Mesh Without Wires

September 30, 2010

Chicago Walking Tour, Video Mesh Edition, Part 2

This post is part 2 of our Chicago Walking Tour, Video Mesh Edition. Click here for part 1 of the tour, as we made our way from the Gold Coast area to the Theatre District.

After visiting the Theater District, we headed to Millennium Park, which is Chicago Mayor Daley’s pride and joy (seriously, the park was amazing).

Daisy-chaining Michigan Avenue

Firetide mesh is deployed all along South Michigan Ave which flanks the park on the west. Firetide mesh allows multi-hop linear networks (‘daisy-chaining’) without throughput degradation, and many of our designs are linear mesh.  (See When Wireless Video Mesh is Not ‘True’ Mesh (But Better) for further discussion on this topic.)

Video mesh along Michigan Ave

Video mesh along Michigan Ave (click to enlarge)

Blast from the mesh-AP-past

Among the typical set-ups on light poles consisting of a ‘Firetide-inside’ black box, video cameras, and antennas, I spotted a “muni Wi-Fi mesh” looking device. (Remember the heady days of muni Wi-Fi?) My companion – our systems engineer – explained that it’s indeed a competitor’s Wi-Fi mesh access point (AP), left behind after an unsuccessful trial. The city just did not want to pay to have the gear removed.

Infrastructure mesh vs Wi-Fi mesh

Infrastructure mesh vs Wi-Fi mesh (click to enlarge)

As you notice, the approach is very different from Firetide’s – omni-directional antennas indicate a “mesh AP”, with one radio presumably used for backhaul and the other for Wi-Fi client connections. Contrast that with:

  • Firetide’s dedicated dual-radio backhaul,
  • directional antennas,
  • virtual distributed wireless Ethernet switch architecture, and
  • proprietary routing protocol.

The last two you obviously cannot see on a picture, but that’s where the secret sauce is. No wonder the trial with mesh APs was unsuccessful. (See The Many Interpretations of ‘Wireless Mesh’ for more discussion on infrastructure mesh vs Wi-Fi mesh.)

Jay Pritzker Pavilion gets meshed

Among Millennium Park’s prominent features is the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion, “the most sophisticated outdoor concert venue of its kind in the United States,” according to the park’s web site. And what do you know, the venue’s sophistication extends to public safety: we spotted a Firetide mesh node and a camera on the trellis over the Great Lawn. (This was the only mesh node that we saw in its original form factor, instead of an enclosure or an IVS-100 unit.)

Video mesh above Great Lawn

Video mesh above Great Lawn (click to enlarge)

The camera overlooks the green, and the mesh node shoots the signal to one of the mesh nodes placed on light poles.
View a picture of the Great Lawn on a concert day; you can tell why the city would want to monitor the area – it accommodates 7,000 people.

Sometimes video mesh best practices are trumped by reality

We continued to explore the park, and came across a site that was an apparent contradiction to the best practices we preach to integrators: “Don’t use omni-directional antennas for video” and “Don’t stick antennas inside a tree.” But this was a very short hop and only one camera, so the setup worked well.

Omni antenna install

Omni antenna install (click to enlarge)

Below is the camera location where the omni antenna was shooting for, near the fountain at Wrigley Square. You can see a small patch antenna towards the bottom of the picture, right below the black box housing the mesh node. The distance was probably 300 ft, so the unorthodox antennas worked anyway.

Patch antenna install

Patch antenna install (click to enlarge)

More IVS-100 units spotted in the wild

This Firetide IVS-100 system is located above the entrance to Metra’s Millennium Station. The unit houses a MIMO mesh node (HotPort 7000), which you can tell by square shaped antennas, rather than diamonds.

IVS-100 at Metra Millennium Station

IVS-100 at Metra Millennium Station (click to enlarge)

We saw another IVS unit overlooking Metra’s private roadway adjacent to railroad tracks. This unit houses a 7000 mesh node as well.

IVS-100 at Metra roadway

IVS-100 at Metra roadway (click to enlarge)

Wrapping up the tour

I snapped the last photo at Michigan and Madison as we were saying good-bye to the park.

