Jon Siann

The ever-changing risk landscape requires security in places that transcend traditional geographies. Because of the requirement for enhanced security in these areas, organizations that operate in disperse and geographically challenging environments, such as oil refineries, parking lots, chemical facilities and transportation, require technologies that can help secure vast spaces. At the same time, customers are trying to reduce the environmental impact their technology systems have on their businesses and are looking for new ways to reduce consumption.

Unfortunately, these sites do not have the power infrastructure to support a typical surveillance system. Therefore, systems integrators have been forced to trench to deliver a power source to the surveillance system, leading to skyrocketing installation costs and a negative affect on the environment. To work around the ‘trenching problem,’ installers have also looked to integrate surveillance cameras with solar panels. Unfortunately, both options are cumbersome, complex and expensive.


Wireless Promises

When the shift from analog to digital began to gain steam, a number of manufacturers provided video surveillance cameras with Wi-Fi connectivity, eliminating the need for Ethernet cables. Unfortunately, outdoor surveillance networks still required wires to deliver electrical current to each camera unit, effectively voiding the benefits derived by wireless data transmission. In addition, Wi-Fi transmission is threatened by interference, causing issues and points of failure.

Trenching is widely used as a way to deploy video surveillance networks to secure buildings and perimeters, but the issues associated with this method have contributed to its decline. Trenching involves the need to dig deep into the ground, often in locations where asphalt has been laid, resulting in excavation costs totaling on average $75 to $150 per foot. In addition, special permits and other bureaucratic requirements inflate prices, leading to exorbitant final costs ranging between $22,000 and $45,000 for every 100 yards. Trenched systems also require inspections, maintenance and can take weeks, if not months, to be completed. Furthermore, trenching is not environmentally friendly and often not possible in especially challenging environments.


Adding the Sun

The concept of a solar-powered video surveillance camera is not new, but the major challenge is that there has been an inability to generate sufficient levels of current from a solar panel to power an IP camera. In fact, in order to power a standard IP camera consuming 5 to 7 Watts, traditional solar surveillance products have been integrated with panels of capacities nearing 130 Watts. This often translates into the use of large solar panels, ultimately causing such systems to become inherently clumsy and inconvenient.

As an example, some manufacturers have come up with so-called trailer cameras. A trailer serves as the base for a tall pole topped by a surveillance camera. Up to six or eight solar panels are placed on the trailer, each one accompanied by extensive wires and chords. Trailer cameras are complex systems that rely on a large variety of components requiring unreasonable efforts for installation and, clearly, are very costly. In addition, a complex system featuring multiple pieces is more likely to suffer from failures, and require maintenance and repairs, adding onto an already unaffordable price.

Pole-mounted solar cameras are similar in concept to trailer cameras. By planting a tall pole into the ground, attaching a large solar panel on top and a video surveillance camera right beneath it, the solution offers a less complex alternative but has no mobility. A single pole-mounted camera can cost between $8,000 and $10,000, not including the costs of repair and maintenance derived by the complexity of the system.


Breaking Through Barriers

Today, innovators have turned the issue on its head and developed a viable solution that is not only cost effective but also limits complexity and promotes system flexibility. New surveillance cameras have been developed that meet much higher levels of efficiency and, as a consequence, can be easily integrated with solar panel technology. The reduction in power consumption is derived from the development of a wireless data transmission protocol that serves as an alternative to Wi-Fi. This protocol is superior to others as it sends data through traditional Wi-Fi connectivity but is developed to detect interference and traffic, and therefore, recognizes when it is ideal to send data. Not only does this allow for dramatically more reliable transmission but it also reduces the amount of electrical current consumed by the video surveillance camera. In addition, the camera can function at a much lower electrical consumption rate. Because of this efficiency, the camera only requires small solar panels as a power source. Because the solar panels are designed for 20 times the actual camera power consumption, this truly ‘green’ camera solution functions in overcast and inclement weather conditions, while an embedded battery allows for continuous operation 365/7/24.

End users focused on protecting perimeter environments require a new solution and today, wireless, solar-powered cameras are a real-world option. These new devices dramatically reduce power requirements to enable the camera to be powered by solar panels installed on the housing of the camera. Furthermore, the camera is completely free of wires, allowing for placements in remote areas that would otherwise be cost prohibitive. This unique single-unit approach reduces the overall project footprint and installation time. This solution is ideal for use in remote areas and reduces the product’s and the end customer’s overall environmental footprint. Trenching and power requirements are eliminated, overall costs are reduced and the power of the sun is leveraged to increase security in perimeter applications.