Can I Cost-Effectively Monitor Critical Remote Locations?

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1 WHITE PAPER Can I Cost-Effectively Monitor Critical Remote Locations? The Technical and Business Cases for Solar-Powered, Wireless Remote Video Surveillance 2015 MicroPower Technologies, Inc.

2 Introduction The ability to monitor remote and geographically isolated infrastructure sites, where neither power nor network exist, is a core requirement of many industries including oil & gas, petrochemical, transportation and utilities (electric and water). Security and operations teams in these organizations face not only the task of constant situational awareness monitoring these sites regardless of their location but also the responsibility of quickly moving to situational assessment determining when a change in conditions requires a decision regarding resources and deployment. As an example, when the pressure gauge at mile 75 (120km) of a pipeline reports a sudden drop, the operations center wants visual verification of the event. Is the drop due to a visible leak or explosion? Are people in the area? Can we identify them? Are other points on the pipeline and sites that depend on them at risk? Should we contact first-responder organizations? Most often, video is the best way to answer these questions. While telemetry and machine-to-machine (M2M) devices provide data for situational awareness, remote video streaming on demand or alarm-triggered supports the real-time, visual verification that security and operations professionals need to quickly assess a remote situation and take action immediately. Traditionally, the difficulty in monitoring these sites reliably and cost-effectively has left them exposed to risk. However, by creating fully isolated networks around solar-powered, wireless cameras, remote surveillance is now possible. 1

3 Common Problems Defining Remote Surveillance Getting eyes on a remote site involves working around several constraints. 1. Streaming video generates a great deal of data. Depending on the complexity of the scene, a 720p video camera using H.264 encoding generates approximately 0.1 MB/s. Most organizations are accustomed to an uninterrupted feed from surveillance cameras, which typically amounts to nearly 20GB per day. A typical 5GB data plan will allow for 5 hours of video per month. The storage or back-haul of such data can be prohibitively expensive. 2. Network (backhaul) bandwidth is low and costs are high. Sending a continuous video stream from a remote site to a central monitoring station requires a cellular or satellite connection. Without alarm-activated or on-demand monitoring to switch it on and off, live streaming over a wireless connection can be extremely costly. 3. Trenching is expensive, time-consuming and often impossible. Designing around legacy systems often requires trenching, which not only is expensive, but may also damage or interfere with sensitive, legacy infrastructure at the site. In some cases, trenching may not be an option. 4. Time is money. The business- and operations-critical nature of these sites means that the process of installing video surveillance must be predictable and non-disruptive. The time to install hardware for video surveillance must be brief to keep the costs of travel and repeat trips in check. Due to the remote and complex nature of these locations, installation costs are significantly elevated. 5. A central or reliable power source and local network connection are frequently unavailable. For maximum flexibility of installation, remote cameras should be self-contained and self-powered. Still, security and operations professionals rightly focus on the original question. Regardless of the technical approach to monitoring critical infrastructure sites anywhere in the world, how is it possible to access or stream video from multiple cameras cost-effectively? Video surveillance requires that cameras record all the time. Whether on demand or on alert, the cameras must always be available to send real-time, streaming video so that a human can perform visual verification of a change in conditions at the remote site. In addition video based alerts (e.g. motion detection) require continuous full motion video to work effectively. The problem, then, is to configure a remote video surveillance system that is always available to stream video wirelessly without being exorbitantly expensive. The following three steps measure, analyze, improve illustrate an approach to solving the problem. 2

