Dallas Monitors Downtown

By Eric Griffith

March 20, 2007

The ninth-largest city in the U.S. is using a mesh network and cameras to watch for bad guys.

Joining cities like Los Angeles, California and Savannah, Georgia (see "Wi-Fi's Chilling Effect on Crime"), Dallas, Texas is the site of a new wireless video surveillance network intended to reduce crime, specifically in the downtown freeway loop business district.

According to Ksenia Coffman, marketing manager for Firetide -- the maker of the mesh equipment used by the Dallas PD -- the police there "didn't know going in that they needed wireless," but they came to that decision after looking at the alternatives.

The network, installed by integrator BearCom, covers 30 percent of downtown with 40 Sony Wireless IP cameras running 24/7. They currently connect back to 32 Firetide mesh nodes, which in turn backhaul to the PD via seven Gigabit Ethernet and 100 Mbps backbone links from BridgeWave Communications. Monitoring takes place in city hall and the police headquarters.

Setup of camera, node and backbone link are in "portable pods" which can be moved from light pole to light pole as necessary. Coffman says the network could expand to as many as 150 cameras in the future, depending on the funding the DPD can get. That could even extend to mobile cameras in police cruisers.

"They (the DPD) saw a lot of value in response from business owners -- it was overwhelming," says Coffman. "They even expect some private donations from businesses downtown." The network as it stands was primarily funded by the locally-based Meadows Foundation, a group whose tagline says it all: they exist for the aim of "enriching the lives of the people of Texas." No word from the vendors on what it cost to install.

The network's initial phase was finished in January. The mesh itself runs in the 4.9GHz radio frequency, which is reserved by the FCC for use by first responders. Coffman says that 4.9GHz, in addition to not interfering with existing Wi-Fi networks in the area, deals better with the downtown geography of tall buildings. "4.9 is a cleaner communications medium," she says.


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