TOO often video
surveillance people get stuck inside the square when it comes to CCTV
applications but this powerful solution, installed by Eastern Installations and
Direct Alarm Supplies for Gippsland Ports, clearly indicates the opportunities
clever integrators can find outside traditional protection applications.

The solution is
designed to monitor the Lakes Entrance Bar, a dangerous section of water
outside the Entrance Channel that links the Gippsland Lakes with Bass Strait.
The entry to Lakes Entrance was established with the construction of training
walls way back in 1890. This manmade opening connects the Gippsland Lakes to
Bass Strait. It is subject to significant sand movement and requires ongoing
dredging to maintain safe and navigable access to and from the Gippsland Lakes.

In order to keep
a channel open, the side cast dredge April Hamer regularly works the channel
but despite this constant effort, vast shifting sandbars and heavy onshore
swells make navigation a serious hazard. Many lives and many vessels have been
lost on the Lakes Entrance Bar.

In a bid to
improve safety on the bar, Gippsland Ports decided to install a powerful video
surveillance solution that would allow GP staff to remotely monitor sea and bar
conditions on behalf of vessels crossing the bar. Gippsland Ports undertake a
number of dredging options for removal of sand from around the Entrance Channel
and the inner channels of the Lakes System. These include dredging via the
Cutter Suction Dredge Kalimna and the Sand Shifter pumps on the eastern side of
the eastern training wall. Sand is pumped from both the Kalimna and Sand
Shifter through the Sand Transfer Station to outfalls located approximately 1
km east and west of the Entrance

Importantly,
before the Kalimna and Sand Shifter are activated, staff need to check the
outfalls to make sure there are no obstructions. It’s a process that’s time
consuming and Gippsland Ports management realised a surveillance system that
would let staff make these checks remotely would be a real benefit. But there
was a catch. Because 4 of the proposed camera sites are in remote locations
with no communications and no power, linking these remote sites to a central
location was going to be a serious challenge.

Planning

Vital to getting
the job done was planning and this involved a lot of teamwork with integrator,
Eastern Installations. According to Direct Alarm Supplies’ Rowville branch
manager, Peter Grimshaw, DAS and Eastern Installations formed a strong
partnership.

“We could not
have completed this project without Eastern Installations and they would not
have been able to take the first step without us,” Grimshaw explains. “Our
partnership was formed literally from the first phone inquiry from Eastern
Installations.”

Grimshaw says
that Eastern Installations had an existing relationship with Gippsland Ports,
and when the Sand Management Group, a division of Gippsland Ports, first raised
the proposed project with EI some two years ago, DAS Rowville was contacted
immediately.

“The concept was
basically a scope of works,” he says. “We had to come up with a workable
solution and then sell the concept and the theory to Gippsland Ports in
conjunction with Eastern Installations. We were a project team operating
independently but under the work guidelines of Eastern Installations.”

Because DAS was
involved throughout the planning stages, the company was up to its neck in this
job with all the challenges you’d expect thrown in. As a rule DAS doesn’t
undertake actual installations but the ground-breaking technology required
meant the Direct Alarm Supplies team had to get hands-on.

“This project was
made even more complicated by the fact we decided to specify Fluidmesh, a
product that we had never really had much exposure to,” Grimshaw says.

“I put together a
project team of three staff and then commissioned some additional support
commitments from the senior product staff at Pacific Communications, mainly
Mark Shannon and his team.”

Grimshaw says the
unique nature of the effort meant he had to undertake deep background planning
before the installation began.

“The strategic
plan outlined all our resource requirements, costs, product variations, third
party support requirements, effects on our customer base and potential
disruption to our operation,” he explains.

“With this
project being undertaken some 350km (three and half hours drive) from our
office, the logistics of our support commitments was always going to be
tested.”

Grimshaw also
went through a detailed SWOT analysis to ensure the DAS team was capable of
undertaking the commitment. The costs and benefits to the team were weighed up
and Grimshaw decided the project was worth the investment and would have
benefits to his staff and the business.

“Much revolved
around establishing my team’s ability to see this project through to the end,”
he says. “Did we really understand the technology and what support would be
made available to us if called upon?

