Firetide Releases New Non-Line-Of-Sight Mesh Node

By Naomi Graychase

June 30, 2009

Particularly useful in public safety and public utilities deployments, Firetide's new HotPort 6000-900 delivers non-line-of-sight high-performance wireless mesh for video, data, and voice in challenging environments.

Firetide has released its new HotPort 6000-900, the company’s first product to operate in the 900 MHz spectrum, which enables clients to run high-bandwidth applications in environments where achieving line-of-sight is difficult or impossible.

The HotPort 6000-900 is targeted primarily at public utilities where it can increase the capacity of existing SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) backhaul connections. With real-world throughput of up to 26Mbps, it enables bandwidth-intensive applications, such as video surveillance, and extends mesh reliability into non-line-of-site scenarios.

Firetide’s “wireless infrastructure mesh” approach has met with success in public and private video surveillance markets. Clients include the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which uses Firetide equipment as part of its Advanced Surveillance and Protection Plan, and the Phoenix, AZ Police Department, which used a Firetide network to protect visitors during Super Bowl XLII.

“When we started the company, we designed the network from the ground up to be a multi-service network,” says Ksenia Coffman, Marketing Communications Manager at Firetide. “Our systems have capabilities uniquely designed for high-bandwidth and low-latency to achieve evidence-grade video. Our virtual Internet switch runs proprietary protocols and to the IT administrator, it appears as though it were a regular switch; its completely transparent, that’s what sets us apart.”

The HotPort 6000-900 mesh is uniquely designed for the noisy 900 MHz spectrum, says Coffman. It employs Firetide’s ‘Smart Adaptive’ mesh technology to mitigate the effects of interference that typically bring down wireless throughput and reliability in this band. “Firetide’s noise-aware data path and noise filtering algorithms enable mesh to better handle interference from other 900 MHz devices, as well as from adjacent frequency bands taken up by cellular and 3G traffic. Tools, such as the spectrum analyzer, which is integrated into the product, allow a network administrator to remotely monitor the health of the network and take actions to further optimize the network performance,” says Coffman.

Case in point

Ken VandeVeer, Southern California sales manager of Sage Designs, a rapid distributor for SCADA equipment and remote telemetry, has integrated Firetide’s solution with several of his clients.

“Generally what’s happening in our industry, mostly with water and waste water, is that the utilities are looking for more bandwidth. Most use 900MHz, but under 500Kbps normally. As they look for video to provide some security at their remote sites, they want to upgrade to the broadband radios. Firetide has been a boon to us because they can deliver in the 900MHz band, which is important to the utilities.”

VandeVeer says his clients face a variety of security concerns ranging from vandalism to theft, and that the ability to deploy high-quality, wireless video surveillance can mean six-figure savings.

“In L.A., we get a lot of tagging. It’s expensive for the water districts to repaint the tanks or the walls around the pump stations. In that instance, video is a deterrent. Most recently, with the price of copper going up, there’s been a lot of thievery in the water district. Thieves come in and tear out wiring or pumps, and replacement is extremely expensive. It also puts one of the water sites down for a period of time and then the replacement value and the labor involved really add up,” he says.Firetide-HotPort-6000-900_outdoor_sm.jpg

The new HotPort 6000-900 mesh is part of the HotPort 6000 series of mesh nodes. All HotPort nodes have multiple Ethernet ports for connecting network devices or other networks to Firetide’s wireless mesh. Using the nodes, users can potentially build a single infrastructure for voice, video, and data traffic. A spectrum analyzer is also integrated into the nodes.

To serve and protect

In public safety deployments, the HotPort 6000-900 allows for high-bandwidth video surveillance and communication from unobtrusive locations. Because it doesn’t require line of sight, buildings, vehicles, and trees do not present an issue. It can even be deployed as a wearable node. Members of covert ops can stuff one in a backpack and become a mobile mesh node in the field.

“Its ability to operate in challenging terrain makes it a very attractive solution,” says Coffman.

The HotPort 6000-900 features a dual-radio solution with the capability of operating in the 900 MHz spectrum on one of the radios, while operating in the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, or 4.9 GHz (public safety) frequency bands on the other. 

“In public safety, the flexibility of having non-line-of-sight mesh at the edges with 900 Mhz bands is very useful. It allows not as much data as the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz—in our current version it’s about 5Mbps per hop versus up to 70 in bonded mode with 5—so you are trading off some throughput with outlying cameras, but in public safety scenarios, it’s great. With covert ops, or deploying video surveillance, you don’t want to be overly concerned with clear line of sight and be visible,” says Coffman.

The HotPort 6000-900 is available now in both indoor ($2,300) and outdoor ($3500; pictured above) configurations.

Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor at Wi-Fi Planet.

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