28 June 2010 Comments Off on Wireless Surveillance Cameras – Will they work for you?

Wireless Surveillance Cameras – Will they work for you?

Wireless, Wireless, Wireless…

Some think Wireless Security Cameras are the Mecca of all video transmission options! That, if you make a camera wireless, it will eliminate the need to run any and all wiring and the installation will be a breeze. Think again! Once you start looking into it more closely you’ll find out that the obstacles and limitations that wireless must get around can be wide and treacherous, to the point hard wiring your cameras will start looking simple and inexpensive.

As in all cases of security cameras, you’ve got positive attributes to it, and drawbacks. I’ll try to narrow the options down for you, and get you the real facts on whether or not wireless is a good solution for you. I’m going to base the discussion off of certain examples that will explain why wireless will, or will not work for a particular application.

So you’ve got a restaurant and you just want one camera for the dining room. Is wireless right for you? Probably not! Wireless is all done “line-of-sight” so if the transmitter can’t see the receiver you will probably not get a problem-free picture. Not to mention the fact that every time the microwave turns on in the kitchen it may well interfere with the camera signal. Also the camera/transmitter is going to have to be hard wired for power. So, if you have to run 25’ of power wire you might as well run 25’ of Siamese cable instead and get both power and video together. You’ll get a much better picture without interference if you run it over coax cabling, or even twisted pair wiring.

You just bought an open cast mine, gravel pit, stone yard or other open type site. You may even have existing poles in place with power ran to them, and from each pole location you can see the main office where your receiver and monitor/DVR will be located. You need 4 cameras to cover certain areas, but you use 2.4GHz radios on site. Wireless will be perfect for you, since the area is open, you only need 4 cameras, and you have the ability to power the cameras/transmitters directly on the pole and use a 5.8GHz frequency to run the camera signal to the receiver.

After 5 years of thinking about it, you finally bought a car wash. You’ve rehabbed it completely, but forgot to put any new video cabling in the walls or ceiling. Wireless is the way to go, right? WRONG! Most carwashes need more than 4 cameras so you’ll be very limited as to what you could cover. But more importantly every time one of your customers uses a vacuum, or a pump in the equipment room turns on, it will probably cause interference in your pictures. You’ll probably see a mismatch of blurry wavy lines on top of a so-so camera image. Areas that have big electrical motors and/or 3-phase power produce a lot of RF and EMI interference that spell trouble for wireless signals.

You’ve lived on your ranch for years and really need to add a Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ) camera to your gate so you can electronically control it from the house. Its 1000’ away, you’ve got power at the gate and you can see it from your upstairs window. There isn’t any cabling in place, but it sure would be nice to be able to zoom in on whomever is sitting at the gate before you buzz them in, not to mention having a record of everyone that passes through. A wireless camera will be perfect for you. You are within the range limitations, you have electricity to power the camera/transmitter, you have line of sight back to the house and you only need one camera. This way you don’t have to trench a video cable all the way to the gate and tear up your road or lawn. Most wireless manufacturers make transmitters that can send video, and quite a few make transmitter/receiver pairs that can send video and receive data for a PTZ. Just make sure you find a company that makes the equipment you are looking for.

A moderately sized self storage facility needs some cameras, probably around 3 or 4. They have power in each building where the cameras will be mounted. Line of sight back to the main office is not a problem, but a huge number of power lines run overhead of the property. Not just 110V or 220V lines from the transformer – I mean the 12,500V lines that use 6-8 cables as big as your wrist. If it wasn’t for the power lines I would say it would absolutely work, but the addition of the power lines is a deal breaker. There is such a large field of power interference given off from those lines there is NO wireless equipment currently made, no matter the frequency, that can get through that interference to the receiver.

So to recap…

  • 1.Indoor wireless is pretty much a myth unless somewhere on the package it says – Baby Monitor. And even then it’s iffy.
  • 2.All commercial grade wireless equipment is line of sight. If the transmitter antenna can’t see the receiver antenna then you will probably NOT get a clear, interference-free picture no matter how close they are.
  • 3.If you see a distance listed with a wireless product, say 1500’ line of sight, that doesn’t mean you can put them 500’ apart and expect them to get through 3 hills, 2 buildings, and a partridge in a pear tree. Line of sight is truly a MUST when it comes to wireless. Weather can affect your picture quality as well so keep in mind bad storms, lots of rain, heavy snowfall or ice = no picture.
  • 4.Most economical wireless systems can make/use 4 wireless cameras. There are definitely systems out there that can make up to 12 cameras wireless, but you will pay A LOT of money for these transmission pairs. Several thousand dollars PER CAMERA.
  • 5.Wireless will not work reliably in areas with large amount of wireless signal, power lines, motors, pumps, etc.
  • 6.Some wireless cameras can transmit back to a 4 channel receiver, and some just to a single receiver. Make sure you are getting what you need before placing your order.
  • 7.There are two frequencies most wireless runs off of (2.4GHz and 5.8GHz). When you are choosing the band you need to use, make sure and know what other wireless frequencies are being used around the cameras, and then choose the least used frequency for the video transmission.
  • 8.Mixing 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz is a no-no. Even on the different frequency you are still limited to 4 cameras total on only one frequency range.

Wireless can be a real life saver if you have the perfect property for it, or it can prove to be a boat anchor tied around the neck of a great surveillance system. Don’t hamstring your system before you even buy it, thinking wireless is a quick fix to a hard property to cover.

Also remember, most high-power or specialized wireless equipment is specially built for each customer and not eligible to be returned for credit. Most manufacturers do this because pairs are built specifically for that customer and it takes a special scenario to make wireless work for you instead of the other way around. The equipment will still come with a warranty, but if you neglected to tell your sales person you have a grove of pecan trees in between the gate your camera is on and the office your receiver resides in…well I guess EBAY will be in your near future.

Now remember this article is written to explain wireless cameras; which is the transmission of a video signal, and maybe a PTZ data signal as well, over a certain frequency back to a receiver. If you want to view the camera you will still need to run coax cabling back to a monitor from your receiver, and if you want to record the footage you will need to run coax cabling into a DVR system.

So please make sure and do your homework. Find a manufacturer with a design team on staff that can ask you all the right questions and make sure the equipment suits your property as well as your budget.

Be sure to see our Wireless Systems at the links below:

High Power Wireless Security Camera Systems for Long Range Transmission

Extreme Power Wireless PTZ Camera Systems for Video and Data Transmission

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