Safety Net: Aruba Promotes Video Surveillance over Wi-Fi

By Lisa Phifer

September 24, 2007

Ohio State University combines Aruba v3.2 and Milestone to achieve campus-wide surveillance.

From terrorist attacks to school shootings, tragedies repeatedly demonstrate the need for public safety readiness.  One critical component: helping first responders see perpetrators and their actions.  Government-operated cameras are widely deployed along city streets and interstate highways, while many private organizations are building their own surveillance networks.  IP video cameras sales are expected to grow 51 percent annually through 2010, reaching $4 Billion worldwide.

 

“Soon after the unfortunate Virginia Tech incident, many customers in university and healthcare environments started asking us how we could help them use video surveillance to proactively monitor what’s happening on campus for public safety,” said Manav Khurana, head of industry marketing at Aruba Networks.  “As we looked into it, we saw needs for video surveillance indoors, outdoors, and on mobile laptops carried by first responders.”

 

Scaling video for campus-wide safety

 

Today, Aruba announced a three-prong initiative to meet those needs:

  • refining Aruba WLANs to deliver quality IP video,
  • helping customers design video surveillance networks, and
  • simplifying installation through partnership with two IP video vendors, Milestone and Wren Solutions.

 

“Locations where surveillance must be implemented are pretty diverse,” explained Khurana.  “So we offer a variety of connections. APs tend to be mounted in ceilings and so are IP cameras.  Some of our APs come with an extra Ethernet port, so you can plug a camera into the AP to reduce cabling.”  This can connect Ethernet-based cameras to Aruba APs on the local LAN, remote APs on WAN links, and mesh-connected outdoor APs.  Older analog CCTV cameras can also be connected in this fashion, using a digital encoder.  Finally, Wi-Fi cameras can be connected to Aruba APs like any other client.

 

But streaming video demands on those APs and the upstream Aruba controller differ from best-effort data or voice.  Aruba OS v3.2 includes a new QoS profile that lets video and data applications coexist on the same WLAN infrastructure.  Specifically, the profile recognizes video streams, prioritizes them, and reserves bandwidth to carry that traffic.

 

Aruba also created metrics for capacity planning.  “We’ve written a design and implementation guide that provides detailed guidance on how to build a network for video only or combining video with data and voice, said Khurana.  “We tested the most common usage scenario—12 frames per second, 320x240 resolution, MPEG4 encoding with compression—to estimate how many cameras we can support.”  For example, a single LAN-connected AP using GRE to reach its Aruba controller can support up to 60 wired or 24 wireless cameras, while a point-to-point (one hop) mesh can support up to 16 wired or 6 wireless cameras per AP.  Where fewer cameras are needed, spare capacity can be used for voice or data.

 

Simplifying installation and management

 

Aruba has partnered with Milestone and Wren for upstream video storage and management.  “Their systems can sit on the network next to our controller, detect and manage the cameras, get all the video feeds, and then make them available to other video applications,” explained Khurana.  Possible upstream applications include not only public safety, but also perimeter security and video intelligence.

 

Aruba chose standards-based IP video to give customers the freedom to choose any camera/video system.  Proprietary CCTV solutions “are very closed and limited in terms of the cameras and systems you can pair,” said Khurana.  “Milestone and Wren support a wide variety of cameras, so our customers can get the cost/performance ratio they need.”

 

Aruba’s architecture can also provide uniform IP security, independent of camera type.  According to Khurana, “Traditional video feeds are not encrypted at the source – they assume that they are connected to a secure network.  For video sent over Wi-Fi, that is not always true.  We can encrypt video traffic at the AP so that, as it is sent over tunnels on a WAN or mesh, those video streams get encrypted and can’t be tampered with.”

 

Finally, Aruba’s approach can simplify camera management.  “Traditionally, all cameras must be on same layer two network as the video server, but that can require a lot of rewiring and reorganization,” said Khurana.  However, because Aruba’s architecture tunnels all traffic through a central controller, every camera appears to be in same VLAN by default.  “Cameras can be detected and configured automatically, and that’s a big deal on a campus with thousands of cameras.”

 

Keeping an eye on the Ohio State campus

 

An integral part of Aruba’s video launch is a case study involving Ohio State University.  OSU approached Aruba this spring, shortly after the VA Tech shooting.  “Their problem was daunting because their facility was so large – 1,700 acres, over 400 buildings, 25 million square feet of indoor space.  That’s almost the scale of a city,” said Khurana.

 

OSU plans a phased rollout, creating a security umbrella by augmenting its existing Aruba infrastructure and adding an outdoor wireless mesh.  ACTi, Axis, and Bosch IP cameras have now been deployed, sending video back to a Milestone XProtect IP Video Management System.  According to Khurana, one building has been completed to date, including a parking lot monitored by mesh-connected Wi-Fi cameras.

 

“Inside, they use wired IP cameras. Where cabling to our AP is being leveraged, video traffic comes through our controller—that gives them the same security and L2 architecture.  Where existing analog cameras are used, that traffic goes around our controller, but I expect them to blend these two solutions,” said Khurana.

 

Aruba hopes that other universities will follow OSU’s lead.  By supporting video over Wi-Fi, Aruba is trying to keep existing customers happy and attract new customers interested in video surveillance.  Aruba’s video design guide is freely available for download, and customers with Aruba OS v3.2 can run video applications at no extra cost.  However, streaming video will inevitably increase bandwidth consumption—and that WLAN growth will keep your Aruba sales rep happy, too.

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