Colorado utility turns to microwave backhaul for video-surveillance system
The town of Castle Rock, Colo., which is located about 30 miles south of Denver along Interstate 25 on the way to Colorado Springs, has been designated by both Family Circle magazine and the Web site RelocateAmerica as one of the best places to live in the United States. But that doesn’t mean the town of roughly 46,000 residents is immune to the challenges that afflict other cities and towns across the country. One of those is vandalism.
The water utility in Castle Rock was having problems with vandals, “nothing real significant,” said Gordon Tye, the town’s systems control analyst, mostly tagging and a few broken windows. Nevertheless, towns have a tendency to take their water supplies seriously, and Castle Rock is no exception. The decision was made to further protect the myriad wells and reservoirs — which Tye said are secure sites — with a video-surveillance system. Two cameras were installed at each of the 23 sites under the aegis of the town’s water utility.
When considering how to backhaul the video, bandwidth was a key consideration, because Castle Rock wanted to do more than just surveillance; it also wanted to be able to support other applications eventually, such as automatic vehicle location and the ability to transmit drawings and diagrams to field personnel.
Cost was another important consideration. Tye determined that leasing lines from a commercial operator would be cost-prohibitive. To put that into context, he estimated that a T1 line would cost roughly $250 per month; but such lines would not provide enough bandwidth, so he would need an even costlier solution. He also determined that to transport the feeds from those 23 camera sites, the town ultimately would need seven lines. The fact that leased lines represent a recurring cost also needed to be considered. “Recurring costs are not something we want to get into,” Tye said.
So, he turned to a microwave radio system from Exalt Communications that operates in the licensed 11 GHz frequency band and which delivers data speeds up to 100 Mb/s. Currently, five backhaul sites are in place, and there are plans for two more in the next six months. The system was deployed in a ring configuration, which is a major advantage over leased lines, Tye said.
“It’s self-healing. If I lose a link, it simply turns around and goes the other way, and I don’t lose any of my sites,” Tye said. “It’s done automatically through our Cisco routers. With leased lines, you’re essentially going from a central office to a facility, so you’re not getting the same type of redundancy … it’s a hub-and-spoke instead of a ring.”
The video surveillance system records constantly and is capable of streaming video to a network operations center when security personnel want to remotely check a site, such as when motion is detected.
While Tye said that understands that security systems “only slow down vandals, they don’t stop them,” he also said vandalism is down at Castle Rock’s wells and reservoirs since the video-surveillance system was installed. Tye added that the system serves another important purpose.
“If we were to have some kind of an incident, we would have recorded what happened,” he said. “For instance, if someone got into a hatch and put something in there … we would know that we had to take some sort of action to protect our users. So, doesn’t stop things from happening, but it does allow us to assess what happened and figure out how to respond to it,” he said.