Video over IP

How about Solar powered Wireless IP Surveillance Cameras?

There are certain sites where one cannot lay cables to connect to an IP Surveillance Camera, but it might still be required to monitor these sites. Wireless cameras could be used, but they need to be powered using an electrical cable. If an electrical cable can be carried to the camera, a data cable can also be carried! Solar powered wireless IP surveillance cameras could be employed in such situations where one cannot lay any cable till the camera.

In certain sites like construction sites, large farms, parks, ports, roads, highway toll collection centers, remote office locations, workshops, etc. its either not possible to carry cables to connect / power the IP surveillance cameras or its not feasible (cost of trenching, labor, etc).

In such situations, one could look at using Solar powered wireless IP surveillance cameras.

This set up usually includes the following – Solar panels, wireless IP surveillance cameras, batteries, voltage regulation circuitry, appropriate cable connections and an optional pole (on which all these components are mounted).

Solar Panels, power this system by generating electrical power for the functioning of IP Cameras. Since IP Cameras do not need much power, a relatively small sized panel might be sufficient and keeps costs lower. The Solar Panels can generate power when exposed to sunlight.

Since sunlight is not available throughout the day, a battery back-up system is used to store excess electrical power generated by the solar panels during the day, which can be used to power the IP Surveillance camera during the night. The Voltage regulation circuitry ensures that excessive voltage going towards the IP Camera is always redirected to the batteries.

The electrical power generating capacity of the solar panels and the storage capacity of the batteries are important factors. Higher their capacity, more the cost. There are certain such systems that can even power the camera for a few days without any sun-light. But more economical systems might be able to store enough power to last for a few hours or a day. So, low capacity systems may not be suitable for outdoor applications in countries that have poor sunlight (in winter, for example).

In normal sites (where power cable could be carried to the cameras), it is possible to use the AC mains (normal power) to power the IP Cameras and provide the back-up using solar panels (with appropriate electrical circuitry) instead of UPS systems. The only issue is the higher price of solar panels. In some places, there are solar energy credits provided by the Government. So, companies might consider having a full fledged solar panel system for back-up if the lower running costs (including rebates) justifies the higher capital expenditure involved with solar panels.

In order to eliminate the other cable (data cable) which is required for transmitting images from IP Surveillance cameras, there are wireless IP surveillance cameras that can work without cables, using the Wi-Fi technology. Wi-Fi can provide connectivity over the long-range – one mile or a couple of kilo-meters (with minor obstructions), if the wireless technology is optimized for such access.

In a wireless IP Camera, a wireless adapter (wi-fi adapter) is built into the camera and there maybe an external high-power antenna to enhance the distance over which the data is transmitted on the wireless medium. If proper encryption and frequency selection is used by the system, others cannot tap-into it and the interference due to other wi-fi devices operating in the area would be minimum. Its better if the IP Camera can select its frequency of operation dynamically, in order to avoid wireless interference issues, as they occur.

So, if multiple such wireless IP Cameras along with the solar panel/ battery system is placed in the middle of a field (for example), their output can be monitored from a central monitoring location (a room/ house), even if it is about a mile away. If this central monitoring station is connected to the Internet, the output of the IP Cameras can be viewed from anywhere on earth remotely (provided there is enough up-link bandwidth at this location). Technologies like DDNS enable one to view IP Camera output over the Internet, without requiring Static-IP addresses for each camera. It is even possible to switch-on / off some of these cameras from a remote location.

Some cameras might support local recording of events. An event can be movement of people/ vehicle (for example). The camera’s output can be seen at all times, but the camera starts recording when a specified event takes place (and stops after the event ends). With some IP Cameras the needed information is recorded on the camera itself (Using an SD Card, etc), or in most cases, the surveillance output is recorded in the monitoring station. Some might prefer continuous recording (with voice), and even this is possible with sufficient storage infrastructure.

Of course, there are a lot of limitations of such Solar powered Wireless IP Surveillance Cameras. The first and major limitation being its cost. Solar panels are pretty expensive. But if the total cost of an electrical installation is considered (including cables, trenches, running costs etc), perhaps the solar system might provide a faster Return on Investment. The second issue is the standardization of technology and support. Can your local electrician install and maintain these systems and if otherwise, is support available in your area? Lack of sunlight (continuously over a period of days) might be another limitation that needs to be addressed in certain locations.

Even after considering the limitations, one could still say that this is a very promising technology that should be explored actively by IT infrastructure providers. For some reason, alternative energy generation has not been on the agenda for many IT managers!

There are two companies that I came across (over the Internet) who claim to provide Solar powered Wireless IP Surveillance Cameras with Solar Panels and batteries. Of course, we are not in any way connected to them and you need to verify about the services offered by them in case you wish to explore such systems for your facility. They are –

Skyway Security wireless solar powered camera pole mount systems.
Solcam Solar powered wireless IP Camera.

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