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Cops Pick Tropos WiFi

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Light Reading
9/17/2003
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SAN MATEO, Calif. -- Underscoring the company’s commitment to delivering ubiquitous broadband wireless networking solutions to public safety agencies, Tropos NetworksTM, Inc., today announced that the San Mateo, California,) Police Department (SMPD) has successfully implemented, trialed and is now using the first metro-scale, Wi-Fi mesh network for law enforcement. The SMPD has created a cellular Wi-Fi hot zone in downtown San Mateo using TroposTM equipment and, for the first time, is making available critical applications to police officers in the field.

“Our Wi-Fi network now allows officers to take their office mobile,” said Susan E. Manheimer, Chief of Police for the SMPD. “It extends to patrol cars access to multiple, secure police databases that were previously restricted to use in the police station. It also allows officers to send reports from their cars to the station, eliminating the need to leave their assigned beats. Because our officers now have broadband access to critical information, they can more quickly solve crimes in our community.”

Using laptops in their police cars, including the Incident Commander’s vehicle and the Mobile Command Center, SMPD officers now have, for the first time, wireless broadband access to LAWNET, a county-wide Intranet for law enforcement that connects officers to the Amber Alert System, the Sex Offender Database and other databases. From anywhere in the hot zone, officers can now download DMV records, including high resolution photos, conduct in-field photo lineups, and perform other tasks that previously required them to return to headquarters. In the future, officers will have access to live video feeds of security cameras and access to the city’s Geographic Information System (GIS). As a result, officers are able to spend more time on the beat and now have critical informational tools at their fingertips for more effectively policing the community.

Broadband Access Critical to Public Safety Sector

According to a survey from one industry analyst firm, public safety – including law enforcement, fire, corrections and emergency management organizations – is expected to spend about $7 billion on information technology in 2003. Of the $3.5 billion provided in federal funding to state and local government first responders, about one-third was earmarked for communications technologies.

Significant investments are being made in technologies such as in-vehicle and hand-carried computers which need broadband connectivity to be effective, according to Tropos Networks. The public safety sector wants to provide the same access to data in the field as is available in headquarters and, thereby, afford savings in manpower and time while improving overall public safety. Technology like Tropos equipment provides the large scale coverage that they need and greatly enhances the return on these investments.

“Public safety organizations are looking for ubiquitous wireless broadband access solutions to fulfill critical and growing public safety demands. Specifically, they need to more broadly extend the reach of their data communications capabilities to improve efficiency and productivity as well as emergency responsiveness,” said Dave Hanna, president and CEO of Tropos Networks. “With broadband access now to its major databases and applications, the SMPD is at the forefront of this movement.”

“Public safety agencies continue to make significant investments in in-vehicle and hand-held computers although their application capabilities are limited by the bandwidth of traditional private and commercial radio networks,” said Brian Hudson, vice president at Thayer Consulting. “We are excited about the SMPD deployment and are hopeful that technologies such as Tropos metro-scale Wi-Fi can provide the high bandwidth and secure communications we’ve been waiting for to provide enhanced, graphic intensive applications to public safety personnel in a cost effective manner.”

SMPD’s Hot Zone Wi-Fi Network

The SMPD constructed their hot zone using 17 Wi-Fi cells from Tropos Networks in a mesh configuration in downtown San Mateo with only two backhaul connections at strategic locations to the city’s fiber ring. With the Tropos Wi-Fi cells, the SMPD was able to create a reliable, large scale Wi-Fi network that would have otherwise been economically and logistically unfeasible to do. The SMPD’s accomplishment differs significantly from attempts by some police departments to use 802.11 hot spot technology which requires officers to drive to specific sites for wireless information access and is too costly and impractical for implementing large coverage areas.

The SMPD said it also has plans to further expand the hot zone with the ultimate goal of covering the city’s critical crime areas so that police officers have access to vital information anytime, anywhere within their beats. Once complete, the SMPD also plans to allow fire, public works and other city departments to have access with VPN sessions to the large Wi-Fi network. In total, the SMPD will deploy nearly 40 Tropos Wi-Fi cells.

Tropos Networks

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