A Conversation with Bo Larsson

IMS Research ranked Firetide as the No. 1 supplier of wireless mesh equipment used in video surveillance applications in the Americas, in its report, “The Americas Market for Wireless Infrastructure Used in Video Surveillance.” We sat down with Firetide president and CEO Bo Larsson to discuss the report and Firetide’s direction and role in the market.

Q. This is the first such report coming from a research organization tracking the physical security market. What is the report’s significance?

A. Acceptance of wireless in physical security has been growing steadily, although quietly.

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 mainstream.

Further, the report validates mesh as a viable option within wireless, and highlights its role in the government and municipal vertical.

For many of our reseller partners, especially in physical security, wireless is still niche, but I often hear that it’s core when you need it. There are situations where wired would just be impractical or when there’s no time for architectural approvals and environmental impact studies. Cost is a huge driver.

Q. What other trends are you seeing in the market? What should integrators be prepared for in 2011 and beyond?

A. 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 also are predicted to be the fastest growing markets for wireless infrastructure used in video surveillance through 2014.

My message to the integrator community is not to be afraid of wireless, especially if you are a player in any of these three markets.

Q. What considerations should integrators keep in mind while evaluating wireless technologies?

A. Obviously, we are huge proponents of mesh, specifically of the “distributed virtual Ethernet switch” architecture and routing. This approach delivers industry’s highest real-world capacity of 300 MBps outdoors, approaching fiber-like performance. But aside from performance, another critical advantage is infrastructure mobility, which provides visibility into what’s going on in moving trains and vehicles. Firetide’s mesh technology enables transmission of real-time video at 30 frames per second at 60 miles per hour, without packet loss.

Infrastructure mobility is important not only for transportation and transit applications, but for virtually all projects -- if not today, at least as a future consideration. Municipalities want to stream video in real time from police cruisers. Ports want to deploy mesh on cranes, prison systems are rolling out real-time video in transport shuttles -- the applications list goes on.

That is why we always lead with mesh. It’s a futureproof technology that the customer can grow and adapt as needs change and new applications come on board. But at the same time, we expect to expand the pool of potential reseller partners.

Q. What is Firetide doing to entice more integrators to adopt wireless for video surveillance?

A. Earlier this year we launched a family of point-to- point bridges: non-MIMO with 35 MBps performance and MIMO with 150 MBps performance. Point-to-point technology is best suited for smaller installations, with just a couple of outlying cameras, where the performance and multi-hop capabilities are not required. The bridges, especially the non-MIMO model, also offer a cost-effective solution for these smaller projects.

The bridge product line is a steppingstone for integrators who are testing the waters with wireless. The bridges are pre-configured for out-of-the-box installation, and include antenna alignment tools to further simplify installation. Once they are comfortable with the concept of wireless, a more sophisticated wireless mesh will be a natural fit for larger projects.

Q. What’s ahead for Firetide?

A. Firetide is benefiting from the fast growing government, transportation and commercial markets, especially in the Americas and Asia Pacific. Firetide is poised to take advantage of these trends because of its secure, reliable and high-performance technology, already in use by hundreds of the most demanding municipal and transportation customers in extensive fixed and mobile video surveillance networks.

We continue to aggressively drive product innovation, investing more than 30 percent of revenue in research and development.

In 2010 and beyond, we are expanding our product portfolio to include point-to-point and point-to-multipoint products, and focusing additional sales and marketing efforts on EMEA. Our goal is to grow our worldwide market share beyond mesh and beyond “city center 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.

The utility market is another growing sector for us, both in terms of Smart Grid communications and physical security. Service provider projects are revving up as well, where carriers are looking for mesh to expand their fiber infrastructure.

Q. With all the excitement surrounding upcoming launches of 4G/LTE wireless services, what’s your take on the impact these technologies might have in the professional video security market?

A. Any perception of competition from cellular data providers is just that: perception. A standard- resolution camera typically requires 2-3 MBps of bandwidth, while a 1080p HD camera requires 5-7+ MBps of continuous streaming. Don’t forget that consumer-oriented cellular data technologies are designed to provide much higher throughput downstream, versus upstream, while video surveillance is all upstream.

Besides bandwidth, the latency will kill any attempt at real-time video. Latency on public networks measures in hundreds of milliseconds, while our mesh delivers less than 1 ms of latency per hop.

There are applications for cellular data in public safety and commercial video security, but they are limited to one or two cameras -- often covert-transmitting at low frame rates. In fact, we’ve replaced many WiMAX or Wi-Fi networks, which could deliver video with only low frame rates or did not meet expectations in terms of uptime or reliability.

Q. What is your take on the competitive landscape?

A. The competition for Firetide is really fiber. Or, looking at it from another angle, we strive to extend and augment the reach of fiber. That is why we designed the ability to route over fiber right into our mesh, along with wire-like capacity, low latency and load-balancing capabilities.

Our vision is to deliver always-on, reliable connectivity so that municipalities and commercial customers can have visibility into their operations in real time. With the current generation of Firetide MIMO technology, wireless mesh can deliver visibility into all public safety vehicles, wireless-enabled campus and industrial operations, and metro-wide fiber-like connections at a fraction of the cost and with much less hassle than fiber.

This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Security Today.

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