Obviously, cameras need power to function. It’s as fundamental as our need for oxygen. Without power cameras are just hunks of metal and plastic. It is such a simple concept that it’s hard to find an interesting way to write about it. I tried to relate to a broken Zoom call and to a recent blackout at my home. I even tried to call it out in plain, boring language but all of my previous attempts were dull and none of them stuck.
As I have drafted and redrafted this blog, my mind kept going to different movie quotes even as I tried to avoid them (especially since I already used movie quotes in a different recent blog). My first thought is in Back to the Future Part II where Marty tries to use the hoverboard over the water and Biff’s crony calls out, “Hoverboards don’t work on water unless you’ve got power!” My second thought is the horrible, yet oddly entertaining and quotable, Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith where the Emperor yells out, “Power! Unlimited power!” as he murders Mace Windu mere seconds after claiming he’s too weak to continue fighting.
Lucky you—this intro stuck.
Cameras won’t work unless you’ve got power
When Marty McFly attempted to use a hoverboard in less-than-ideal circumstances, he realized that a lack of power rendered the board almost useless. This was a problem we immediately shared when we started creating our mobile security trailer. We wanted a method for our cameras to literally go anywhere but (obviously) there isn’t power everywhere in the world and even wireless security cameras need power. A remote construction site, a faraway worksite, or even the corner of a retail parking lot often lacks reliable power. While it is possible to install power in these areas, it requires a lot of construction which is expensive and time consuming. When it comes to stopping criminal activity, these are two things you don’t want to be wasting.
So how do you quickly install cameras without reliable power? Can cameras work without a permanent connection to electricity? What about connecting to batteries? These are some of the questions we asked ourselves as we set out to create the best wireless surveillance camera system possible.
We found and researched different off-the-grid methods of power because we needed something fast, flexible, and reliable. Solar-powered surveillance cameras quickly became our go-to because they are relatively cheap and fairly reliable. We even took it a step further by augmenting solar power with batteries, generators, and fuel cell generators so our units can go anywhere in the world.
When being confronted as a manipulative traitor and Sith Lord, Palpatine suddenly reaches within himself to find an unlimited source of power when moments before he was completely drained. While this odd disparity may just be poor writing, directing, or acting, power doesn’t just appear out of thin air. It all has to come from somewhere and none of it is completely unlimited.
Solar power is the most reliable and the least limited off-the-grid power source. For example, generators run out of gas and wind is never consistent. Last I checked, the sun always rises, and you can get as much of it as you want with a few limitations. While some areas of the world get less sunlight, it is still at a predictable level. (Unless you live at the north or south pole you should get at least some sunlight throughout the year.) The biggest inhibitor of solar power is clouds or snow that block the light from reaching the panel. We recognized these slight drawbacks with solar power and made our trailers able to withstand them.
We don’t hook the solar panels directly to the cameras. Instead, we have batteries inside the trailer that are charged by the solar panels. It is the batteries that provide the power to the trailer. The batteries give the trailer a failsafe and provide increased flexibility. When it’s dark or cloudy or even when the panels are covered with snow, the trailer doesn’t stop functioning because it has reserve power stored in the batteries. In fact, LVT trailers can run for days without sunlight because they are equipped with batteries.
Another way we work around the limitations of sunlight, is by putting fuel cell generator technology, better known as a methanol generator, inside them. Until recently we primarily used traditional generators to supplement the batteries. While we still have trailers equipped with them, we have started to use fuel cell generator technology because it is cleaner, more efficient, consumes less fuel, and is quieter. When the edge controller (the brains of a LVT Unit) senses that the power level in the batteries has dropped too low, it turns on the fuel cell generator which will recharge the batteries.
Going wireless with data
Up until recently, everything was wired. I remember wired headphones, internet, and phone lines. A couple of years ago this update into the wireless world really messed with my then-job as a medical transcriptionist. My work provided me with a computer that had the necessary dictation software installed. I simply typed the operative reports, chart notes, and letters and sent them back to the main office. However, because it was a small office, I was provided with an older computer that required wired internet. This was fine until I moved into a newer home with only wireless internet. In a temporary fix, I had to use the old computer with the correct software, securely transfer the files to a second computer that had wireless capabilities, and then send the files to the main office. It was a headache.
Similarly, security cameras needed wired connections for data transference as well as for power. Just going wireless with the power connection wasn’t enough to make LVT trailers completely mobile. Instead, we had to figure out a way to transfer data wirelessly as well, otherwise there was little point to having a wireless power source. It didn’t do us (or you) much good if you didn’t need a power plug but then still needed cables to access your cameras.
Truly wireless security cameras rely on Wi-Fi or cellular connections to transfer data. Wi-Fi connections, while more flexible than wired connections, still require you to put cameras near your building. Only cellular connected cameras are capable of going to the edge.
We use cellular connectivity to push the limits on where security cameras can go. Cellular connectivity also allows you to access your security anywhere in the world because all you need is a browser. If you want to learn more about cellular connectivity, read this article by our CIO/CTO Steve Lindsey.
Why it matters
You may be asking why any of this matters? Why should you care how we power our units? It’s important because we want you to be confident that you are getting the best solar security camera system. We want you to know that when you put a LVT trailer on your property, that it is equipped for any condition and is ready to protect. Furthermore, when you understand how a wireless camera works, you will start to see all of its applications and use cases.
Our mobile units do not require power or internet connections. They rely purely on wireless technology so they can be deployed quickly to anywhere in the world—whether that is a busy street corner, a crowded music festival, or a remote property that is hours away. Our systems are prepared for bad weather and a lack of sunlight. When necessary, they have multiple backups so your property is not left unprotected.