Protected against harsh environments
Editor / Provider: William Pao, a&s International | Updated: 1/27/2015 | Article type: Tech Corner
When it's pouring outside, or the temperature hits -10 degrees, you want to make sure your surveillance equipment is still working properly. Nowadays, equipment for critical environments — those that are subject to water, dust, winds, sand, salt, or extreme climatic patterns — is built with durability in mind and can effectively withstand harsh conditions. This way, users can rest assured that their products will work normally no matter how tough the surroundings get.
Surveillance equipment isn't just for homes or offices. Sometimes, it is founded in some of the harshest and most unrelenting places in order to keep premises safe and secure. Whether it's set up on a maritime oil drilling platform or somewhere in the Middle East where summer temperatures may easily hit 50 degrees Celsius, equipment must be hardened and ruggedized to be able to perform smoothly and provide maximal safety for users.
To help users understand whether certain products are suitable for certain conditions, several international standards have been formulated to indicate how effectively they can work in environments prone to water, dust, explosions, and impact. Some of these standards are listed below.
IP or ingress protection ratings specify how capable equipment can withstand the ingress, or entry, of foreign solids or water. An IP denotation is usually consisted of two numerals, with the first indicating the protection of equipment against solid foreign bodies and the second indicating protection against water. For critical environment equipment, it should be rated IP66 to IP68 as opposed to IP32 to IP54 for indoor settings. A similar rating system, published by National Electrical Manufacturer Association (NEMA), specifies protection of electronic equipment against external ice, corrosive materials, and oil immersion in addition to dust and water.
Hazardous locations are specified under different rating systems around the world. For critical environment equipment, it should be able to work well in areas designated as Class 1 Division 2 Group A or B in North America, or as Gas Group IIC in Europe. Both indicate places where easily flammable gases and vapors, such as hydrogen and acetylene, are present.
The IK rating system is used to denote protection of equipment against impact produced by either a natural disaster or vandalism. It ranges from IK00, or no protection, to IK10, or protection against 20-joule impact, equivalent to the impact of a 5-kilogram mass dropped from 400 millimeters above impacted surface.
Winds are categorized by their speed on the so-called Beaufort Scale. Equipment in critical environments should resist winds of up 61.2 meters per second, or No. 17 on the scale.
This is in contrast to typical equipment that only needs to work well in 41.4 meters-per-second winds, or No. 13 on the scale. Meanwhile, given temperatures often get extremely high or low in critical environments, equipment must be able to withstand these conditions. While typical equipment should have a working temperature range from -10 to 60 degrees Celsius, critical environment products should be able to work in a range between -40 and 70 degrees Celsius. For special equipment in factories monitoring boilers or furnaces, it must be able to withstand high temperatures from 300 to 1,000 degrees Celsius.
Hardened and Ruggedized
When security equipment is installed in critical areas for whatever purpose it's designed for — video surveillance, access control, or intrusion detection — it must be toughened to weather adverse conditions. Special technologies or materials, for example epoxy resin, polyamide, and aluminum alloys, are used to make the products work well in regions or vertical markets that call for hardened, ruggedized equipment.
Cameras are needed not just in commercial or residential settings but also in places that are subject to danger or extreme weather conditions. “There's high customer demand for rugged, environmental performance,” said Craig Dahlman, Director of IP Camera Products at Pelco by Schneider Electric.
“Rugged, fortified systems are needed to protect delicate and valuable camera and optics packages.” To meet that demand, Pelco by Schneider Electric has manufactured a series of products that are able to withstand explosions, water and dust ingression, fog, high and low temperatures, winds of up to 57 meters per second, and corrosion by salt and different types of chemicals.
Various cutting-edge technologies have been adopted to make those features possible. For example, certain products feature the pressurized integrated optics cartridge (IOC) technology, which protects the equipment from moisture and airborne contaminants and packages an auto-focus camera, lens, heater, and sensors in a small, self-contained, and sealed unit. Dry nitrogen pressurized to 10 pounds per square inch gauge (PSIG) protects the environment inside the cartridge, whereby sensors strategically placed in the cartridge send an alert message if changes in pressure, temperature, or humidity are beyond factory-set acceptable limits.
Certain models also feature heater, window defroster, sun shroud, and thermal insulation blanket to enable operation in temperature conditions ranging from as low as -46 degrees Celsius to over 49. In the event of a power failure during an ice storm, the entire unit can deice itself and become operational in just two hours after regaining power at a temperature as low as -25 degrees Celsius.
“Video security and surveillance is a mission-critical application … and there is a global demand for these products, particularly in hot dry areas, cold wet areas, marine environments, and humid environments,” Dahlman said.
Illumination products supplement video cameras by providing the necessary lighting and are sometimes placed in critical environments as well. “Housed in marine grade aluminum with a toughened glass window … our critical environment products have a wide operating temperature range from -52 degrees Celsius to 55. Our thermal management system achieves up to 60 percent better heat dissipation than other LED luminaires with a significantly cooler operating temperature,” said Barry Thompson, Head of Hazardous Area Division at Raytec.
These features make Raytec lighting products ideal for a variety of verticals and regions. “We are currently delivering illumination in a vast number of challenging and remote applications across the globe, such as oil fields in Kuwait and Dubai, oil pipelines in North Africa, and offshore platforms in UK and various Middle East regions,” Thompson said.
No stringent requirements are demanded of access control readers for commercial or residential applications. But when placed on the outside or in a critical environment, that's a different story.
“The reader has to withstand torrential rain in an outdoor installation,” said Tom Su, Sales Manager at Hundure Technology, which is set to release an IP66 reader. “Plus, it has to be durable enough to be able to work properly in the long term in a harsh environment and withstand human-made damage.”