Video mesh at Madison & Michigan (click to enlarge)

Video mesh at Madison & Michigan (click to enlarge)

Chicago is truly a magnificent city. Next time you are there look out for the video mesh system, in addition to the beautiful sites.

Hope you enjoyed the tour!

For posts on wireless mesh design, see:

For more posts on Firetide deployments, see:

By: Ksenia Coffman – Connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

September 24, 2010

Muni Video Mesh Webinar: Presentation and Q&A

The webinar with Sandy PD provided insights into how to design, deploy and run a successful municipal video surveillance system. We had both operational perspective from Sandy PD’s Captain Kevin Thacker, and technical details from Seth Ferrier with AlphaCorp Security, the integrator on the project. If you did not have a change to attend the webinar, the presentation is posted below.  You can register on our web site to view the on-demand recording.

muni mesh video webinar

View on-demand recording (free registration)

We also provided the Q&A from the webinar, including some of the questions we did not have time to address.

View the Presentation

View the webinar presentation: plenty of photos of the installed system and interesting details.

Webinar Q&A

Planning & Technology Evaluation

Q: Besides the Firetide mesh, what other wireless technologies did you review, and why did you chose Firetide over those? How did you test and evaluate various systems?

Sandy PD: We looked at demonstrations that the vendors showed us; they set up temporary installations for evaluation. The other thing we looked at with AlphaCorp and Firetide was that AlpaCorp was a local company; we felt it would be good to have someone local to work with. They had the equipment and knowledge that we were interested in and they seemed to closely equate to what we were looking for in Sandy City.

AlphaCorp: Another technology that was evaluated was point-to-multipoint, which ended up being more costly and wasn’t as robust in terms of throughput compared to Firetide. Sandy City also contacted references, which I would encourage all customers who are deploying a system of this nature to do. It’s a good way to find out how the integrator has performed, how they have adapted to challenges, both from a design and a deployment standpoint.


Q: What is the ballpark cost of a project like this?

To date, the cost of the system is approximately $450,000. This figure includes all of the wireless equipment (Firetide mesh network, BridgeWave point-to-point link, AgileMesh portable units), video cameras, camera VMS licenses, as well as the site survey, design, installation and maintenance. This is the turn-key project cost.

You’ve got to go into to a project like this being realistic: it’s going to cost quite a bit of money to set up the system the way you want to.

Operation & Policies

Q: How long is the video stored for, and is it possible to remotely view the video from a laptop in the field?

We have the capability to store for three weeks, which gives us an good opportunity to find something if we think we need it. If there is any incident captured on the cameras, we have a person assigned that pulls that video out and puts it on a DVD.  As far as the remote viewing, we have that ability in police cars for our sergeants and above.

Q: Who monitors the cameras?

All our officers have access to the cameras from City Hall. We also have a volunteer group that comes in and monitors the cameras; they are trained in our policies and procedures before they are allowed access to the system.

Q: Can I get a copy of Sandy PD’s camera use policies?

Please email Ksenia Coffman at Firetide to obtain the policy document.

Feeds & Speeds

Q: What image resolution are you transmitting at 30 FPS?

Currently we are using 640*480 resolution, although we are not limited to that. We can go in on an individual camera basis and adjust the resolution through the OSSI platform. If you have a spot with higher requirements on details we can use megapixel or HD resolution cameras. This makes the system very flexible.

Q: What is the reasonable bandwidth requirement for a camera recording high-grade video?

It differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, with different compressions, different frame rates and different resolutions. All those factors play a part in the cameras requirement when it comes to throughput. Almost all manufacturers that I can think of offers tools on their websites, which can be used to get a very close approximation on what the requirements are going to be. In Sandy we are averaging around 1.5 Mbps per camera. In total we now have 14 sites with at least one camera at each site, and we haven’t reached 25% of the mesh’s capacity, so we still have plenty of room to expand the system.

Wireless Design

Q: What frequency is the video transmitted on over the mesh network?

The mesh system is on the 4.9GHz spectrum. Here you only have two channels to utilize. The reason that we are using this frequency for Sandy City is that some of the high-point sites that the system covers already had wireless systems installed. So it was important not to cause any conflict with the other transmissions in the city.

