Wireless Video Surveillance: Affordable Easy Solutions

Protecting citizens from California to Brazil
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Protecting citizens from California to Brazil

Video surveillance is an effective means for first responders to detect crime, evaluate fire scenes and identify victims for EMS. But transporting the video back to headquarters by wire can be expensive. The good news: Wireless systems can transmit video surveillance signals reliably, securely, and at a much lower price than their wired equivalents.

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Some of the Vislink microwave equipment at work in São Paolo. by Jame Careless


Brazil, looking ahead to the 2016 Olympics, is poised for major growth in security equipment, and IMS Research recently pegged the giant nation as the market to watch in 2010, with the video surveillance business growing an average of 20 percent a year over the next five years.

Some 40 million people live in the state of São Paolo, including 11 million in the state capital of the same name. With so many people to protect, the São Paolo Police and Fire Department opted for a mobile video surveillance system with tremendous power.

The system combines three helicopter-based cameras and microwave wireless repeaters with camera-toting officers whose video is sent out directly via wireless transmitter backpacks. Using their regular radios, these officers can be directed to capture whatever camera views their commanders ask for, with the video coming up immediately on their IP-connected computer screens. Because the video travels from the officers’ backpacks up to the helicopters, then via microwave to numerous ground-based receive sites and then by wire to headquarters, the signals are robust and reliable.

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Carlos Capellao owns Phase Engineering, a São Paolo integrator who helped put together the network. It is built upon Vislink’s Mobile Network Centric Solution (MNCS) for microwave multi-point data transmission, using equipment from Alcatel Lucent and Tandberg Television for porting digital video over IP, among others.

Vislink’s MNCS can support ground-based radio users, repeater-equipped. FLIR camera-fitted helicopters and ground-based receive stations all at the same time, providing a network solution that makes it relatively easy to create complex yet flexible video surveillance networks.

“With this system, commanders can tell see what is going on at all times,” said Capellao. “They can get overhead shots live from the helicopter itself, and have people on the ground walk around and show them what is happening. The best part is that you can use the overhead shot to decide what ground-based officers should be covering-and then contact them via radio to go to those locations, so that you can see with your own eyes on the screen.”

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Three helicopters are part of São Paolo’s wireless surveillance system In the city of São Paolo-a territory of 580 square miles-having this kind of overview is priceless.

“We have to deal with natural disasters like floods, crime and riots,” said Capellao. “Moreover, local police have to keep on top of developing situations before they get out of hand.”

A case in point: Brazilians are passionate about soccer, and whenever a game is about to take place, it is common for supporters of each team to gather and march to the stadium. The problem is that these crowds are fiercely partisan, and prone to fight with each other when they make contact.

“It is vital for police to know where these crowds are at any time, and to control traffic flows on the streets to keep them apart as much as possible,” Capellao said. “Using a camera-equipped helicopter, they can track the crowds’ movements, and keeps officers ahead of them at all times. This reduces violence and property damage, and is good for overall public safety.”

Without wireless, São Paolo’s video surveillance system would be impossible. But wireless does more than make it possible; it makes it affordable, because cabling has been reduced to a minimum. “This is a very powerful technology,” said Capellao. “It is helping our first responders do their jobs better, and more safely.”


California State University-Long Beach is a big campus. It covers 323 acres, has 84 buildings and teaches about 38,000 students. Being that this is California, the university’s campus has about 100 acres of parking lots with a total of 10,000 parking spaces.

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Firetide gear overseeing Cal State-Long Beach “Traditionally, the crime rate on our campus has been quite low,” said campus police chief Stan Skipworth. “But since we’ve been watching criminal activity increase in areas on our borders, we are naturally concerned that some of that crime will find its way inside. That is why we decided to install a comprehensive video surveillance system.”

To do the job economically, Cal State-Long Beach opted to install a mostly wireless video surveillance system. It is comprised of 37 pan-tilt-zoom cameras, 29 of which are wirelessly connected using Firetide mesh nodes (wireless) and IndigoVision encoders (since many of the cameras are analog Bosch models). The wireless signals are carried in the licensed 4.9 GHz public safety band. The encoded digital video signals hop from node to node until they reach the most accessible interface with the university’s WAN. (In a mesh network system, multiple wireless transceiver nodes can be connected to a WAN to provide maximum access and redundancy.)

“Our biggest concern are our parking lots,” said Skipworth. “Because a couple of freeways pass by the campus, we are open to people coming in who don’t belong here. With their vast size and relative lack of human traffic, our parking lots are vulnerable areas. That’s why most of our cameras are mounted on light standards-clearly marked, to deter crime-and have their feeds constantly monitored by our officers.”

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“Installing the Firetide system using wireless made it affordable,” he adds. “The expense and disruption that cabling would have caused were just not practical. With wireless, it is easy to set up new surveillance locations, and to relocate cameras when necessary.”

Since activating the Firetide system in 2008, university police have been able to improve their response time to incidents.

“Often we are alerted when an incident is in progress, allowing us to get officers to the scene fast,” Skipworth said. “In one instance, we got a 911 call saying that a man was committing a sexual assault in one of our residences. He was soon scared away and fled, but we were able to track his movements on camera as he ran to a bus stop to escape. Before he managed to get on the bus, our officers apprehended him. We got the suspect, and a lot of good press locally, because the footage was shown on local TV.”

The wireless provides a level of flexibility and mobility that wired systems simply cannot match.

“We are big believers in wireless video surveillance,” said Skipworth. “It helps us do our job better with the resources we have at hand. In today’s economy, that matters.”