Based in Eugene, Oregon, Alpha IT has been providing local businesses with affordable, state-of-the-art IT solutions for over fifteen years. One way they keep costs low for customers is to make sensible use of remote management technology, saving themselves and their customers time and money doing on-site maintenance and troubleshooting.
Recently, Alpha IT provided a local lumber mill with a badly needed security upgrade. The old system was a closed-circuit system that had been in place for roughly a decade, and the owners knew an upgrade or full-blown replacement was well overdue.
Oregon is the largest lumber producer in the US with 30.5 million acres of forestland. Naturally, sawmills need a considerable amount of acreage to store lumber and wood supplies. It should come as no surprise that Alpha IT’s client needed a security system that could monitor a full 180,000 square meter spread of property.
The cameras and access points needed a high IP67 rating to protect against the harsh weather and almost constant dampness and rain that is common in Western Oregon. The system also needed to be primarily wireless to cut costs and avoid any contention with workers moving very large logs with massive forklifts. “The ruggedness of the access points was important to us,” said Jordan Widmer, enterprise technician with Alpha IT.
“We were able to come in with a system that included extremely significant cost savings and great video quality.”
According to Widmer, the upgrade was inevitable. The mill’s previous security set-up kept breaking down, and many of the cameras didn’t work. The video quality left a lot to be desired as well. To make matters worse, the lumber mill owners remembered how much it cost to get power cables strung out to all the camera locations and didn’t want a repeat for the Ethernet cables. Ultimately, the mill wanted a wireless security system with good coverage and strong connection without the high price tag.
The lumber mill had installed a total of twenty 1080p, high-resolution security cameras, including two 2-megapixel (PTZ/25x zoom) outdoor cameras for even wider coverage. Alpha IT decided the best option was to create a network of five separate meshes consisting of four cameras and a single root node each.
They decided that five mesh units were better than one large mesh because mesh networks are largely susceptible to the loss of throughput and user capacity in proportion to the number of wireless hops information must make in transmission. The fewer the hops, the better.
To set up each mesh, Widmer walked out to each device location, attached his laptop to the base, performed a factory reset, and configured each device. “You simply add them to the new mesh profile that you want them on, and they join up and behave very nicely,” Widmer said.
Generally, the effectiveness of a mesh network lies in its ability to reroute signals to the second-best pathway if the previously best pathway in the mesh has been blocked or rendered ineffective in some way. For the lumber mill, this would mean uninterrupted surveillance from each of the five mesh groups throughout the property at all times.
Ultimately, creating a wireless mesh network saved on the cost of running Ethernet cable to each of the camera/access point locations. The only Ethernet cable needed was the short few feet from the cameras and access points to the switch box located near each one.
“We were able to come in with a system that included extremely significant cost savings and great video quality,” said Widmer. “It’s been pretty reliable.”
In the end, the five-mesh network proved effective in providing clear, uninterrupted surveillance as well as simple, remote network management of the entire lumber mill property.