“There were many
occasions that I thought to myself, ‘what have I got us into’”, Grimshaw
admits. “But in saying that I never contemplated pulling out of the project – I
had full confidence in my team to pull it off. It was made so much easier by
the accommodating attitude of Gippsland Ports and of Darryn Truscott and his
team at Eastern Installations.”

Wireless
transmission solution

Once all the
preliminary planning was done and the proposed system accepted by Gippsland
Ports, it was time to get the installation underway. Of particular importance
for DAS was the Fluidmesh product and fortunately, DAS and Eastern
Installations had the perfect ally in Pacific Communications.

“Because this was
the first major Fluidmesh installation in Australia we wanted Fluidmesh
Networks’ support,” says Grimshaw. “The process for DAS was that we enlisted
Mark Shannon’s team at Pacom to help and they acted as the information conduit
for us.

“This way we had
a simple flow of information and all relevant stakeholders were across all the
developments and all the many challenges as they happened.”

As DAS’ technical
sales representative, Anthony DeBenedetto explains things, when Darryn Truscott
from Eastern Installations approached Direct Alarm Supplies he was looking for
a system to support the Lakes Entrance Sand Management Program for monitoring
waves, sea levels and weather conditions for incoming ships and boats at the
Lakes Entrance Bar. 

“As well as
monitoring conditions at the Bar and Entrance Channel, the system needed to
allow Gippsland Ports’ Sand Management staff to monitor outfall areas to ensure
the areas are clear before any dredging or sand pumping can commence” explains
DeBenedetto.

“To save the
staff from making trips to the outfalls, a CCTV system with long-range wireless
video transmission was required,” he says. “This system would give Gippsland
Ports’ staff real time images from the required locations as well as making
video footage of sea and bar available to the public and shipping companies via
the Internet.”

According to DeBenedetto,
Gippsland Ports supplied a specification for the Lakes Entrance Sand Management
Program that included the installation of 6 Pelco Esprit PTZ cameras.

“The Pelco Esprit
cameras are ideal for this application,” DeBenedetto says. “They have 24x optical
zoom, a motorised wiper on the front window of the camera and an output to
drive a water pump to spray water to clean the front window of the camera
housing – essential in salty coastal conditions.”

The powerful
Pelco Esprit PTZs are located at 6 lookout points including Jemmy’s Point,
Flagstaff, Entrance East, Entrance West, Outfall East and Outfall West.

“Because the
cameras are in remote locations a wireless system was needed to relay signals
back to the control room,” says Di Bendetto. “The wireless system chosen to
link these cameras is Fluidmesh.

“Fluidmesh is a
wireless transmission system with some similarities to WiFi wireless video
transmission except it allows you to transmit video and data to several
different points across an IP Ethernet network rather than using analogue
video,” he explains. “Fluidmesh transmits on the 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz radio
transmission bands which are license-free and can support MPEG-4 video
transmission.”

DeBenedetto says
Fluidmesh is extremely flexible and reliable compared to most other video
transmission systems. With Fluidmesh, video is transmitted in a mesh-like
structure where each camera can transmit from one point to another point, as
well as reporting to a central location in a traditional star topology.

Mesh networks are
extremely robust – perfect for the rugged environment into which they were to
be installed at Lakes Entrance. The technology derives its stability from use
of an advanced internal prioritisation and optimisation system, capable of
detecting the type of packet transmitted (TCP, UDP, etc), and the employed
video-encoding standard. Essentially, Fluidmesh technology creates a
network of dynamic wireless bridges with multiple paths to the central network
gateway. If a single camera node fails, all others continue to stream video by
altering the wireless links they’re using – it’s clever stuff.

The system

DeBenedetto says
the nature of the system was driven by Gippsland Ports’ need for a simple
solution that’s user friendly and easily serviced for maintenance and repairs
in the future. While a full IP solution was considered, it was decided to have
the entire system hardware managed to avoid software complexity.

“The design of a
Fluidmesh project is crucial,” says DeBenedetto. “Firstly you need to get a
plan of the site and at Lakes Entrance we used Google Earth to view the
proposed area. Same as any Fluidmesh project, we had to focus on key factors
including ensuring points are in line-of-sight, and distances between cameras
were calculated so correct antenna could be used. When the site plan was
finished it was sent to Fluidmesh in Italy for final approval.”

