Bob's Adventures in Wireless and Video Headline Animator

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wes Simpson to Present at VidTrans 2011

Wes Simpson who works with HauteSpot as the Director of Business Development on the East Coast, among many other things he does, will be presenting at the Video Services Forum annual VidTrans conference this Wednesday, February 2nd. The conference is being held at the Marriott Hotel in Marina Del Rey and Wes' presentation will begin at 1:15pm.

Wes asked me to help him with his topic "Transmitting Live Video on 3G: Will the Mobile Phone Network Work for Contribution?". I was only too happy to help repay Wes for all the help he has given me over the years.

Broadcast video is looking for alternatives to the incredible costs they incur for electronic news gathering or live remotes. With the advent of 4G wireless services and much better compression like H.264, coupled with low cost HD cameras that are capable of streaming using IP, broadcasters are starting to become interested in using these services to reduce their production costs.

We actually started HauteSpot back in 2005 with this application in mind. Unfortunately we were about 6 years too early to market. Broadcasters were not ready to abandon their SDI and microwave based systems for "risky and unproven" IP technology. But as budgets tighten and competition intensifies, the motivating factors to consider alternatives grows.

Our recently developed eWRAP product which we are OEMing to Global Emergency Resources, is an ideal platform for this new IP wireless adoption in broadcasting. It is flexible, designed for video, is easy to use, and is low cost compared to the alternatives. Combine this with some new products that we will be announcing at ISC West for wireless recording for store and forward, and we finally may see the broadcast industry starting to adopt our technology.

If you are in the Los Angeles area, you might want to stop in to see Wes' presentation. I will try to get a copy of it to post after the show.

Oh, and BTW, Wes is an accomplished author with several books out on Video Over IP. Check them out on Amazon.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

You get what you pay for

This week I was asked by a customer what the difference was between a commercial grade wireless router and a consumer grade router. The answer is performance.

I found a site called Small Net Builder that runs benchmarks on a variety of equipment. One of the tests they run is for wireless routers. They use Ixia Chariot to test end to end performance between a wireless client and a end node connected over Ethernet. This is the same testing method that we have used for years.

The following chart shows what the top 4 802.11N consumer routers on the market can do. These are routers that cost upwards of $200 and are for indoor use.

As you can see even under ideal conditions, at short range, indoors, with a 40MHz MIMO channel the throughput can barely exceed 100Mbps. This is UDP performance, not even TCP and the distances are only 65 feet maximum. Generally the best performance was at 6 feet apart.

Remember that these are routers that are advertised at 300Mbps. This is theoretical throughput under ideal conditions with a processor architecture capable of supporting such data rates.

So what is the deal? Wireless routers have processors, buses, memory, radio modules, cavity filters, and antennas. When building a router you can choose components which are price oriented or performance oriented. Consumer routers are designed to be affordable. The processors have limited packet forwarding capacity. The bus speed may be too slow to keep up with network traffic. The clock speed of the processor may be too slow. The memory may be insufficient to buffer enough traffic to make up for retransmissions, etc.

A commercial router, like those from HauteSpot, is designed for performance. When we design our routers we look at the entire system and make sure that all components are balanced. Our processors are fast with clock speeds of 680MHz, our memory is large (128MB or more), our bus speed is fast, our radios are high gain and designed for range and performance. The result is that running the same test, at 500 feet we are able to achieve 120Mbps TCP and 95Mbps TCP. You simply cannot achieve this type of performance with parts in the consumer price range.

Further, if you wanted to to run protocols like our TDMA like protocol (TLP) or in full duplex mode, consumer class routers would not have the capacity to support the demands of these demanding applications.

So, pretty much you get what you pay for. If you need performance to support wireless video applications like megapixel surveillance, then you have to have the right architecture. That is why commercial wireless routers cost as much as they do. You can pay less, but you will not get the performance you need.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I thought I saw the coolest VMS in the World

I hold in my laptop a demonstration of the most exciting Video Management innovation I have seen. Or at least that I had seen up until three days ago.

I love Google Earth. It is fun, intuitive, fast, and provides access to a mind boggling amount of knowledge in an easy to understand user interface. If only there were a way to link in real time video streaming from cameras and overlay them on the Google Earth map, that would be the coolest VMS interface on the planet, or Earth.

That is exactly what some really smart people from academia have created: a technology which is nothing short of awe inspiring. Using distributed computing, lots of video algorithms and some leading edge modeling tools they are able to dynamically overlay real time video onto two and three dimensional models.

