Providence Moving to Mesh

By Colin C. Haley

August 22, 2005

UPDATED: A Motorola wireless network will zip information to the city's first-responders 100 times faster than the current system.

UPDATED

Police officers will instantly access criminal records during a standoff.

While in route to structure fires, firefighters will download building blueprints. EMTs will view medical histories wirelessly before assessing patients.

City officials in Providence, R.I., said those are some of the anticipated uses of a new Motorola mesh network that will be up-and-running in early 2006.

The new system will be nearly 100 times faster than the city's current Cellular Digital Package Data system, which transmits data at less than half the speed of a dial-up modem. It will be installed by Motorola and its partners.

"With this technology, Providence dramatically advances the capability of its public safety communications system," Charles Hewitt, the city's CIO, said Monday. "We reviewed a whole range of products and this was by far the best in terms of cost and functionality."

The city did not identify other vendors that were considered. The $2.3 million cost will be covered by federal grants from the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Although best known for its mobile handsets, Motorola has been making moves to strengthen its network equipment business in the public sector.

"Cities and public safety agencies are aware that data is just as mission critical as voice," Pam Benke, a Motorola spokeswoman, told internetnews.com.

Motorola has deployed mesh networks in several cities, including Ripon, Calif., Cocoa Beach, Fla., Garland, Texas, and Portsmouth, U.K., Benke said. The company plans to announced additional cities soon, she said.

And back in December, Motorola bought startup MeshNetworks in order to upgrade its mobile broadband technology for public safety customers.

MeshNetworks had been involved in deploying mesh technology since early 2003, Benke said. Before acquiring MeshNetworks, Motorola had invested in the company and licensed its technology.

In other Motorola public sector news, the company today announced new products at trade show for public safety officials in Denver. Among the new offerings are a remote speaker microphone with GPS system , an IP dispatch console and a real-time video surveillance system.



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