“This way if a
camera or DVR was to fail or break down, a new one could be sent directly to
site and replaced instantly,” DeBenedetto says. “Essentially the system
structure is plug-and-play without there being a demand for software
technicians to get involved whenever there’s a need for repairs.”

At the heart of
the system is a Pelco DX8100 8-channel DVR with 2 terabytes of storage. When
supporting the 6 PTZs, the DX8100 gives more than 30 days continuous timelapse
recording. Staff drive the system using the DX8100’s simple and very functional
GUI. Taking care of public access to live footage is via the DVR, with LESMP  website developers accessing the DVR using
the Exportal video capture program.

Out in the field,
stainless steel housings mounted on poles support necessary support systems and
the back-up power that drives them. These systems are complex in their own
right and in some instances include power generation equipment including solar
panels and wind turbines.

In terms of
system operation in the field, DAS’ technical field support representative
Chris Brennan explains that each remote camera station’s Esprit camera signal
travels down a coaxial drop cable to a DVTel encoder in the remote housing. The
encoder converts the analogue video signal to a digital IP signal. From the
encoder, IP video signals travel to the Fluidmesh transmitter which sends them
through the antenna to a gateway at a central location. The Fluidmesh
transmitters use an omnidirectional antenna for distances under 400m or an
directional grid or parabola antenna for longer hauls.

“The central
gateway is the receiving point where all the video channels are received,” says
Brennan. “As the signal is received as an IP signal it has to be converted back
to analogue through a DVTel decoder before being plugged into the DVR.

“In this
application, 6 single-channel encoders must be used with a network switch at
the receiver end, rather than a 6-channel encoder,” he explains. “This is
because a 6-channel encoder can’t output 4 channels of PTZ data to each of the
encoders for simultaneous control of the 4 PTZs.

“Fluidmesh can
transmit real time video although it has limited global bandwidth of 9Mbps,”
says Brennan. “Generally speaking, a real time picture at 25 frames per second
at 4CIF is equal to 4Mbps, per camera. When designing the system we restricted
each camera to 1.5Mbps, allowing us to accommodate 6 cameras on the system.”

Installing the
system: Stage 1

DeBenedetto says
that once Eastern Installations’ Darryn Truscott had been given the go-ahead to
proceed with the installation by Gippsland Ports, all stock was ordered from
Pacom, Pelco and Hills Antenna’s.

“This process
took about 3 weeks as some equipment had to be ordered from overseas,” he says.
“Once the stock had arrived we constructed a miniature prototype of the system
in DAS’ Rowville warehouse. All the Fluidmesh boxes were wired up with the antennas
connected in different areas of the warehouse and all the PTZ cameras connected
and addressed with the correct protocol.

DeBenedetto says
the DVTel encoders and decoders were connected next.

“We programmed
the DVR and set it up to communicate with these 6 channels of video and data,”
he says. “When all this was done, the IP addresses were set so the Fluidmesh
boxes and encoder/decoders could be installed with the system completely
pre-programmed.”

Pre-commissioning
complex systems before delivery is stuff the big multinational integrators do
and Grimshaw affirms it was an excellent idea that gave the installation team
real benefits in the field.

“Pre-commissioning
is something that we had not attempted on this scale,” he explains. “The
testing procedure was heavily discussed during our planning phase and it was
universally agreed that we needed to have a working model signed off before we
even went to site.

“The DAS Rowville
warehouse was literally turned into a makeshift installation site for several
weeks,” says Grimshaw. “Chris and Anthony, with the assistance of their work
mates, ensured the system was completely operational before we went to site. As
usual, things changed, and so did the scope of works which complicated things
further.”

The pre-commissioning
involved an intensive process.

“Once we were
sure the system was functioning correctly, we bench tested it in our
warehouse,” DeBenedetto says. “The products were then labelled with clear
terminal markings on all connection points and the gear packed and sent to
Lakes Entrance for installation.”