4 1. Measure Cost and Power Deploying the surveillance system involves a mix of one-time capital expenditures (capex) and ongoing operating expenditures (opex). Capital Expenditure for Camera System Capex and power for the camera system are a function of the amount of power it consumes. Traditionally a typical, remote video surveillance unit consists of: Fixed outdoor camera with 720p resolution and H.264 encoding, plus SD card 3-5 Watts Infrared (IR) illumination for night-time surveillance (either integrated into the camera or separate) 3-6 Watts Wireless transmitter (3G/4G/4G LTE cellular or point-to-point) 3-5 Watts Heater/blower as part of a surveillance enclosure 12 Watts Therefore, total power consumption per camera is between 21 and 28 watts per unit, or 25 watts average. Levels of solar isolation 1 vary considerably by location. For purposes of this analysis take an example of a remote location in the State of Missouri, USA. To estimate the battery capacity and rating of a solar panel large enough to keep the camera operating all the time, it is best to use the lowest solar charging month of the year. For the month of January in Missouri, the average daily solar insolation is 3.09 based on the last 22 years of data provided by NASA. The power requirement for a suitable solar panel to charge the batteries would be: watts required by battery per hour (25) x maximum potential operating hours per day (24) x recharge rate to stay ahead of consumption (2) solar irradiance (3.09) = required solar panel capacity (388) Thus, the solar panel surface would need to be large enough to generate 388 Watts to keep the battery safely recharged. For 100-Watt panels, each measuring approximately 48 x 21 (121.9cm x 53.3cm) would suffice for each camera. In order to calculate the battery requirement, one must consider the wattage necessary for 5 days of backup. In the example above, 3,000 Watts are required, or five Gel-pack, deep cycle batteris, which weight 90lbs (40.8kg) each. 25 Watts x 24 hours/day = 3,000 Watt requirement, or a total of five batteries per camera. At 90lbs (40.8kg) each per battery with this traditional four camera system, the total weight of the batteries along is 1,800lbs (816.5kg). 1 Solar insolation is a measure of solar power at a given location. For a detailed explanation, see How Do I Know I Can Rely on It? The Business and Technical Cases for Solar-Recharged Video Surveillance Systems from MicroPower Technologies Inc. 3

5 Capital Expenditure at Installation Installation costs vary widely depending on remoteness of and conditions at the site. Assume an example of 4 remote cameras with large solar panels on an average site configuration, which would require a combination of labor (mounting, configuring radio), materials (pole, concrete, mechanical attachments) and permits. Aside from the labor-and-materials cost of installation, the time to deploy these cameras can be lengthy. Other variables include a certain, hard-to-quantify amount of business interruption, risk of damage to the site and the unknown installation factors. Ongoing Operating Expense for Wireless Communications To minimize ongoing costs, the camera should send the video stream only in the event of an alert or a noteworthy change in conditions in its viewing field. Such events include motion detection, request from a human at the central monitoring station, or a trigger from a preset threshold in the site s telemetry system (e.g., temperature spike, drastic change in pressure). The three most likely network options for carrying the video stream back to the central monitoring station are line-of-sight, cellular and satellite. Line-of-sight, or point-to-point, is least expensive because it does not depend on a carrier network. However, distance and obstructions limit the usefulness of line-of-sight in truly isolated locations. Cellular offers broader application and more geographic coverage than line-of-sight, but it depends on the signal strength and available bandwidth of a carrier network. Satellite is ubiquitous, but requires additional power and is limited by bandwidth. Thus, successfully measuring the cost-effectiveness of a video surveillance system involves the combination of capex and opex that results in the average monthly cost per camera over the 5-year useful life of the system. 2. Analyze Initial Assumptions For purposes of analysis, consider the following values for a traditional 4-camera system over 5 years: Capex camera: Each camera with a heater/blower enclosure, typically would cost $1,829 USD, each transmitter would cost $600 USD and each solar-powered system combination would cost $5,197 USD. Capex installation: The cost to install each camera would be $3,701 USD, including the pole, concrete, permit, wiring, camera mounting/focusing, radio work and mechanical attachments. 4

6 Opex wireless communications: Over 5 years, opex for line-of-sight would be $0. Assuming a 5GB/month 4G LTE data plan at $75 USD per month, the 5-year opex for cellular would be $4,500 USD (A 5GB plan will provide between 7.3 hours and 13.9 hours of video, depending on scene complexity). Opex for a 30GB per month satellite data plan would be $180 USD per month, or $10,800 USD over 5 years. Given these assumptions, the 5-year cost of a remote monitoring system with video streaming would be $63,308 USD, as shown in Table 1. Table 1: Total cost of ownership (USD), MSRP four-camera configuration, with separate network connections. In other words, the average cost per month per camera is $264 USD ($63,308 USD 60 months 4 cameras = $264 USD). 3. Improve the Configuration There are two notable ways to improve this configuration at the system level and lower the average monthly cost per camera. 1. Use ultra-low-power cameras with integrated solar panels Reducing the power consumption of the camera results in a smaller, optimized solar panel and battery backup. Source a commercially available, self-contained, solar-recharged, wireless camera with transmitter, battery and solar panel, capable of streaming low-bandwidth video on 700 milliwatts of power. Keeping the battery recharged requires one 11-Watt panel approximately 12 x 12 in size, as shown in Figure 1 (no heater/blower required). Figure 1 5