Materials play an important part in toughening the products. Hundure, for example, uses as a main ingredient epoxy resin, which is an excellent electrical insulator and protects electrical components from short circuiting, dust, and moisture. “We have epoxy inside the reader to make it totally waterproof for outdoor installations,” Su said. Potting, or the filling of a complete electronic assembly with a solid or gelatinous compound for resistance to shock, vibration, moisture, and corrosive agents, is also used during the manufacturing process. “We use potting material for the majority of our readers, which seal them from any kind of water penetration,” said Steven Katanas, Director of Sales for Australia and New Zealand at HID Global. “Potting completely encases all electronics and stands up well to many harsh outdoor environments. An outer case might get beat up a bit, but the inner electronics are durable.”
The other critical element in an access control system, namely the cards, should not be overlooked, either. “Some cards use more durable materials than others. For instance, a line of our smart cards use an ABS shell construction for durability in harsh environments, and can be used in diverse applications including physical access control, PC logon, biometric authentication, time and attendance, cashless vending, public transportation, airline ticketing, and customer loyalty programs,” Katanas said.
Perimeter Intrusion Detection
Perimeter intrusion detection systems (PIDSs) are almost always placed on the outside of important premises such as airports, power plants, and certain government facilities. Sometimes equipment is deployed at places with highly intensive electromagnetic waves, and electromagnetic interference (EMI) may occur. PIDSs with EMI-resistant capabilities are therefore a plus. “One of our perimeter security taut-wire products was installed around a Radio Free Europe site, which transmits one megawatt power of short wave radio using curtain array antenna. These are extreme RF condition,” said Hagai Katz, Senior VP Marketing and DB at Magal Security Systems. “The most demanding conditions were for sections of the fence, which happen to reside right below the antennas' feeders, absorbing very high radio frequency radiation. In spite of all, the system has managed to perform perfectly.”
Heavy winds are also a threat to equipment or products placed on the outside, and manufacturers have different ways to overcome that. For example, Navtech Radar, which makes radar-based PIDSs, puts all the moving parts inside wind-resistant enclosures. “Normally if you have a rotating part exposed to the wind, then the wind pushes on that rotating part, moving it in a way you don't want it to move,” said Philip Avery, MD of Navtech Radar. “All our rotating parts are inside an enclosure. There is a plastic radome that protects the rotating parts from the wind and other elements.”
Any fixings — connectors, screws, and others — that hold the radar together should also be protected. Navtech Radar, for example, is considering putting plastic coating on the connectors to protect them from corrosion, which may occur at heavily corrosive environments like road tunnels.
“Different parts of the radar are bolted together using screws, and the last thing you want is to have those screws heavily corroded so the radar will fall apart,” Avery said. “You need to make sure that not only the main body of your system is made of the right material, but the fixings that hold it together are also made of the right material.”
Placed at the entries of residences, door phones should be able to adapt to various local climatic conditions. “Our products are used in high-temperature regions such as the Middle East and Africa, and also used in low-temperature areas like Russia or Scandinavian countries,” said Yoshi Nishiyama, who works for the international sales department of Aiphone. “Regarding the materials, we use environmental friendly materials complying with WEEE & RoHS. And the plastic materials we use are self-extinguishing materials against fire. All the metal materials for door phone units are designed against vandalism, and they have protection against water, sunlight, acids, and so on.”
For intercom and PA manufacturer Zenitel, it chooses polyamide as the material for making its industrial-grade PA call panels and intercom stations.
“Initially, our PA system was designed for the oil and gas industry and marine vessels. Polyamide is resistant to corrosion, so it's suitable for marine environments. Also that material is quite strong so it can withstand impact,” said Piet De Vriendt, Commercial Product Manager for Vingtor-Stentofon at Zenitel. “Fewer and fewer companies are making intercom stations out of metal for industrial applications, as new technologies have improved for polyamide, which is also better for corrosion and chemical resistance.”
Thing to Look for During Installation
For critical environment installations, a rule of thumb is to get products that are rated for conditions worse than where the equipment is being installed. “At the very least, users should make sure they are not installing equipment that is rated for a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment into an area where there will be considerable heat and moisture fluctuation,” HID's Katanas said.
Integrators should also help clients build an infrastructure that presumes and prepares for changes in the future, including ensuring durable performance in harsh environments. “This requires a platform that is dynamic, open, and adaptable, and that ensures security is independent of hardware and media so that organizations can evolve their infrastructure to meet tomorrow's needs,” he said.
With security products becoming increasingly network-centric, how to protect the network infrastructure in critical areas is also important. Some countries or regions even have rules about how IP-based equipment should be installed.
“The Middle East has requirements for transmission equipment that can tolerate very high temperatures. In India we have the same requirements, and in both markets high winds, dust, and sand are an issue, which the transmission equipment must also be able to withstand,” said Sara Bullock, Business Development Director at AMG Systems, adding her company has devoted much R&D efforts on heat reduction.“Our products carry many interfaces within the same box, which dramatically reduces the equipment required at the remote position, which in turn reduces heat within the cabinets,” she said. “A critical factor is airflow. Our products have ventilation slots on the casing, and as long as they are mounted in the correct way, they allow airflow to be forced up through the units.”
Zenitel's De Vriendt stressed the importance of collaborating with someone who is strong at IP setup in harsh conditions. “The most important advice we can give to integrators and installers is to have good cooperation with the consultants who specify the system and to work with companies that have experience with setting up IP networks in these environments,” he said.
Built With Durability
Today's surveillance equipment is built with durability in mind, able to resist various harsh environments to satisfy users' needs. With an understanding in these products, and knowledge on how they should be set up properly, users can have full assurance that their surveillance systems will run smoothly in the midst of inclement conditions.