Mesh Without Wires

January 22, 2010

Why Some Wireless Video Surveillance Projects Fail

Filed under: Technology — kseniacoffman @ 11:58 am
Tags: , ,

After the publication of my article on what sells in wireless video surveillance, including my suggestion to wireless manufacturers to “stop selling, and start delivering”, John Honovich of – in his characteristic take-no-prisoners style – commented that Firetide was akin to “the kettle calling the pot black.” Granted, we’ve had our share of “deployments from hell,” but they’ve gotten farther and fewer between, especially since the introduction of our dual-radio product line in 2007.

It still stands true that wireless deployments have a slim margin of error, as I said in the article, and much depends on correct installation and proper selection and placement of antennas.

So why and how do some wireless video deployments fail? Here’s an example: I was copied on an interesting email exchange right before Christmas. As now the tradition, we sent out holiday greetings to our channel partners via email (yes, save the trees). One recipient responded: “These are not happy times. OUR DEPLOYMENT IS NOT WORKING!!!”

I alerted the tech support department and our local sales person. Here’s what the local guy emailed back to the tech support team:

“Just to give you all a short history, this integrator originally tried to install this deployment with omni-directional antennas from the roof of a multi-story hospital building to omni-directional antennas on each of the light poles where they had cameras. The signals were missing each other as the Fresnel zone elevations were out of line.

Per our suggestion they switched over to directional antennas. However, they cheapened out and purchased [non-Firetide approved antennas]. As a courtesy (because I live in the area) I went on site to see why they were still having problems. They had panel antennas at the poles but were trying to use 120 degree sector antennas to pick up multiple poles. I recommended purchasing more wireless mesh nodes but that was rejected. So they only other option was to use splitters to multiple panels which they accepted.  But because they did not want to spend the money or take the time to purchase LMR400 cable, they terminated some RG59 cable and it worked.

I’m not too surprised they are now having problems, but they really aren’t Firetide problems. If you cannot resolve the situation remotely, we can send them the contact information for our professional services to fix their system.”

As it turns out, the frantic email was sent out by the office manager (who was not familiar with the history of the deployment), and the GM of the company acknowledged that it was essentially their fault, and they will keep working on the issues.

So that’s [edit] one of the ways how wireless deployments can get the (occasional) black eye.

For information about how to avoid similar pitfalls, please view our presentation on wireless video surveillance on SlideShare.[Click here]

As always, comments are welcome! (Please note that if this is your first time commenting, your comment will be held for moderation. Otherwise, your comment will appear immediately.)

/Image via; source unknown./


  1. I agree that security integrators often do not know the basics about wireless systems. For instance, I have seen techs point panel antennas away from each other and wonder why they could not establish a connection.

    However, you ask, “So why and how do some wireless video deployments fail?” You then give an example of how your partner was essentially cheap and incompetent. You conclude, “that’s how wireless deployments get the (occasional) black eye.”

    If I understand this correctly, Firetide is not at fault? It’s just the people who buy your equipment?

    Comment by John Honovich — January 22, 2010 @ 6:28 pm | Reply

    • My comments have to be to John Honovich.

      I really admire what you are doing in, but you are not really in a good moral position to tell manufacturers to offer training for free. While it is a very good idea for the reasons John has given, I would like to ask John, are training videos free in “”?

      Cheers all of you.

      Comment by Ekpo Coffie — May 22, 2010 @ 8:25 am | Reply

      • Hi Ekpo,

        For manufacturers, training (and information in general) is a tool to sell products (where all manufacturers make almost all their revenue). The better manufacturer training is and the easier it is to access it, the lower a manufacturer’s support costs are and the more products one can sell (presuming the products do work). Free and widely accessible training increases manufacturer profitability (Note how both Axis and Pelco provide extensive free training).

        IPVideoMarket is the opposite of manufacturers. We are not trying to sell you products. Our information is our sole offering.

        Finally, if manufacturers offer better training, it would make the need for some of IPVideoMarket’s resources less valuable. When I contend that manufacturers should provide training freely and widely, I am arguing against my financial interests – which provides a stronger ‘moral’ or ethical position.



        Comment by john — May 22, 2010 @ 1:47 pm | Reply

  2. John, yes, in this particular case Firetide was not at fault; our tech support determined (w/ agreement from the integrator) that it was not a hardware/RMA issue, so there was nothing we could do, unless the integrator decided to reconfigure the deployment and/or buy additional gear.

    I made an edit to indicate that this is only one of the ways how these deployments can fails. It would be interesting to explore other instances.

    This situation reiterates the point that Salient Systems made on the conf call on Thurs – should manufacturer’s offer commissioning of their systems to avoid issues just like these? But would the integrators be willing to pays for this service? Is it done in the physical security industry?

    Comment by kseniacoffman — January 24, 2010 @ 12:58 pm | Reply

  3. Some physical security manufacturers charge for commissioning. The PSIM providers are the most common. However, these are usually for large $500k+ projects.

    I am sure some integrators would be willing to pay but the risk is that many will not and still face problems.

    I have seen a few manufacturers offer credits to integrators that deploy systems correctly without help from the manufacturer’s SEs. This can be complex but its one way to reward/incent integrators.

    Ultimately, I think manufacturers have 1 of 2 choices:

    – Make products that are easier to use (though this can be expensive and not possible for certain applications)
    – Provide better and more easily accessible training materials (e.g., I looked on Firetide’s website for training ( This only has reference to a physical class. You should film your training, put in on YouTube, etc. and make it easy for any integrator to access it anytime without registration. This would help both pre-sales and post as techs could log on any time to check information/best practices)

    Comment by John Honovich — January 25, 2010 @ 11:30 am | Reply

  4. “Making products easier” is a delicate balance in the RF world. Look at Avalan you just reviewed: the antenna is built it and cannot be changed, which makes it easy to deploy and relatively fool-proof. But also it limits what you can do with the device (i.e. for a 15-mile shot we’d recommend a specialized parabolic antenna to boost the throughput). On the other hand, Firetide nodes provide the flexibility to deploy them with different types of antennas, depending on the situation. Even though we can recommend the type and brand (ours) of antennas, integrators can opt to ignore this advice, thus creating headaches for everyone involved.

    Offering more options for training is a good point; we are thinking about adding high-level overviews in a video format. Still, our certification class is 3 days & includes hands-on labs and instructor/student interaction; it cannot all be done online.

    Comment by kseniacoffman — January 26, 2010 @ 11:26 am | Reply

  5. “Our certification class is 3 days & includes hands-on labs and instructor/student interaction; it cannot all be done online.”

    Yes, but I cannot find any Firetide training materials on-line (just high level marketing materials). I think Firetide would have a stronger case of criticizing its integrators if they made it easier for them to learn. Putting videos of all the classes on-line with open access would be an important first step.

    Comment by John — January 26, 2010 @ 11:29 am | Reply

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