The city of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, is a well-known historic English city located approximately 80 kilometres north of London on the River Cam. Settled in the first century, B.C., Cambridge is one of England’s oldest and best-known cities, famously home to Cambridge University, one of the largest universities in the English-speaking world and one of the top five universities in the world.

The city centre of Cambridge today is comprised primarily of commercial and historic buildings and large green areas such as Jesus Green, a popular park. Many of the roads in the city centre are closed to automobile traffic and have become pedestrian only zones to accommodate visiting tourists and a large student population. In recent years, Cambridge also has become a leading technology hub where many software, electronics and biotechnology start-ups are located, making it one of the most important technology centres in Europe.

Public-space CCTV camera system

The public CCTV system for Cambridge includes cameras throughout the city that are used to monitor public events, thwart crime, manage traffic and provide residents and businesses with a safe place to live and work. The Cambridge City Council oversees the city’s CCTV programme and recently partnered with the nearby Huntingdonshire District Council to share CCTV services.

The shared CCTV system in total monitors 254 cameras across the district, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, covering: Cambridge City, as well as: the town centres of Huntingdon, Godmanchester, Ramsey, St. Ives, St. Neots and Yaxley; and the recreation centres in Huntingdon and St. Ives. From the central command Cambridgeshire Constabulary Communication Centre, security officers also monitor CCTV from remotely activated cameras at Stilton, the Priory Park Sports Pavilion in St. Neots and a CCTV camera at the Alconbury Weston ford to assess river levels and potential flooding.

In its shared arrangement with Huntingdon District Council, Cambridge City Council manages and maintains all of the Council's fixed public-space CCTV cameras and monitors CCTV installed in a range of council services, including car parks and housing projects, and also for a number of external customers. The Council manages re-deployable CCTV cameras that are temporarily located around the city for special events or use.

The Council manages re-deployable CCTV cameras that are temporarily located around the city for special events or use

Upgrading fibre to wireless technology

The Cambridge City CCTV system used leased fibre for several years for connection between its analogue cameras and central command centre. With a reduction of operating expenses in mind, the City Council eventually sought to move to a complete wireless network for its CCTV system, replacing its dependence on and the recurring costs of leased fibre.

In 2012, the City Council installed a legacy wireless network for the city centre CCTV system, enlisting the help of systems integration partner Videcom Security, Ltd., whose headquarters are in nearby Essex county. Videcom installed a 5.8 GHz wireless network to provide CCTV system connectivity, as well as several wireless aggregation points to backhaul CCTV information across the network and 22 new CCTV cameras for the city centre. The deployment of a new wireless infrastructure helped Cambridge City Council to migrate from leased fibre lines, delivering significant operating expense reductions.

Pan-network CCTV footage sharing

In Cambridge’s city centre, Wi-Fi based 5.8 GHz wireless networks abound, given the proximity of Cambridge University, the city’s heavily used public Wi-Fi network and the many commercial and personal networks deployed in the area. As a result of 5.8 GHz saturation, in 2015, following the initial deployment of the Council’s network, the CCTV system began to suffer latency issues, interference and disruption in its communications. The increased latency and congestion made it difficult to track individuals and vehicles, while interference caused transmission delays that resulted in lost video streams.

“To get a sense of the network congestion in the city centre area, our technicians performed spectrum testing and found that on a relatively quiet day, more than 750 applications were using the 5.8 GHz spectrum in the Market Square area alone,” said Ron Johnson. “With more than 16 cameras routed through the Market Square and 40 cameras deployed nearby, the City Council’s CCTV system was competing with hundreds of other networks when trying to move CCTV camera footage across its network.”

Siklu EH-600TX 60GHz millimeter wave radio

Videcom turned to Siklu for help to remedy the latency and interference issues of the Cambridge City Council’s 5.8 GHz CCTV system network, after having tried three other manufacturers’ wireless network solutions to no avail. After securing the approval of the City Council, Videcom deployed a Siklu EH-600TX 60GHz millimetre wave radio to serve as the engine for the wireless CCTV network.

Since deploying the Siklu solution in June 2016, the Council’s CCTV network is fast, reliable and stable and is no longer competing with the many wireless networks in the city centre area. The 60 GHz millimeter wave spectrum used by Siklu radios is separated from the traditional Wi-Fi 5.8 GHz spectrum, so that past issues with images not loading properly, camera latency and unreliable connectivity no longer exist.

"Cambridge City Council wanted to use the best technology available to provide public security for
its citizens and businesses"

“Latency was by far the major concern going into this project for the obvious reason that in order to provide sound security, one needs a robust wireless network that has the bandwidth to accommodate high-resolution images, motion-detection cameras and a lot of information moving back and forth across the network,” said Ron Johnson. “With Siklu, we now only experience 350 micro seconds of latency, which is on par with or a bit lower than fibre.”

Secure transmission

Unlike legacy 5.8 GHz wireless networks whose wide beams can be vulnerable to interception, the Siklu radios deployed in Cambridge’s CCTV system use ultra-narrow beams between 0.5 and two degrees in width in the 60 GHz millimeter wave spectrum, making the radios inherently secure from interceptions and hacking. As a result, sensitive information can be transmitted across the network securely.

Due to the positive impact that the Siklu solution has had on the CCTV system’s network capacity, security and reliability, the City Council has deployed 10 additional Siklu radios across the CCTV network and has also added five new cameras to the system. The Council plans to replace most of its existing 5.8 GHz links with Siklu’s millimeter wave technology in the near future.

“In a situation in which we had run out of options, Siklu delivered exactly what we needed for the City of Cambridge: the flexibility of a wireless infrastructure with fibre-like performance,” said Johnson.

Functional wireless communications

Siklu’s radios have helped the Cambridge City Council to transform its CCTV system from one easily affected by congestion in the traditional 5.8 GHz spectrum, to one that is fully functional, regardless of other wireless communications in the city centre area. Should the city seek to expand or strengthen its network further in the future, it can do so incrementally by adding additional Siklu radios as needed, benefiting from the infinite scalability inherent to millimeter wave wireless technology.

“Like many city and town councils today, the Cambridge City Council wanted to use the best technology available to provide public security for its citizens and businesses, while at the same time finding ways to reduce operating expenses,” said Eyal Assa, Siklu’s CEO. “It’s gratifying to know that together with Videcom, we were able to help them meet that goal.”

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