DeBenedetto says
that in stage one of the installation, Darryn’s Eastern Installations’ team had
to install the first camera unit on Jemmy’s Point, and then set up the Gateway
at GP central location.

“The DAS team was
then required to join Eastern Installations on the site and configure the
network, cameras and DVR,” he says. “By then we were familiar with the setup
and wiring of the system thanks to the testing we’d done in the DAS warehouse
so Darryn requested we assist with the cable connections, antenna connections
and position, as well as wiring of the encoder, cameras, and the wiring and
addressing of encoders.

“We also assisted
Darryn with the Gateway wiring from the receiving tower back to the control
room where the Pelco DVR and monitor are installed,” says DeBenedetto. “The
Pelco DX8100 was programmed for continuous recording at 4 CIF and 6 frames per
second, while all other settings were set as requested by Gippsland Ports’ Sand
Management Group staff.

Brennan says
there were some enjoyable and challenging pieces of integration that needed to
be undertaken to meet Gippsland Ports’ specifications.

“We used a Tecom
relay (TS0843) triggered by the 2 auxiliary outputs on the Pelco Esprit to deliver
power to a pump, which delivers water to a nozzle,” Brennan explains. “When the
faceplate of the camera housing needs to be cleaned, it’s a matter of panning
and tilting the camera to face the water nozzle, then activating auxiliary 2 on
the camera to drive the wiper.

“Once all this
was completed, the power supplies were plugged into a 650VA UPS powering the
camera system and stage one was operational.”

Installing the
system: Stages 2 & 3

With the first
camera installed at Jemmy’s Point, Eastern Installations put in the next camera
at Flagstaff – a location about 800 metres from the Gateway. All equipment and
material for this camera point needed to be transported by boat, as Flagstaff
was across the Cunninghame Arm Channel and installed on dunes overlooking Bass
Strait.

“This site needed
to be wired the same way as camera 1, except that Flagstaff needed a camera
address dipswitch and an IP address,” says Brennan. “The Fluidmesh unit here
has a 2.4GHz directional antenna aimed towards the Gateway and a 5.8GHz omni
directional antenna pointing towards the beach area.

“Once this camera
was in it was back to the Gateway to set up and program the camera into the
DVR. We then set up the programming in the DVR for the wiper – again controlled
by aux 1, with the washer pump powered by aux 2,” he says. “The GUI setup for
these first 2 cameras was then completed.”

According to
DeBenedetto, the next pair of cameras were installed along the east side of the
entrance giving a view of the ocean and the bar and 1 km further east to the
outfall east site.

“Getting these
cameras in took a little while as the poles could not be concreted in and
instead had to be custom-built to remain fixed in the sand with the minimum of
disturbance to meet council requirements,” DeBenedetto says.

“These poles
basically have a corkscrew at the bottom end of the pole which screws deep into
the sand,” he says. “The bottom of the pole is where the stainless steel
cabinet was mounted. Inside the cabinet are the washer pump, the water, the
power supplies, batteries, voltage regulator, and 12 to 240-volt inverter.”

Brennan explains
that the wiring is fed from these cabinets up inside the pole to the top where
Pelco Esprit, Fluidmesh, DVTel encoder and antennas are mounted.

“Also at the top
of each of these particular poles is a pair of 124-watt polycrystalline solar
panels which charge three 100 amp-hour batteries located in the cabinet below,”
says Brennan. “This remote power was required because there’s no mains power
available at the beach locations.

“The total
measured current drawn by the inverter while powering up all the appliances was
3.22 amps at 14 volts (45 watts), including all inverter and power supply
losses and inefficiencies.”

The first of
these 2 cameras monitors Outfall East and has a 5.8GHz omni directional antenna
facing back towards Flagstaff, while a second antenna faces east towards the
next solar powered camera at the Entrance East location.

“These 2 cameras
were connected with assistance from DAS,” says Brennan.

“They are wired
the same as cameras 1 and 2, except for the solar panels and the inverter. With
the inverter we had to be careful to ensure it was a pure sine wave model as
other types had the potential to introduce harmonics and EMI.

“The camera
installed at Entrance East uses a 2.4GHz directional antenna and the 5.8GHz
output is terminated with a 75-ohm terminator.”