Q: How many nodes are there in the Sandy UT system purely in a support role?

There are nine sites that currently have mesh hardware installed in a “repeater-only” configuration (no cameras). Cameras may or may not be added to these locations down the road.

Q: What Firetide equipment was used?

We standardized on Firetide HotPort 6202 outdoor dual-radio mesh nodes for the deployment. We could have used single-radio nodes in some of edge locations, but dual-radio network design gives us an opportunity to expand the network easier. Given the marginal incremental cost between single- and dual-radio solution, dual radio was the way to go. [On the HotPort 7000 platform, this is equivalent to a HotPort 7020 node + radio license to enable the 2nd radio.]


Q: I noticed that many of the installations were on utility poles and light poles, how was permission to use these handled?

Most of those poles belong to Sandy City, but in some cases the mounting locations (rooftops, etc) belong to private companies, which meant we had to obtain their permission. But we haven’t had any problems with that.


Q: Does the deployment include backup power provisioning for emergency conditions?

Yes backup power is included at every site. We are currently using the Novus Micro Secure power supplies by Alpha but there are many options.

Q: Is it possible to power the equipment, on the tower environment, using a locally mounted solar panel/s? Was this considered for Sandy?

Yes solar power for primary or backup power is definitely possible and is being used in Firetide deployments in other territories. Sandy is fortunate, at least thus far, when it comes to power at all the currently deployed sites and has not had the need to use solar power.

Q: Were any of the wireless nodes/cameras remote enough to require a separate battery source?

Only the AgileMesh portable units are battery operated. We have had temporary sites that required coverage but did not have power readily available. The AgileMesh units were temporarily deployed at these sites. At all of the planned permanent locations, we were lucky to have access to power.

Certification Training

Q: Is there factory training we can get as integrators?

Yes, Firetide offers a Certified Mesh Engineer course (FCME-1). This is a three-day course that provides essential information necessary to design, install, configure and troubleshoot Firetide wireless networks. For more information, visit Firetide Certification Training page.

Register for on-demand recording

If you did not have a change to attend the webinar, register on our web site to view the on-demand recording.

muni mesh video webinar

View on-demand recording

For more posts on Firetide deployments, see:

By: Ksenia Coffman – Connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

September 22, 2010

Why Mesh Video and Data Networks for Water Utilities

Filed under: Physical Security,Wireless backhaul,Wireless Mesh — kseniacoffman @ 10:02 am
MIMO Mesh Node at Otay Water Tank

MIMO mesh node at Otay water tank (click to enlarge)

Municipal and private utilities, water and waste water among them, have communications and physical security requirements that are often challenging to address. Interconnecting multiple sites at wire-like speeds is a daunting proposition for many, when fiber or leased lines are too costly or impractical. The needs are pressing, with a single act of theft or vandalism potentially costing six figures to mitigate.

With that in mind, Southern California’s Otay Water District is a great example in utilizing the flexibility, capacity and reliability of wireless mesh in an extremely challenging environment of hills, mesas and canyons of the eastern part of San Diego County.

Real-time communications at an affordable cost

The Otay Water District has a 125 square mile service area and more than 200,000 customers.  Many of its 50+ remote facilities, such as reservoirs and pump/hydro stations, are in geographically isolated and non-densely populated areas. Options for getting land method communications to these sites (T1, DSL, or cable) were cost prohibitive, with some bids coming in as high as $100,000 a month.

The wireless mesh network offered Otay an economical and easy way to provide reliable connections and video surveillance between its headquarters and remote facilities. Besides the cost savings, the system delivers real-time security feeds rather than dial on alarm and real-time access control information rather than daily dial-up. The high-capacity network also provides the ability to use multiple cameras at a site. In the past, much of Otay’s SCADA infrastructure was periodic dial-up or dial on alarms situations.  Having the real-time SCADA information is critical during main breaks, valve closures and other pressure monitoring situations. Finally, the district can now have Wi-Fi access at their sites rather than relying on cellular broadband connections.

