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Firetide wireless mesh network increases safety for marina

Written by PSIT Staff

Many commercial advances in broadband wireless networking have created better situational awareness for today’s public safety agencies. One of the more significant technological advances is the broadband wireless mesh network. Mesh networks form instantaneously and automatically and heal themselves when a link is interrupted or broken. Mesh networks can deliver the performance needed to support “multimedia” voice, video and data communications and are compatible with virtually any existing equipment, network and software.

Treadwell Bay Marina is located in Plattsburgh, NY on Lake Champlain, 60 miles south of Montreal. According to Gary Titherington, owner of Treadwell Bay Marina, 90% of the boaters who come to the lake are from Montreal. With Wi-Fi access in many public places today, the marina wanted to offer that convenience to its boaters. Owners had initially gone through a cable company to set up hotspots with conversion boxes for Internet access. But that solution proved cumbersome and costly, due to having to literally dig up the ground and work around power lines, etc. In addition, the cable company offered no IT reps for technical support. “We were behind the technology curve… we had no 3G service because it is a rural area,” Titherington said.

The marina officials initially looked at just providing Wi-Fi access for customers of the marina. They wanted boaters to have Internet access and e-mail on their laptops while they were out on the lake in their boats. So they looked at a wireless infrastructure and quickly realized other valuable applications that could run on the Firetide® Infrastructure Mesh, including video surveillance.

Firetide, based in Los Gatos, CA, is a leading provider of multi-service mesh networks for industrial and municipal applications. Firetide provides a secure, high-performance wireless mesh infrastructure and access solution for video surveillance, Internet access, public safety networks and temporary networks wherever rapid deployment, mobility and ease of installation are required.

Treadwell Bay Marina chose Firetide’s HotPort 6000 Wireless Mesh Network for wireless backhaul and HotPoint® 4500/4600 Wireless Access Points for client Wi-Fi access; a single management interface allows the marina personnel to manage both. “We looked at it as an investment in management and inventory control,” Titherington said.

Firetide HotPoint wireless access points deliver a modular access solution for large-scale, indoor and outdoor wireless mesh networks. Modular design enables full network and software integration of the access points with a Firetide wireless mesh network while at the same time permitting independent physical placement of the hardware to provide optimal accessibility for Wi-Fi clients. Firetide did the backhauling of the access points, wireless mesh, video surveillance and cameras for Treadwell Bay Marina. Essentially, HotPort 6000-900 mesh nodes provide reliable Ethernet connectivity over a high-performance, self-forming wireless mesh backbone—indoors, outdoors or onboard moving vehicles (such as boats). All HotPort nodes have multiple Ethernet ports for connecting network devices or other networks to the wireless mesh. The advent of licensing in the 4.9 GHz spectrum for the exclusive use of public safety agencies is a long overdue improvement to emergency communications. Firetide’s HotPort wireless mesh nodes support the 4.9 GHz public safety band. HotPort 6000-900 mesh features a dual radio solution with capability of operating in the 900 MHz spectrum on one of the radios while concurrently operating in the conventional 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz & 4.9 GHz (public safety) on the other. Multiple mesh networks can be inter-connected temporarily or permanently where greater coverage is required, potentially linking multiple agencies and/or jurisdictions in a mutual-aid situation.

Video Surveillance

Video surveillance is a powerful tool for public safety and security, and with the increasing need for more security in critical environments, the demand for video installations is growing rapidly. An obvious benefit of video surveillance is 24/7 monitoring of both densely populated areas and remote, isolated locations. Whether used for live monitoring, recording or both, video has proven to be invaluable for identifying individuals, spotting criminal activity, and recording accidents and other events. Being able to connect digital video cameras to computer networks and the Internet has increased the flexibility and accessibility for both collection and distribution of video data. Although this enables cameras to be installed in more locations, the availability of network ports and cabling is still a limiting factor when deploying video cameras in many locations. The Firetide wireless mesh network eliminates most, if not all, of the issues associated with locations that are too difficult or expensive to wire. By providing a wireless network backbone, Firetide mesh networks enable cameras to be installed without pulling cable through walls, trenching for fiber between buildings, or drilling holes for cables in older buildings that were not designed for computer networks.

According to Ksenia Coffman, the marketing communications manager at Firetide, 13 video cameras cover about 25 acres at the Treadwell Bay Marina. This video surveillance covers the ingresses, regresses, parking lot, public grounds, ship store, pool and restaurant. The benefits of the video surveillance include increased safety for boaters as well as employees of the marina. “The cameras monitor to see if someone comes on the property who shouldn’t be there. It also affects how employees act and operate our equipment,” Titherington said. The Titheringtons own a pub in town, where they also utilize video surveillance. Recently there was a window shoot-out at the pub, and the city police captured video of the street view. The cameras are aligned with entrance points so they can see break-ins. Another instance involved an employee caught on tape finding a wallet but not turning it in, so the employee was let go.

Maureen Carlo is the security integrator and communications consultant for Wells Communi-cations, the integrator for Firetide’s solution at Treadwell Bay. “We went with the latest and greatest high-end technology from Firetide,” Carlo said. In addition, they used Panasonic cameras and OnSSI software. With the OnSSI software, Treadwell Bay can access all the cameras anytime, anywhere, as long as they have a broadband Internet connection.

The solution also includes live Web cameras so now visitors to the marina’s website have real-time access to current lake conditions. It also shows weather station updates. In addition, Titherington said they house the local sheriff department’s marine patrol at Treadwell Bay Marina. They have seven slips there, which Treadwell provides for them at no cost. The marine patrol can also access the video cameras on the property if they go online. So this offers even more security, knowing the sheriff’s department can also “keep watch” on what’s happening at the marina.

Coffman said this deployment proved similar to a downtown, metro area installation even though Treadwell Bay Marina is a rural lake area. The same equipment is used as the metropolitan area; they just change it and add more mesh nodes, which are scalable and easy to add. Because the mesh is self-forming and self-healing, when nodes are powered on, they automatically join the existing mesh network. Multi-mesh networks are well-suited for both small and large metro areas. For example, if Treadwell Bay Marina wants to cover more area (for video surveillance or Wi-Fi), it can add new mesh nodes without re-engineering.

The OnSSI software is a complete solution because it is scalable, as well. “This is the most advanced solution that a lot of police departments are using,” Carlo said. The cost of Treadwell Bay’s wireless mesh solution was about $50,000. That price includes the cost of the equipment, infrastructure, mesh nodes, cameras, software and installation. “The cost savings is so great compared to a wired solution,” Carlo said. As previously mentioned, digging up the ground can mean running into unforeseen problems and “it’s just not worth it,” Titherington said.

Published in Public Safety IT, Jul/Aug 2009

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