Whether its covert or overt operations, mobile surveillance is experiencing its fair share of innovation.
Mobile Surveillance is the opposite of fixed surveillance. Basically it is an untethered camera that can be moved around and allows live streaming from cars, drones, body cams, boats, riot vans, public safety vehicles, and even animals for the purpose of monitoring.
What is emerging in terms of mobile surveillance trends?
At Soliton, we see evolving requirements in terms of lower latency, 5G connectivity, IP Cameras, and cloud. And drones!
It is no longer low latency, but ultra-low latency that is the terminology being used for low delay. For mobile surveillance, live streams are typically connected via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and/or cellular. Typically delays back to a command and control room would be, until recently, a minimum of two seconds. This meant operational decision making would often need confirmation on the ground by separate eye-balls over audio, but now ultra low latency from Soliton Systems, it can be as low as 65ms over 4G. This is 0.065 of a second allowing commanders to see operations in the field practically in real time.
The promises behind 5G are practically endless in terms of very high bandwidth and low latency. But the major issue is that 5G is not fully deployed, and won’t be for some time, but also because it uses mmwave, it does not propagate far when compared to 4G. But when it is available it allows high resolutions such as 4K video, and facilitates ultra low latencies of around 35ms, as opposed to 65ms over 4G. Technology and operations will continue to use both 4G and 5G for some time to come.
IP cameras are nothing new in the fixed surveillance world, but are becoming more prevalent in mobile surveillance. They have advantages in terms of live streaming in that they are cheaper. They include encoding on the camera meaning you can connect them directly to a low cost MiFi router or 4G/5G dongle. The disadvantage is that they hugely unreliable over cellular. If the bandwidth drops below a certain threshold, they just stop – there’s no “adaptive encoding” that you get with existing baseband encoders that is necessary for reliable live streaming over unstable networks, such as cellular. Also the latency would never be in the ultra-low level domain, typically the lowest being around 0.5 seconds, but often users are experiencing more delay and often it is not a fixed delay. Soliton has an IP camera versus non-IP camera blog that considers many of the issues around live streaming over cellular mobile phone connections.
Cloud and Security
Cloud means different things to different people for surveillance, whether its for remote management of cameras, or used for decoding of video and distribution of content. The issue with public cloud for hosting is security. Given mobile surveillance is used by law enforcement, border control, security companies, and government agencies, any public cloud offering is not secure. Any company with a hosted management platform will in the majority of cases, have access to your live streams. Traditional point-to-point transmission systems with no third party cloud service is still preferred by many government agencies with the decoder, often connected to a Video Management System (VMS) in the command room, sitting behind a firewall within a DMZ network (demilitarized zone). Streams should be encrypted when being live streamed and should only be decrypted once inside the DMZ so they cannot be intercepted over the public cellular network.
Drones continue to be adopted by emergency services and government agencies, and have become a vital tool for mobile surveillance as well as crowd and operational control, evidence gathering, missing person searches, border control surveillance, and by fire brigades with thermal cameras. Drones are now moving into a new era of technology with Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) where drones are remotely operated from a far away location. For remote operate, ultra-low latencies becomes important for steering in real time. But also drones do not want to carry heavy transmitters, so a software encoder that works over cellular is also being integrated and deployed into the drone itself allowing remote control from a command room. Solitons RASCOW2 will be available in early 2023 as a software APK for integration into existing hardware that includes drones.
Soliton continues to develop its Mobile Surveillance and welcomes partners and integrators to build more tightly coupled solutions. Please contact us for an exploratory discussion.