100 Mbps performance across MIMO mesh backbone

The initial phase of the deployment, to prove the performance of the MIMO wireless mesh backbone, connected four sites as shown below. Otay’s headquarters, recycled water treatment plant, and two nearby water storage reservoirs are separated by a high ridge line. Because of line of sight issues, the network uses linear mesh topology (‘daisy-chaining’) and loops back to connect the final site, with the longest link of 2.3 miles and shortest link of .5 miles. This initial network uses dual-radio Firetide HotPort 7000 MIMO mesh nodes operating in a combination of 5 GHz and 4.9 GHz frequency bands. The overall capacity end-to-end is 100 Mbps.

Design with flexibility in mind

Otay Mesh Backbone

Otay Mesh Backbone, Phase 1 (click to enlarge)

Twelve sites have been completed and the entire proposed network will connect more than 50 sites. The system uses a redundant mesh design for the WAN backbone with MIMO mesh technology, and point-to-point design using 900 MHz frequency band for non-line-of-sight and near-line-of-site links. Link distances in the overall deployment will range from .3 mile to 3+ miles.

For some of its well and booster stations, where trees make it impossible to use the frequencies in 5 GHz, the system will use the Firetide HotPort 6200-900 non-line-of-sight mesh. These dual-radio units have one radio at 900 MHz and one radio at the higher frequencies. The 900 MHz links connect well sites and reservoirs at lower elevations to ‘hub’ nodes located at higher elevations. Once the 900 MHz link reaches the reservoirs, the second radio on the mesh node uses the 5 GHz frequency to send the data back to the control center.

The combination of 900 MHz and line-of-sight 5 GHz bands is often the best solution for utilities, which must deal with vegetation and a variety of topographies. Also note that many utilities have access to 4.9 GHz public safety band, so 4.9 GHz communications can be incorporated into the design.

See also:

By: Ksenia Coffman – Connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

September 16, 2010

Webinar: Wireless Video Mesh at Work in Sandy UT

Filed under: Physical Security,Public Safety Wireless,Wireless Mesh — kseniacoffman @ 8:11 am

When: On-demand recording
Duration: 1 hour 5 min

Join us for an informative webinar with guest speaker Captain Kevin Thacker of Sandy PD. Cpt Thacker discusses how the wireless video surveillance system came together and what impact it had on the effectiveness of the police, public works, public utilities and parks departments in Sandy City.

You’ll also hear from Seth Ferrier of AlphaCorp, the integrator on the Sandy PD project. Seth Ferrier covers technical aspects of the project and shares lessons learned from the wireless network deployment, focusing on achieving evidence grade video in a challenging environment.

Get insights into how how to design, deploy and run a successful municipal video surveillance program. The webinar also includes a Q&A session.

Register to view on demand

muni mesh video webinar

Register to view on-demand recording

For more posts on Firetide deployments, see:

Captain Thacker
Cpt Kevin Thacker, Sandy PDSeth Ferrier
Seth Ferrier, AlphaCorp

September 14, 2010

Integrated Video Mesh Solution Presentation

Filed under: Physical Security,Public Safety Wireless,Technology,Wireless Mesh — kseniacoffman @ 7:48 am

In our Walking Tour of Chicago, Video Mesh Edition, we came up and close to Firetide’s Integrated Video Solution (Firetide IVS-100). Here’s a presentation on this product with more details and info on “what’s inside?”

More information:

September 8, 2010

Firetide Lands at #1 Spot in Video Mesh in the Americas

Filed under: Physical Security,Public Safety Wireless,Technology,Wireless Mesh — kseniacoffman @ 8:30 am

As we announced today, in its report “The Americas Market for Wireless Infrastructure Used in Video Surveillance – 2010 Edition”, IMS Research ranked Firetide as the #1 supplier of wireless mesh equipment used in video surveillance applications in the Americas. We at Firetide are understandably excited about this news, for various reasons.

1. IMS Research attention = market validation

First, this is first such report from an independent research organization. There’s still perception that wireless transmission is a “niche” within the physical security industry, and the fact that IMS took the time to research the market indicates that wireless is going more and more mainstream. Further, the report validates mesh as a viable option within wireless, and highlight its role in the government / municipal vertical. Quoting from the report: “Wireless mesh networks have been extremely successful in penetrating the city surveillance market in the Americas.”

