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.

1 Comment »

  1. […] camera infrastructure. The first post is from the Gold Coast area to the Theatre District. The second post covers Millennium Park. They are fully of information and a must for people interested in the various boxes and cameras […]

    Pingback by Smart Cameras Blog » Chicago Walking Tour for Wireless Video Surveillance — October 10, 2010 @ 6:20 pm | Reply

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