These days, people want security/surveillance cameras virtually anywhere and everywhere. Fortunately, now you can! Technology evolution, both in terms of the proliferation of open platform IP based security/surveillance camera networks and dramatic improvements in the capacity and reliability of broadband wireless networks allow you to put a high quality camera wherever you want. Not only does this allow you to have cameras where you never thought possible before, Ubiquiti’s wireless solution often cost less than a hard wired solution. For the remainder of this discussion, when we refer to outdoor/wireless cameras, we are generally talking about cameras that are located outdoors and deployed where a wired solution is not cost effective. Examples could include:
- Remote cameras that can be hundreds of yards or even miles from the existing or contemplated network
- Cameras for large parking lots, freight depots, rail yards and storage yards
- Cameras for large scale deployments such as corporate campuses, schools and universities, amusement parks
- Cameras for Government facilities with large scale security requirements such as military bases, airports, naval yards
- Cameras for Municipal Wi-Fi/Police networks covering many blocks or square miles of coverage
- Cameras for Construction sites, especially Department of Transportation (DOT) construction areas
- When a camera is desired to be located where wire cannot be deployed cost effectively such as across a street, train tracks or body of water or across environmentally sensitive areas
- When a camera is to be used for a temporary function such as covert surveillance, large public gatherings or season activities
Outdoor Wireless Security Camera System Components
Outdoor/Wireless Security Camera systems require the same four basic components of any surveillance camera system which are:
For purposes of this discussion, we will be addressing only Cameras and Transport as Management and Storage will generally be the same for outdoor/wireless networks as for any standard network.
Security Camera Since the broadband wireless equipment used by SeeView takes a standard Ethernet (IP) feed, there is no unique camera requirement for outdoor/wireless deployments. Having said that, a number of specific issue and some common sense applies in choosing the right camera for your project. First, the camera will be exposed to all of the environmental issues that arise from an outdoor deployment including heat, cold, rain (and maybe snow and ice), fog, and possibly power surges/electrostatic spikes. Depending on where the camera is deployed, servicing or replacing the camera may be quite expensive so make sure that you are using a high quality camera that will (1) do what you need it to do and (2) will keep doing it.
Another consideration is power. Although the wireless connection eliminates the need for a hard wired data transport, wireless does not supply power to the remote location so you will need power for both the camera and the remote end of the wireless link. Fortunately, electricity is often easier to find than data lines. Most of the IP cameras offered by SeeView incorporate Power of Ethernet (POE) that allows us to go as far a 300 feet from the energy source to the camera! Just make sure that the electricity source you are using is able to provide power when you need it! For instance, some street lights will give you power at all times while others only provide power when the light is actually on. Even if you do not have a readily available source of power, alternative sources of energy, particularly solar, offer great, cost effective means of powering you cameras and radios.
Finally, you need to make sure the functionality of the camera is adequate for your needs. Do you need to be able to record and view at night time? For example, infrared (IR) illuminators are great for permitting camera capture in pitch black darkness but they have range limitations. Cameras that work great at capturing images that are 100 feet away may not give you the performance that you want is you are trying to capture images that are hundreds of yards from the camera. On the positive, you may find opportunities to deploy cameras outdoors, such as high up on a tower or building, that allow one camera to give the coverage and performance of several or even dozens of traditionally deployed cameras.
Broadband Wireless The benefits of broadband wireless are significant and many but include:
- Often much less expensive to deploy than wired solutions
- Rapid deployment
- Allows you to deploy cameras where no other option is available
- Allows for mobile or nomadic operation
No doubt broadband wireless radios are a great way to bring the video from your cameras to the Network Video Recorder (NVR) but you need to be aware that today’s wireless technology doesn’t just work like a “blue cable”. At SeeView, we look into many variables when designing an outdoor/wireless camera system for you but we will briefly address some of the bigger wireless related issues for your consideration.
The first thing to consider about broadband wireless systems is that radios generally transmit data at a slower rate than fast Ethernet and the performance of the radios can vary according to system design and environmental conditions. Although wireless links that can deliver 1 Gigabit per second (that’s 1000 Megabits per second!) systems that are cost effective and robust tend to run in the 50-200 Mbps range. Please note that you can run an IP camera off of Wi-Fi. If you are running just one or two cameras in an area where there is little to no interference, then you can portably get away with Wi-Fi. But if you are running a professional quality system you are going to want a much heavier strength solution. Particularly, you need a system that is not contention based as Wi-Fi. Without getting to into the weeds on technology, Wi-Fi is fine for hanging one or two non-mission critical cameras but is not a solid building block for large scale or mission critical wireless deployments. As a general rule of thumb, plan on an IP camera requiring 3 Mbps of wireless and a megapixel camera requiring 6 Mbps. Please note that if you are using radios on a point-to-multipoint configuration (bringing many cameras back to the same base radio) that the bandwidth is shared by all of the radios and plan your system accordingly.
The second major consideration is “line of sight.” Line of sight can best be summarized by the question “If you are located where the antenna of one radio is, can you see the antenna of the radio that it is trying to communicate with?” You don’t need to actually see the antenna (for instance the radio will still work at night time!) but there cannot be solid objects between the two antennas. For clarification (since we deal with this one all of the time), trees are solid! The good news is that most of the systems deployed by SeeView, ranges of miles and even tens of miles are possible as long as you have good clean line of sight. Another piece of good news is that for some links, especially shorter one, you can “cheat” on line of sight. So there are many deployments out there going through trees or other obstructions that work just fine. Just remember that line of sight will work and anything else will be on a case by case basis.
A third consideration is the security of the data being transported over the wireless link. Years back, wireless (Wi-Fi in particular) got a bad rap as being insecure because the standards based encryption, WEP, was fairly easy to hack. Since then, over the air encryption has been greatly improved and stand alone encryption appliances are readily available. Basically, whatever level of security is needed can be provided by a broadband wireless network although, like with everything else, the cost goes up with requirement. As a final note, although the encryption protocol has improved dramatically, we recommend using radios that communicate through a non-standard methodology to provide a first defense on security.
What are you waiting for?
Hopefully, you have thought of several deployments where outdoor wireless cameras will give you the ability to see things that you consider important. We have shared some of the issues for your attention when considering the effectiveness of an outdoor wireless camera system. We hope that this advice enables you to work with SeeView to design and install a system that not only meets but exceeds your expectations! For specific analysis of your individual needs, please contact us here today or call us at 703-825-5822.