We commonly refer to it as repeating but what do we really mean? What is really happening and why would you ever want to repeat?
Repeating is necessary when your “signal” to the base directly may be poor or non existent. So you create a “hop” by repeating from one device to get the signal back to the base. In the example image below, Camera 2 is “Repeating” through Echo 3 back to the base. The advantages of repeating are that you can increase your coverage area and build a much larger network. The way the BuckEye Cam System repeats and handles the communication is probably a little different than you might expect. Naturally you would think that repeating would increase the transmission times significantly but you might be surprised to learn it really doesn’t. If it normally takes 17 seconds to transmit directly to the base you would expect it to take 34 seconds to add a single “hop” but because we considered that in our design in reality it will only take about 20 seconds (roughly adds about 20% per “hop”). So your transmission “distance” is really only limited to the last device on your network – you could literally repeat for miles and miles and miles.
Why is the transmit speed so important?
Rule of thumb is to limit the number of “hops” to as few as possible – “always best to go directly to the base”. We say this because as you build your network of devices (Cameras, Echos, Feeders, Controllers and so on) transmission times become very important and every second counts. In order for the network to stay agile and fast so you don’t end up with a continuous backlog of picture we take every possible advantage to insure we cut every second we can in the communication protocols. The faster the cameras can transmit means the quicker the camera can go back to “sleep” which means the longer the battery will last and battery life is extremely important.
As more and more companies come out and try to compete, my guess is you will see more and more companies find out quickly that true wireless communication is not as simple as they once thought. Then our BuckEye Cam features start quickly adding up and understanding the advanced protocol and engineering we are using becomes more prevalent.
Forget about the wireless side of our system, lets just talk about how to set up the cameras to get the best picture possible.
Try to avoid facing the camera directly at the rising or setting sun – sometimes it is unavoidable but good rule of thumb. The Target:
Mount your camera at what we call “chest high to the target” and aimed parallel to the ground. So if your targets are people it would be mounted slightly higher than if your targets are deer. Keeping the camera aimed parallel to the ground will give you the greatest detection area (both distance and width). You can mount the camera up higher and pointing downwards just keep in mind that your detection area now becomes a “spot on the ground” versus a longer wider area.
Security: If you are planning on using your camera to catch people or to watch particular areas for security purposes, I always suggest mounting the cameras in a way so that they are hidden from normal eyesight as they enter. For example on a driveway entrance I will mount the camera on the backside of a tree or post capturing them from behind as they enter. This may seem counter-intuitive but what it actually does is naturally hide the camera as they walk or drive by the camera making it less likely to be discovered upon entry. This is also important for capturing vehicle license plates (some states do not require a front plate but they all require a rear plate). One of the reasons we developed the echo was so you could place the camera back away from the danger zone and just put the echo (about the size of a pack of cigs when running on AAs) in the danger zone to trigger the camera remotely.
Cables: Most setups will include some sort of cable, whether it is a solar panel cable, antenna cable or battery cable. The trick I have learned over the years when it comes to keeping cables free from critters is to use a rodent shield. The way this works is it slides over the cable and has a deterrent built in that absolutely keep critters from chewing on the cables. The stuff works great and comes in a variety of lengths (combine them if needed). The other suggestions is to keep the cable flat and out of the way. It seems that most times, rodents are “clearing” a travel path so if you keep the cable low and close they will most likely just pass right by it.
Batteries and Solar Panels:
Now I can only speak about our system but at least you will get a better understanding of why we do what we do. All of our systems use a standard SLA( Sealed Lead Acid) battery. Why do we use SLA’s? Well for several reason; Price, availability, reliability and a wide range of charging options. See, SLA batteries are extremely durable, have good power and temp op ranges and are very forgiving when it comes to charging. The only downside to an SLA battery is they must be kept in a good charged state. The only way to really kill an SLA battery is to leave it in a discharged state for a couple of weeks. Leaving a SLA in this state will reduce the capacity of the battery, for good (never to be as good as it once was). It is confusing to some when this happens because the battery will “charge like it used to” the only thing is now it may only have 1/2 the capacity it used to so it will go dead a lot quicker. When this happens you might as well replace the battery. To avoid this you only need to keep batteries charged up and not leave them in the discharged state for very long. This is where using a solar panel really helps maintain the life of the SLA battery. Normal life of a properly maintained SLA is 3-5 years.
Wireless systems seem to be an ever evolving topic. Fortunately for us, we continue to evolve with the systems. Since early 2002 we have been working on perfecting the wireless system.
We came up with our very first wireless camera concept, then began designing and went into production late 2003. Obviously, this was WELL before any trail cameras were even on the market, let alone any wireless infrared trail cameras.
To put it into context, Blackberry phones were just starting to “catch on” and the first iPhone wasn’t going to be released for 4 more years….
Our designs have broken more ground in the camera industry then just about anyone else ever has….Not just “wireless” stuff either….
Here are a few:
First to offer a portable remote wireless camera system (2004)
First to offer dual lens technology – (2004)
First to offer reliable Passive Infrared detection (2004)
First to introduce infrared flash trail camera technology (2004)
First to have sub 1/4 second trigger speed (2004)
First to have sub 1 second delay (2004)
First to have multiple base options (Portable, PC, Cellular and Netbase)
First to offer completely invisible (940nm) infrared option (2005)
First to offer rechargeable SLA battery option (2004)
First to offer solar charging option (2004)
First to offer a system that can be wireless or standalone (modular)
First to offer free software and firmware updates (as well as wireless updates)
Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from yesterday . — John Wayne
This topic comes up quite a bit in our day to day, so I would like to cover some things to consider in regards to transmission distance as it relates to our BuckEye Cam systems.
How far can the BuckEye Cam “actually” transmit? (this is probably the most asked question by far)…
Answer is: That depends. Seriously it does. Transmission range can literally be anywhere from 40 miles to 1/2.
Transmission distance and speed has a wide range of variables to consider but when you start breaking it all down in smaller bite size pieces it all starts to make sense.
First start with the terrain – is it hilly or flat or something in between?
Terrain plays a big role in how you want to set up a wireless system. Keeping in mind “the higher the better” you want to utilize high points to your advantage which can greatly increase the range by “going over” a lot of things that might decrease your transmission range.
What is the foliage like? Are there a lot of conifers (pines) or mainly hardwoods?
Anything that stays green year round is more difficult to transmit through (not impossible, just things to consider) as compared to hardwoods.
How many devices are you planning on using (cameras, feeders, controllers, etc)? The more devices you have, the larger the “wireless network” becomes which gives you more opportunities to “bounce” the signal (we call it repeating). Having the ability to repeat basically means you are really only limited by the last device on your system. Lets say your last camera is 3 miles from the base, you can easily add another camera and repeat off that last camera using it as a repeater. And since our system can handle up to 254 devices per base you can see how you could easily cover a lot of area very quickly.
Antennas: The standard antennas are the easiest to use and hide, extremely durable and work very well in most conditions. With that being said I cannot stress the importance of also knowing that a couple of key placed antenna upgrades can easily double or triple your transmission range. Keeping in mind when it comes to transmission – “the higher the better” – upgrading an antenna from the standard “dipole” to a high gain yagi with a 30′ cable (so you can get the antenna up higher) really makes a huge difference in the performance. So having the ability to upgrade antennas is a big deal when it comes to wireless device transmission.. Having experience in the field makes a huge difference so make sure you completely understand how the antennas work before you try and set up a system. I promise you it will safe you a lot of headache and time!
At the end of it all the easiest way (for us anyway) is to use google earth, plotting your device locations, your base location and then looking at the terrain to get a really good idea on what it is going to take to make your system work.