Why Wireless Video Surveillance Systems Fail

By John Honovich, Published Dec 10, 2008, 12:00am EST

Wireless video surveillance systems fail almost as frequently as video analytics - and that should tell you something. Let's examine a fascinating case of anger and frustration for one US municipality. Some important lessons can be learned from this story.

Basically Durham North Carolina's wireless video surveillance system does not work. [link no longer available] SecurityInfoWatch offers a series of recommendations on how to improve wireless video surveillance systems [link no longer available]. As background information, I encourage you to read my tutorial on wireless video surveillance systems

Key Reasons for Failure

  • The Integrator: Usually the integrator does not know what they are doing and wants the job more than they have the skills.
  • The Sales Person: Behind almost every bad integration is a sales person who blindly and recklessly pushed an unworkable solution.
This is not always true but if you had to guess, you’d be right more often that not by blaming the integrator and the salesperson.
  • Customers can rarely depend on budgets: Since budgets depend on what money is available and what grants can be ascertained, budgets often have no relation to reality.
  • Customers rarely have the knowledge to estimate costs: The reality is most design people don’t know how much systems cost. It depends on dozens of factors and many changing technologies.

Asking a customer to get a comfortable budget and be realistic about system costs is incredibly difficult to do in practice. Unfortunately, customers are generally dependent on integrators and sales people, further compounding the problem.

The optimal wireless video surveillance system design depends on a number of factors such as (1) distance between cameras, (2) obstruction between cameras and (3) existing wireless infrastructure in the area.

As a general rule, I would stress not to scale. You should:

  1. Offload the video from the wireless network to a wired network ASAP. For example, connect 3 video cameras wirelessly to a municipal facility where the video can be stored locally and then retrieved over cable mode/DSL/municiapl LAN at a central monitoring station.
  2. Use on-board storage (even 16GB SD cards) to eliminate constant streaming on the wireless network.

These factors will make wireless video surveillance systems cheaper, easier and more reliable.

That being said, these horror stories will continue so long as the standard process of salespeople educating customers is the dominant mode of design.

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