7 Benefits The low power camera with small solar panels afford the flexibility of installing the cameras on existing poles and structures near the area of interest. Installation of an integrated solar-powered, wireless system can be as low as $350 USD per camera for mounting and focusing. The smaller footprint of the cameras and solar panels, and battery weight reduces time to deploy. Wireless transmission of the video from the camera to a central video collection point reduces the risk of service interruption, safety hazards, etc. This makes for a more predictable setup with shorter time to install. 2. Deploy a smart hub for video alarm and traffic management Instead of streaming video directly from the 4 separate cameras over the network, consider pooling wireless camera feeds to a centralized hub that manages video alarms and traffic. This central hub can act as a video archive device. In case of a local alert condition or a remote operator request, the hub can stream video to the central monitoring station over a single network connection, thereby using the network only when necessary. Security and operations professionals can also review pre- and post- alarm footage from the video file stored in the hub. watts required by battery per hour, inclusive of cell modem (15) x maximum potential operating hours per day (24) x recharge rate to stay ahead of consumption (2) solar irradiance (3.09) = required solar panel capacity (233) 15 Watts x 24 hours/day x 5 days backup=1,800 watt requirement, or a total of three, 90lbs (41.3kg) Gel-pack, deep cycle batteries for a total of 270lbs (122.5kg). Since the camera and solar panels with this improved design provide an integrated power source, battery consumption is based upon hub and cell router power requirement only. Besides being integrated with a transmitter, the solar-recharged hub may contain common video management system features such as search, region-of-interest alarm triggers and health/status monitoring of the cameras and the hub. Benefits The configuration in this example reduces the number of devices connected to the cellular network from 4 to 1. The hub puts functionality and archive storage on sites that are usually available only in the central monitoring station. Solar recharging eliminates the hub s dependence on an on-site power source. The total battery requirement for a solar-powered hub is 270lbs (122.5kg), or a weight reduction of 85% compared to a traditional solar-powered surveillance system. 6

8 These improvements lower the 5-year cost of the remote monitoring system to $29,497 USD, as shown in Table 2. This reduces the average cost per month per camera to $23 USD. ($29,497 USD 60 months $123 USD). The result is an isolated yet accessible, intelligent video surveillance network at only 47% ($29,497 USD vs. $63,308 USD) of the traditional system cost, with additional flexibility for camera placement. 4. Control Quality With the video alarm and traffic management device in place, the organization can continually monitor or record, yet respond only when necessary. Third party communication services can provide health monitoring of the cellular modem to ensure the integrity of the signal. In case of an unintended event (e.g., sudden drop in pressure, accident, foreign object colliding with site), the alarm functionality in this video monitoring network can automatically send an alert. The isolated yet accessible, intelligent video surveillance network is an important step toward an automated, enterprise-wide approach to remote security and operations. It offers actionable intelligence and forensics that let organizations take preventive measures to deter vandalism and sabotage. 7

9 5. Conclusion The main obstacles inhibiting the protection and surveillance of remote infrastructure and similar sites lie in capital expenditures: the capex to purchase and install video cameras in a traditional manner, and the opex of streaming video from the site to the central monitoring station. The components and features of an isolated yet accessible, intelligent video surveillance network include solar-recharging, low-power wireless cameras, rapid installation on existing poles and structures, and a video alarm and traffic management device (hub) with a single cellular connection. The network represents a system-level approach that allows security and operations professionals to cost-effectively monitor critical infrastructure sites anywhere in the world and move from situational awareness to situation assessment as quickly as possible. 8

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