Fluidmesh Wireless OverviewBy Ethan Ace, Published Nov 13, 2011, 07:00pm EST
In the surveillance industry, Fluidmesh, along with Firetide and Ubiquiti are the three most commonly mentioned wireless providers. However, the relative positioning of the three are often unclear. This is made even more challenging by the lack of detailed information on Fluidmesh which is generally available. In this update, we dig into Fluidmesh's product line, the features which may appeal to integrators, and how it contrasts with Firetude and Ubiquiti.
The Fluidmesh line consists of three series of product. Note that most prices are given in ranges, since they are available with varying levels of throughput. The MITO series has the greatest variance, and thus the widest range:
- First is the 2200 Duo (approx. $3,300 MSRP), a dual-radio, IP68-rated outdoor model. It is capable of transmission in the 2.4, 4.9, and 5 GHz bands, using external antennas. The enclosure also contains 12VDC and 120VAC power outputs for powering cameras or other devices, and room for mounting an encoder internally. The Duo is often used in locations where less gear on a pole is desired, since it may supply power to cameras without additional hardware. It is also the only IP68-rated product in the Fluidmesh line, and is available with a heater kit, which makes it more suitable for harsher locations.
- The Endo series ($900-1,500 MSRP) is essentially the same as a 2200 Duo in an indoor, non-NEMA rated, form factor. A single-radio model, the 1100 Endo is also available. The Endo is typically used in locations which already have an enclosure for camera gear, battery backup, etc., on site.
- The MITO series ($560-2,700 MSRP) is Fluidmesh's latest product offering. It is a single-radio 2x2 MIMO unit with integrated antennas, one model equipped with a 40° patch antenna, the other using a 90° sector. The MITO series is intended to remove some installation variables which may affect wireless performance, such as cabling, weatherproofing, and grounding, in order to simplify installation for integrators. Due to its MIMO architecture, the MITO series is better suited for backhaul, and able to sustain higher data rates across longer distances. Its small size, however (14" x 3" at most) also makes it suitable for locations where aesthetics are an issue.
All of the above models are compatible, which means that from site to site in a wireless deployment, users may select whichever radio makes the most sense in that location. For instanace, some camera locations may have a NEMA enclosure on site, and adding an external radio may be undesirable, so an Endo is located in the enclosure with other gear. At other locations, it may be preferable to simply put a camera and small external radio on a pole, making the MITO a better choice. All of them may operate together in point to point, point to multipoint, or mesh modes.
The Fluidmesh line is "plug-in" based, meaning that users purchase the throughput or other features they need. All products are shipped with at least 1 Mbps capacity enabled, which may be increased by license up to 2.5, 5, 10, 30, or 60 Mbps. 802.1Q VLANs and AES-128 encryption may also be enabled via license. This allows users to not over-specify, so deployments requiring 10 Mbps only pay for 10 Mbps, instead of 60.
All of Fluidmesh's products include web-based management software, named FMQuadro, for free. The wireless network may be represented graphically, including integration with Google Maps, so radios may be placed in their actual geographical location. FMQuadro also includes a built-in spectrum analyzer, to detect interference in all three bands (2.4, 4.9, and 5 GHz), and is fully SNMP compatible, so alerts may be sent to third-party network monitoring software.
One other Fluidmesh feature aimed at making wireless deployments simpler for integrators is their FluidMAX technology. In simple terms, FluidMAX is intended to automatically select the radio's operating mode based on network layout. TDMA and CSMA are selected by the unit, with no user intervention required. It should be noted that users who do not wish to use the automatic features of the Fluidmesh line may disable them, and manually configure the units' parameters themselves.
Fluidmesh is sold through a network of integrators, who may purchase the product through select distributors or directly from the manufacturer. Partners are also eligible for project registration discounts. Product is not sold to end users. One potential advantage for Fluidmesh is that they give a free level one online certification class to all their authorized partners. With this, they aim to remove the fingerpointing which can (and has, historically) plague wireless deployments, when integrators are able to buy product which they have received no training on.
Compared to its two most common competitors in surveillance, Ubiquiti and Firetide, Fluidmesh sits somewhere in between. The low end is in the range of five times the cost of a Ubiquiti radio, with many Ubuiquiti models selling for under $100 each. Firetide's wireless access points and point to point products run from about $200 to $2,000, with mesh nodes coming in near $3,000. For these comparisons to be fair, it must be noted that most Fluidmesh products may be run in PtP, PtMP, or mesh modes, which many manufacturers do not offer.
While Fluidmesh, like the bulk of the industry, is at a pricing disadvantage against Ubiquiti, they do claim two things as advantages against them: training and support. As mentioned above, all Fluidmesh partners receive free certification training. Ubiquiti currently has no training program, though it is in development. Ubiquiti's live technical support has also been an issue historically, and users mostly have relied upon their public forum for application and troubleshooting issues. These two issues combined may drive some integrators to choose Fluidmesh over less expensive options, since it potentially decreases their risk.
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