2. Wireless video goes beyond “city center surveillance”

Despite our marketing focus on deployments involving “cops with cameras” (since they play well in the media), Firetide is not only about municipal mesh video. The IMS report highlights the growing penetration of wireless infrastructure in the three largest markets for wireless video surveillance: government, transportation and commercial. These three markets are also predicted to be the fastest growing markets, between 2009 and 2014, for wireless infrastructure used in video surveillance. Infrastructure mobility deployments are especially taking off, with large-scale projects for Seoul Subway and Mumbai Metro currently being deployed with our technology for mobile, real-time video.

3. We are #1 in mesh for video surveillance

Honestly, I was not surprised that Firetide was #1 in mesh in the Americas. No other competitor can come close to having a roster of large scale deployments for major municipalities in the US. Our list includes Chicago, Buffalo NY, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles County, Orlando and many others. Our internal research indicated that we were the market leader in large scale wireless video surveillance deployments, one proof point being our competitors adopting the line “We are just like Firetide, only cheaper.” Now there’s an independent 3rd party confirmation from an influential market research organization.

4. We are #1 private company in wireless for video surveillance

What was interesting, however, that on the strength in wireless mesh and the size of the mesh market relative to other wireless technologies, we ended up at #3 in the overall market, which includes point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, and mesh. As our CEO Bo Larsson said: “#3 is not a bad spot to be in, since we are competing with much larger, publicly traded companies.” Another point of note is that in 2009, which the report covers, Firetide did not have point-to-point wireless bridges, which now allow us to address lower end of the video surveillance market: smaller deployments (one or two outlying cameras) that do not require mesh.

Read the announcement: Firetide Ranked #1 Supplier in Americas’ Market for Wireless Mesh Network Equipment Used in Video Surveillance


Who is IMS Research?

IMS Research is a global market research provider; their physical security practice is based out of the London office. IMS Research is one of the few analyst firms with an in-depth focus on physical security and is well-respected in the industry. Visit IMS Research web site for more information.

What is Firetide’s relationship with IMS Research?

We have briefed IMS analysts on a number of occasions, and met with them in person at industry events, such as ASIS and ISC West. Firetide purchased the report in question for internal use, to validate our market assumptions. Firetide does not have an on-going client relationship with IMS, nor have we sponsored the report.

Did Firetide have to pay IMS for the right to issue the announcement? Any other conditions?

IMS Research does not require payment to publicize the result of their research. Unlike “awards” issued by certain analyst firms, the underlying report focuses on market share numbers, which IMS arrived at independently and without Firetide’s direction. However, we had to follow the guidelines from IMS in drafting the press announcement. For example, we can share our ranking, but not the market share size.

Which companies hold #1 and #2 spots in the overall market?

In conformance to the IMS guidelines, we cannot share this information. However, these companies should be easy to guess for anyone following the wireless video surveillance market, given that that they are “much larger, publicly traded companies.”

Can you share the report with us?

We cannot share additional information from the report. Please contact Simon Harris or Niall Jenkins at IMS Research for additional comments. They welcome press and blogger inquiries. (If you’d like get in touch with  IMS, please drop me a note at kcoffman-at-firetide-dot-com.)

See also:

/Image via Wikimedia Commons: Welcome to Leader

September 7, 2010

“Firetide Inside” NETGEAR WLAN Offerings Reviewed In PC Mag

Filed under: Wireless,Wireless LAN,WLAN — kseniacoffman @ 8:24 am

In time for Labor Day, PC Magazine published extensive reviews for the two products that NETGEAR launched as a result of an OEM deal with Firetide. (For background, see “Firetide Announces Strategic Alliance and OEM Agreement with NETGEAR.”) I included “Bottom Line” paragraphs from each review. Read the full reviews by clicking on the links:

Netgear ProSafe 16 AP Wireless Management System WMS5316

NETGEAR ProSafe 16 AP Wireless Management System

NETGEAR ProSafe 16 AP Wireless Management System WMS5316

Rating: Very Good

Bottom Line: There aren’t too many AP-management offerings in the SMB market. The ProSafe 16 is a welcome rarity. And, while it may seem expensive, most of the other devices on the market are more enterprise oriented and more expensive. NETGEAR has created a true SMB wireless management device that doesn’t require the expertise of a dedicated wireless network administrator to set up and run. If you’re running a shop with many NETGEAR APs already in place, or plan to create a network with five to sixteen of them, the NETGEAR ProSafe 16 AP Wireless Management System WMS5316 is well worth the price.