The result is...well take a look here

The system scales to thousands of cameras and can contain meta data which can create alarms and alerts based on camera analytics that appear on the map. It allows you to not only view all of your cameras in a context that is immediately obvious, but you can map data into the map as well. So instead of seeing all of the gas stations in the area (my common use for Google Maps), you could see the status of all of your alarms, the pressure of your valves, the temperature of your motors, the status of your locks or just about anything else you could imagine. And then you can zoom down to look at your property or equipment up close.

The interface starts with 3D models. Basically you map the world in 3 dimensional axis and then can map the points on the axis to data. This data can be pixels from an image or data from a any other source. Once mapped, the 3D world can have images superimposed on them to reflect their exact field of view, azimuth, and vertical height. This is done through complex image recognition that searches the 3D world and indexes it to the images in the 2D world, then aligning the two so that they mesh perfectly.

Any camera can be superimposed on the 3D model to let you fly through the world, looking down, across or up from the point of view of the camera. City streets can be flown over showing people walking on the sidewalk, cars driving down the street, or kids playing in their yards. All you need to do is align the camera to the image, map a couple of reference points, and voila, you are done.

The applications for this technology in surveillance are obvious. Central station monitoring companies could manage entire city sectors, tracking criminals from house to house, using the perspective of the cameras they have installed on their customers premise. You could rapidly search the area around an alarm to find where the suspect may be.

In public safety PSAPs and EOC could use this technology to manage traffic, disasters, events, etc.

I thought this was about the best thing ever for surveillance. But last week I saw something even more amazing. Can't talk about it, but it will revolutionize surveillance equally, if not more, than this 3D overlay technology. I only wish I could say more...Suffice to say that if we combine the 3D overlay technology with this other out Earth.

If you want more information on the 3D overlay technology, just let me know and I would be happy to talk to you about it or give a live demo.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Integrity and Technical Claims

Truth, integrity, honesty.

These are simple words. Concepts we are taught as children. Our parents punish us for lying. Our pastors told us it was a sin to lie. We all know right from wrong, yet when it comes to marketing, all the rules go out the window.

In wireless the claims get really wild. Range, throughput, latency, reliability, security...pretty much any attribute for a wireless link you can imagine has a set of outlandish claims made about it. When specifying wireless products the first rule is that they are called the "law of physics" because they have been proven to be true. Light travels at 299792.458 km/s. Modulation schemes yield a fix throughput based on the channel width and number of points in the constellation. Energy dissipates over distance. Matter has known density.

Marketeers are great at making claims that are difficult for end users to really evaluate. Take WiFi. Most of you have heard about 54Mbps, 108Mbps or even 300Mbps wireless. These are impressive numbers, but they are based on totally unattainable conditions. The 54Mbps number which most of us are familiar are with for WiFi is the theoretical maximum capacity of a 64-QAM modulation carrier in a 20MHz channel under ideal conditions. When you actually establish a link at 54Mbps you might actually achieve UDP throughput of only 35 to 40Mbps and TCP throughput, with overhead, of 25 to 28Mbps using 802.11 a/g.

It would be like buying a car with a EPA fuel efficiency rating of 54 miles per gallon, but where the manufacturer knew that you would only ever be able to get 25 miles per gallon. Would you feel ripped off? I sure would.

Range is another area in wireless where marketeers are great at bending the truth. Claims of 1 mile with low power transmitters attached to low gain antennas are common. Many manufacturers make range claims based on maximum transmit gain and receive sensitivity, which may be achieved using DSSS modulation with data rates of 500kbps TCP. Yet consumers buy equipment based on the the maximum range assuming that they will also achieve maximum throughput at this range too. Modulation complexity causes more energy to be dispersed across more sub carriers, meaning the faster you go, the shorter the distance given the same amount of energy.

We have taken a stand at HauteSpot to tell the truth. We pay a price when we do this. We tell our customers what throughput and range they will actually achieve under real world conditions. Our competitors continue to post theoretical specifications or completely avoid discussing range and throughput entirely. So when we say 35Mbps TCP throughput at 1 mile, that is what we will deliver, not a theoretical throughput of 108Mbps.

Make sure that you are comparing apples to apples. Make sure that the claims are substantiated through math. Use our , or our competitors link calculators to validate throughput calculations.

Tell the truth, accept the laws of physics, and do your math and you will be fine.