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FreeWave Technologies Provides UHF Video Streams, Manages Volcano Conditions

The company has expanded its RF-based solutions to include the transmission of video via UHF signals and solutions for monitoring fault lines and volcanic conditions in some of the most remote parts of the world.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 24, 2018

Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are extending their reach beyond indoor building automation, health-care facilities and assembly plants (among many other applications) to tracking conditions at remote oil facilities, urban or rural fault lines, and the tops of volcanic mountains. Colorado-based FreeWave Technologies offers IoT-based systems that go beyond the four walls of a building—and in some cases, the data being collected is a matter of life or death. These are the use cases for the IoT that can be most challenging.

FreeWave Technologies' serial radio solutions capture and transmit data intended to help engineers understand activities and conditions in places too remote for wired sensor management, and often beyond the reach of Wi-Fi or cellular networks. Its RF-based networks are used, for instance, to monitor volcanoes and earthquakes in places where people could be in harm's way. Sensor data, captured from underground or surface areas, can then prompt alerts that give people an opportunity to evacuate.

FreeWave Technologies' Scott Allen
Security surveillance in remote, outdoor locations is another use case FreeWave aims to address. The company's IoT solutions are not limited to sensor data and identifiers; this year, the company has begun testing a system that sends video streams via an active 900 MHz transmission as part of a full video technology solution known as vWatch, provided by remote surveillance company McQ. In addition, FreeWave has found a way to capture video streams from digital cameras that can enable the viewing of events such as the flow of mud.

FreeWave was launched in 1993 to provide ruggedized, industrial wireless networking solutions in which machines and sensors transmit and share data. The company's market traditionally involved industrial sites, as well as oil and gas, waste water treatment and agriculture companies, says Scott Allen, FreeWave Technologies' chief marketing officer, and it also served military and defense systems on the ground, on water and in the air.

Some of those systems are used for reconnaissance, bomb disposal and environmental control and monitoring for governments around the world. The company uses sensors from partners and provides its own RF-based hardware and related software via UHF, as well as other frequencies. More recently, with the expansion of the IoT networks and the proliferation of sensors, the firm has been growing into environmental control and monitoring platforms beyond governments and industrial settings.

The company most recently has developed a solution that enables users to collect and transmit video via a UHF 900 MHz transceiver. In some cases, Allen says, companies or agencies want to access visual information regarding what is taking place at a remote location, such as at a gate to a facility, at all hours of the day or night. Recording data and sending it via a Wi-Fi connection is not always possible, he notes, because there may be no Wi-Fi network available.

Microwave transmissions are possible but require more power than many are prepared to install onsite, Allen says—and that left RF transmissions. FreeWave, he notes, has experimented with sending transmissions via 433 MHz and 2.4 GHz, but found that the 900 MHz UHF bandwidth worked well. "To our knowledge," Allen states, "this is the first industrial video streaming solution over 900 MHz."

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