>>Full review at

NETGEAR ProSafe 5AP Wireless Management System (WMS105)

Rating: Very Good

Bottom Line: There’s no question that the NETGEAR ProSafe 5AP Wireless Management System performs with aplomb. But there is one question that must be asked: Does my business need it? Unless you have more than two NETGEAR access points, the WMS105 is overkill. Add a third, fourth or fifth access point, and the centralized management is becomes much more convenient. It’s simple to set up, it’s a good way to keep consistent security settings on all of the access points in a network, and the price won’t break your budget.

>>Full review at

See also:

/Image via

September 2, 2010

Chicago Walking Tour, Wireless Video Surveillance Edition

This summer I had a chance to visit Chicago for an event we were hosting. The afternoon prior to the event, our systems engineer and I had a few spare hours so we embarked on a walking tour of downtown Chicago to capture some of the Firetide installations in the city.

For background: Chicago OEMC (Office of Emergency Management and Communications) manages one of the nation’s most extensive public video surveillance networks, known as Operation Virtual Shield (OVS).  Firetide has been deployed in Chicago as part of OVS since about 2007, and the deployment continues to grow and evolve; that is why you’ll see various types of installations, different enclosures and two generations of the Firetide wireless infrastructure mesh.

Delaware Street – Magnificent Mile Vicinity

You can hardly step anywhere in the downtown area without being in view of a public video surveillance camera, many of them on wireless mesh. I came across the first one right behind the hotel I was staying at. To spot wireless-networked cameras, check for antennas – they are painted black and are positioned as diamonds in HotPort 6000 series (non-MIMO) and as squares in HotPort 7000 MIMO mesh installs. The cameras are also painted black. Firetide mesh nodes are housed in black boxes lower to the ground.

Video Mesh Camera at Delaware

Mesh Video Surveillance Camera at Delaware St (click to enlarge)

River North

Our engineer and I met up at Wabash and Huron Streets and headed south to the area known as River North, which is famous for having Chicago’s highest concentration of restaurants. Major thoroughfares, such as Michigan Ave, have access to fiber, but ‘minor’ streets like Wabash, lacked it, so that’s where wireless stepped in to fill the “fiber gap.” Below are two pictures from around Ohio St; I could not resist taking a picture of a Chicago’s landmark – Pizzeria Uno – with a video mesh camera in view.

Mesh Vide Surveillance at Ohio St

Mesh Video Surveillance Camera at Ohio St (click to enlarge)

Video Surveillance Camera in Front of Pizzeria Uno

Mesh Video Surveillance Camera Next to Pizzeria Uno (click to enlarge)

Lower Wacker; Chicago Riverwalk

Going further south, we crossed the Chicago river and snapped some pictures at Lower Wacker. Wacker Drive is a two-level street, with the the lower level designated for through-traffic and trucks servicing buildings on the road. The lighting was not the best, but I took a picture of the Firetide IVS (integrated video solution). This one is connected directly to fiber.

Firetide IVS at Lower Wacker

Firetide IVS at Lower Wacker (click to enlarge)

Emerging from the not-so-pleasant Lower Wacker, we moved west along the river via a public promenade; this area is known as Riverwalk and is one of the city’s newest attractions. I’m told (not sure if true) that one of the starting points for the video surveillance project in the area was the fact that these memorial plaques had once been stolen (for copper). Cameras are trained on this spot to make sure it does not happen again:

Chicago River Embarkment

Chicago Riverwalk (click to enlarge)

Theater District

Heading south on State street we found ourselves in the Theater District, where cameras continued to be in abundance. Another iconic image of Chicago with the diamond-shaped antenna reflecting the sun:

Mesh Video Surveillance Camera at State St

Mesh Video Surveillance Camera at State St (click to enlarge)

Check out Part 2!

Part 2 is now available as we tour Millennium Park and vicinity.

For more posts on Firetide deployments, see:

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