including one new 1100 link from a high rise to a beach pavilion, where four new cameras will watch that area, the main park entrance, the pier and the parking facility. This part of the project is a joint specification between MRHP and the Milford Police Department.