Mesh Without Wires

March 17, 2010

Defining Mobile Video – Notes From IWCE Wireless Killer Apps Panel

IWCE 2010 logoThis is another “The many interpretations of…” post, inspired by the IWCE’s session on Wireless Killer Apps (for notes on the first session I presented at, Wireless Surveillance 101, see my post The Many Interpretations of Wireless Mesh). The panel was moderated by Eric Hill of Enterprise Wireless Alliance who did a great job putting together a “killer” panel with presentations ranging from narrow band data (paging) all the way to mobile voice and video. (See slides from Eric’s opening remarks.)

Again, I was reminded that there are many interpretations of “mobile video” – based on cellular data (EVDO), 3G/4G,Wi-Fi access and infrastructure mesh. The mobile video can mean:

  • Viewing video on PDAs by police officers in the field, as discussed by Bruce Lee of Sprint
  • 1 frames per second (300 kbps) from covert video systems deployed by Mobilcomm for tactical operations, to
  • 30 frames per second (2-3 Mbps) from cameras on Seoul Subway trains moving at 50 miles an hour.

The core advantages remain the same, and I could not agree more with Bruce Lee’s points on what wireless enables:

  • Shorter decision cycles
  • Real-time intelligence
  • Common operating picture

An important point from the Sprint presentation was that 3G/4G  data service is asymmetrical, the systems are designed to provide more capacity for download, and less for upload. This obviously impacts video streaming, which is all upload. Many (if not all) operators would block video streaming, although law enforcement can receive preferential treatment from the operator.

There’s room for all of these approaches – the choice of technology will depend on the objectives and desired video quality. Many covert applications can be accomplished via cellular data service. Video from the field, even at 2-3 frames per second, can provide enough situational awareness to help decision makers provide response to an unfolding situation.

But if the municipally, public safety or transit agency requires high-resolution, evidence-grade video from moving vehicles, only high-bandwidth, purpose-built wireless mesh video system will fit the bill. Note that standard resolution IP camera streaming at 30 fps will consume about 2-3 Mbps of bandwidth, while top of the line 12 megapixel camera can take up to 35 Mbps of bandwidth. It all depends on the customer’s requirements, their own-vs-rent philosophy, and budget (very important, because high-resolution mesh systems are not cheap).

Other highlights from the panel:

  • Sprint: The cellular carrier can enable some very interesting applications, including one to deal with driver distractions (important for transit, trucking industries). If the operator determines (via your GPS-enabled cell phone) that you are in motion, the application – running both on the server and on the phone itself – can disable the cellular connection so that you cannot text or speak on the phone.
  • NetMotion Wireless: Mobile VPN technology creates “virtual desktop environment” to provide access to any enterprise applications in a mobile environment, creating the ‘glue’ that hold the mobile environment together.
  • Prism Paging: Paging industry is not dead! Often paging networks are the most resilient especially in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Paging is also used extensively in first responder  and medical applications, all the way to restaurant pagers.
  • Alcatel-Lucent: Focusing on mobile core and voice transmission over IP.
  • Mobilcomm: “Trash cams”: Mobilcomm deployed covert cameras trained on (or were they inside?) trash cans in a city park to catch drug dealers as they dumped drugs during a police sting operation.

View my presentation from the session on SlideShare: IWCE 2010: Wireless Killer Apps – Mobile Real-time Video Surveillance

See also:

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