Houston, Texas deploys wireless mesh network for public safety

The city of Houston has deployed a wireless mesh network as part of a Homeland Security-funded initiative to improve public safety in the downtown area. The network is a communications foundation that connects IP video cameras, located at 134 traffic intersections, allowing first responders in Houston to centrally monitor activity in the downtown area from a command center 24 x 7. With the ability to view live video feeds, it provides more virtual eyes on the streets and enables faster dispatch of officers where and when they are needed. Video feeds are also stored and can be used as effective evidence in court, reducing time and expense for prosecuting cases, saving taxpayer dollars.

Houston is using wireless equipment from Firetide. The Firetide network is comprised of over 200 high-performance Firetide HotPort® nodes, with just four gateways that attach to the City’s fiber network, connecting 300 Axis Communications high-definition IP cameras. Each camera needs 2-3Mbps bandwidth therefore requiring the wireless network to maintain performance at close to 1Gbps.

The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security oversees the development of Houston’s system, including the Firetide mesh project. The Public Safety Video Initiative is led by Project Manager Julie Stroup. Her team is comprised of vendor specialists in the areas of network architecture and engineering (NWN Corporation), video system subject matter expertise and integration (Vidsys), component configuration and installation (Pfeiffer and Son, Ltd.), and the Houston Police Department video system manager. This multi-disciplinary team, working closely with Firetide’s engineering staff, was a critical factor in the successful implementation of Houston’s system. The City developed a network infrastructure that was completely independent of the existing City voice and data networks to best protect the integrity of all networks.

The team carefully evaluated communications network alternatives before selecting Firetide. Fiber was not an option as it was not already available in the area and would be too costly to install. Multiple point-to-point and mesh technology vendors were considered and evaluated; “only Firetide met the functional requirements — performance, reliability, and scalability, for this project,” stated Stroup. “In addition, they were the only vendor that could provide customers references of other similar successful installations.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security funding covered the costs for the project – deployment, installation, providing long term benefits for the citizens of Houston and without impact to City budgets.

“The City of Houston’s public safety project highlights the need for cities across the nation to embrace and harness technology as a way to cost effectively improve community safety,” said Bo Larsson, CEO of Firetide. “We’re proud to have been selected as the building block for the City’s communications network and look forward to supporting them as they expand its use.”

The Firetide network in Houston is operated and maintained by the city of Houston’s Police Department Technical Services Department. Teksys Inc., market leaders in system integration services and wireless network systems, lead the design and installation of the Firetide wireless mesh network for the city.