New Firetide CEO sees mesh networks on the move

Cisco vet John McCool joins Firetide, sees promise for growth as surveillance moves beyond 'the curb'
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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

LOS GATOS, Calif.— Cisco veteran John McCool, who joined mesh network provider Firetide as its new CEO on May 20, says there’s an increasing demand to take surveillance mobile.

“If you think about it, video surveillance [has traditionally] ended on the curb,” McCool told Security Systems News. Cameras have been mounted in static locations on city streets and train platforms, but now there’s a demand for that surveillance capability on moving vehicles such as municipal buses and trains. In addition, there’s an expectation that video will be high quality, whether the camera is static or mobile.

Those are applications, McCool said, “where mesh network has a unique advantage.”

“We can do 100 megabits per second at 60 miles per hour,” he said.

McCool was with Cisco for 17 years and served as CTO and SVP of Cisco’s Global Enterprise Segment. He replaces Duane Zitzner and Andy Ludwick, members of Firetide’s board, who had served as interim CEOs since January 2013 when former CEO Bo Larsson left the company.

The proliferation of surveillance cameras “is placing a stress on the traditional infrastructure,” McCool said. Mesh networks can augment and extend the traditional infrastructure, he said.

When Firetide launched in 2003, there wasn’t much demand for mobile connectivity, McCool said, but with the proliferation of smart phones and HD cameras that demand “is going through the roof.” One application for mesh network that incorporates mobility is the docking of vehicles such as buses or train cars at a station where they upload video or other data, McCool said.

Mesh networks used this way can help address liability concerns, fraud protection. “There’s the same motivation here as there is for putting a camera on the curb.”

IMS Research, now owned by IHS, recently predicted that the market for wireless infrastructure radios would hit $705 million by 2017.

In addition to mobile connectivity, McCool identified three other growth areas for Firetide: public safety; critical infrastructure; and, as “an alternative provider of Wi-Fi backhaul … public Wi-Fi, those kinds of applications.”

Public safety applications include city surveillance, universities and other government agencies. Target critical infrastructure applications would be in remote locations or “assets that are redeployed or moved.” Examples are found in the oil, gas, and mining industries and are driven by concern for worker safety and protection of assets, he said.

McCool said Firetide intends to “build out our capabilities in those four market segments.” An important element of that build-out is technological support for the systems integrators with RF and network. Firetide has added more technical training and certifications for its integrators in the past six or seven months.

Among the integrators who believe Firetide will be a high-growth business in security is Charles Byrd, delivery manager and senior wireless architect for Avrio RMS. He predicts rapid growth “especially overseas because a lot of developing countries don’t have fiber or wired infrastructure. … Firetide can be that infrastructure.”

Byrd sees great promise with mobility applications. For example, wireless mesh may be used to power video commercials on a train or subway, he said.

“It could be a different stream of revenue for the municipality [that oversees transportation],” he said. “There are so many different things you can do with the [Firetide] system because there’s a smooth transition from mesh to mesh to mesh, and there’s high bandwidth,” Byrd said.

Avrio RMS has a sister company, Fluidmesh Networks, also a mesh network provider, and a competitor of Firetide. Avrio RMS uses both brands, Byrd said. “We’re agnostic. We use the best equipment for the situation.”

Firetide is venture capital backed, and it has 10,000 customers in 40 countries. Firetide will continue to grow in North America, but Asia and other emerging markets present a good opportunity for the technology, McCool said.