Once the 2 beach
cameras were installed they were tested for signal strength back to the Gateway
using the Fluidmesh program through the network connected to a laptop.

Installation
Stage 4

The final stage
of the installation up to this point (the system is still evolving), was
undertaken between January 13 and February 15, 2009. According to DeBenedetto,
by this time the Lakes Entrance Sand Management Program had approved another 2
cameras to be mounted at the western side of the Entrance Channel at Entrance
West and 1km further west to the Outfall west.

“Eastern
Installations spent several months working on system components before preparing
the site for the mounting of poles,” says DeBenedetto.

“There had been
some improvements made to the overall system based on the experience gathered
through working with the system.

“The first of
these enhancements was to only mount the Fluidmesh box, the antennas, the
camera and the solar panels on the top of the pole, with things like the
encoder, power supplies, washer bottle and relay all mounted in the stainless
steel cabinet for easier access,” he says.

“The next
improvement was the addition of 400-watt wind generators installed at each of
the solar powered locations. Wind power was needed to increase the current
available for storage, especially in winter when sunlight hours are limited.”

DeBenedetto says
it was also found that when distances got over 500 metres the 5.8GHz 16dB grid
antennas had only just enough gain to handle their tasks.

“These antennas
were mounted approximately 8 metres high and we only had approximately -70dB
gain meaning we were getting intermittent signal faults,” he says. “We had to
procure some upgraded 5.8GHz 26dB grid antennas which give a very stable signal
and we’d recommend these antennas for anyone thinking of using wireless for
similar distances.”

With the new
upgraded cameras and support equipment installed, the rest of the system was
then programmed and the remaining 4 DVR channels set up for video and
data.  Wiper and washer commands were
fully tested and as part of the installation, network configurations had to be
sorted out and this meant encoder and decoder units required a firmware upgrade
to version 4.80m (build 770).

Boots and all

When you’re
overwhelmed by the complexity of the technology it’s easy to forget the
enormous challenges faced by technicians from Eastern Installations on this job.
It was a big effort and Eastern went at it with a will. The breadth of the task
is underscored by the fact the company has 8 full-time technicians and 5 of
them were involved in this project.

Eastern
Installations’ Darryn Truscott says the process began when he spotted a tender
advertisement in the local paper. 

“One part of my
first reaction was to phone DAS to find out what product was available to meet
the tender requirement,” Truscott says. “When we found that the ideal product
was a new technology we instantly realized that an alliance needed to be formed
between EI and DAS if the project was going to be successful.

“The second part
of my first reaction was excitement,” Truscott enthuses.

“This project
required full design of a solution as part of the winning tender and so we
threw every resource into it.” 

Truscott says
Eastern Installations was heavily involved in system planning along with the
Sand Management Group and DAS.

“It was a
complete team effort,” Truscott says.

Hardware was
Eastern Installations’ department and the company’s techs were entirely
responsible for all the hardware installation.

“We did the lot,
from the corkscrew pole mountings through to installation of the solar system,
all of which was a major contributing factor to the tender outcome,” Truscott
says.

“Though having
said that, it was impossible to be on site with some of the DAS boys without
them wanting to get involved with the installation. They were hands on when it
came to cabling.”

When you talk
about an installation like this one it’s tough to appreciate the fact that
Eastern Installations techs spent 2000 man-hours outside on the underbelly of
Australia installing delicate, heavy, expensive electronic equipment. And they
did it without readily available AC power.

“From our
perspective it was about the heat, the cold, the wind, the rain – the remote
locations,” Truscott says. “There were things like barging vehicles to remote
locations, the 4WD on the beach getting stranded, waiting on the beach for the
weather to break so the barge could retrieve us.

“Then there was
working at heights in remote locations all the while meeting OH&S
requirements while somehow managing to physically manhandle heavy equipment for
kilometres across impossible sandy terrain,” he says.

“But while it was
tough it has been a pleasure to work on this project – I’d do it again in a
heartbeat.”

Truscott has some
tips for electronic security installers undertaking integrations on beaches.

“Everything is 10
times harder than on solid land when you’re working on a beach,” he warns. “If
you drop it, you lose it. If you think it will take a day, it will take a week
– that’s how it was.”

