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Fighting Crime With WiFi

Municipal WiFi mesh networking isn't always about trying to blanket a town or city with wireless connectivity. Frequently cities are looking at mesh as an inexpensive way to handle more specific applications -- such as WiFi-powered video surveillance.

For instance, today the Dallas Police Department says that it has deployed mesh networks for video surveillance to combat crime in the downtown business district. The surveillance system covers approximately 30 percent of the downtown area and delivers live 24-hour monitoring in City Hall and Police headquarters.

The network was set up by BearCom, a Dallas-based wireless system integrator, and uses Firetide Inc. wireless mesh nodes, Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) IP cameras, and BridgeWave Communications transfer units. The network was funded by a grant from the Meadows Foundation. The cameras can be a tool for evidence collection as well as a deterrent. Most of the cameras have motorized controls so officers sitting in a remote monitoring location can move the camera lens in any direction and zoom in for a closer look at license plates and suspicious situations.

In common with many other public safety deployments, the Dallas Police is using the FCC-mandated 4.9GHz band for this network. This is to avoid any possible interference with public access networks on the 2.4GHz band.

Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT)'s latest video surveillance network in Los Angeles has the capability to be expanded to offer public access while maintaining a separate private network on the 4.9GHz band, using its multi-radio Motomesh wireless LAN nodes. The network builds on its long-time position as the No. 1 radio networking provider in the public safety market

The Schaumburg, Ill., company has been working with the Los Angeles police department to deploy a surveillance network in the city’s Jordan Downs complex, described as one of the worst "high-crime public housing areas" in L.A.

The network encompasses 10 wireless video surveillance cameras and the Motorola Motomesh network. The Motomesh nodes can support up to four radios in a single access point, enabling networks on both the 2.4GHz and 4.9GHz bands. Motorola is using its Canopy wireless broadband radios to provide backhaul for the network. Motorola has also put in a video application so that officers can pan and zoom in, using their laptops and handhelds, and share data with other first responders, such as fire crews.

The LAPD says that in the two months since the cameras were installed crime has dropped 32 percent compared to the year before. Motorola says the system "eventually will expand to supply public wireless broadband access to residents and schools in the area."

Meanwhile, working with mesh vendor Tropos Networks Inc. and integrator NetMethods, the city of Savannah, Ga., completed its public safety network right before its Saint Patrick's day parade. This was important to city officials since the parade is said to be the second largest in the country [ed. note: yeah, really!].

Nearly three quarters of a million people descend on Savannah for the parade. Now police officers can view the parade route remotely on laptops in their squad cars.

The city is also currently in the process of installing additional Tropos MetroMesh routers and surveillance cameras in 22 of the city’s historic squares.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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