Simply put, the
system Eastern Installations put in at Lakes Entrance is the only solution in
Australia that ticks the boxes this one does.

There’s no comms
infrastructure, no power, no access, and in many places no facilities of any
kind. Considering all these challenges, Truscott agrees that it feels good to
have put together what is truly a unique solution.

“It is very
satisfying, and has been a pleasure to be involved with the people from LESMP
and DAS – the DAS team do specialise in client service,” he says.

And most
important from Truscott’s point of view, the feedback from the customer has
been good.

“They are very impressed
with the technology and the quality of images,” he says. “There are still some
final adjustments needed but the system is coming together well.”

Truscott says the
community is also involved with the system with locals getting online and using
the cameras to check the ocean and bar conditions before taking their boats
out.

“I don’t know the
exact amount of hits the system’s web site is getting,” Truscott says. “But I
do know that it is many, many thousands.”

Installation
challenges

DAS’ Chris
Brennan says there were a number of challenges faced by the installation team
and many lessons learned along the way.

“A key thing we
did that proved highly successful was pre-addressing the network and testing
the devices before they are delivered to site for installation,” says Brennan.

“We also
discovered in the course of the installation that when assembling the grid
antennas the position of the grid and LMB must be mounted with the same
polarity or signal gain will be lost. The idea is to ensure that all antennas
are the same polarity to the adjacent antenna and not different. It’s a simple
mistake but if you make it, most the signal will be lost.”

According to
Brennan, while cameras 1 and 2 have a signal of approximately 49dBm, cameras 3
and 4 have a gain of 75dBm and the images generated by the system are
excellent, with good resolution and clarity.

“Generally with
readings of around 80dBm we noticed borderline readings. When we used the omni
directional antennas over 400 metres we found they were unable to output a
consistent signal,” he says.

“We also found
the 5.8GHz antennas generally transmitted about one third of the distance of an
equal gain antenna in 2.4GHz,” Brennan explains.

“And we also
found that installers should never power up the Fluidmesh unit unloaded – the
antennas must be connected before power-up or the outputs can fail.

“A final lesson
was that while the Pelco cameras we used are nitrogen pressurised for
environmental seal factors, they don’t come pressurised because of airfreight
regulations,” Brennan explains. “This means an installer needs to arrange to
get the cameras filled by BOC Gas before installation, unless otherwise
pre-arranged.”

According to
DeBenedetto and Brennan, the Fluidmesh installation at Lakes Entrance is a
powerful and reliable video surveillance solution that overcomes a range of
challenges relating to remote power and the lack of traditional communications
infrastructure.

“When the Pelco
Esprit PTZ cameras supported by Fluidmesh were demonstrated to Gippsland Ports
staff there’s no doubt they were extremely pleased by the technology and the
potential of the cameras,” DeBenedetto says.

“We’re delighted
with this installation and credit goes to Darryn at Eastern Installations and
everyone else involved for developing a system that successfully meets the
enormous challenges posed by this application.”

Meanwhile,
Grimshaw says every single person involved played their part in ensuring the
installation was success.

“Eastern
Installations was totally dedicated to this project on a full-time basis for at
least eighteen months,” he says. “The DAS project team, which consisted of
Anthony DeBenedetto, Chris Brennan and myself, was also heavily involved.

“The boys would
have made at least 12 trips to the site, each consisting of four days at a
time, not to mention the additional man hours put in back in the office.”

“I am really
proud of what my team achieved,” Grimshaw says. “We threw everything at this so
it is very pleasing to know that we have achieved something special. It is
additionally satisfying to have completed this project with the guys at Eastern
Installations. We have made some great friends there.

“From a DAS point
of view, credit must be given specifically to Anthony and Chris, as they were
the ones who had to physically make this system happen. There was also great
technical advice and input from Pacom’s Mark Shannon. 

“Most
importantly, Gippsland Ports is also very happy with the project, which was
completed on time and within budget,” Grimshaw says. “The job did not go
without its challenges but Gippsland Ports was extremely accommodating knowing
full well there was a combination of many technologies in their evolving
solution.”