Getting with the Times

Modernizing public safety communications

'Visual networking'

     According to Anson Chen, CEO of Bada Networks, the company deploys equipment and solutions with "video collaboration" as the focal point, and states the upshot of this technology will be the realization of "visual networking." "This technology will allow anyone who needs to talk instantly, see and share content at the same time, regardless of whether it involves a few people or thousands," he says.

     Bada Networks' technology pushes received live video to others via its Video Dispatch technology and offers a managed service layer for real-time video.

     "Such solutions must provide the missing network overlay to realize the applications these networks have been promising," Chen asserts. "With a multitude of traffic over these networks, there is no guarantee of video and audio quality without video and audio bandwidth management and congestion control, such as that delivered by Bada."

     Bada's largest deployment to date is for an overseas "Safe City" project, where the company's infrastructure connects to 2,000 video surveillance live and recorded cameras and up to 3,000 videoconferencing endpoints. This allows all levels of government hierarchies to share and coordinate incidents seen on the video surveillance feeds, or to instantly videoconference with each other. "The infrastructure can be easily expanded to larger capacities or new features can be added," Chen states.

     Jim Sarallo, who until two years ago was senior vice-president and general manager of Motorola Inc.'s government and enterprise solutions business, is an avid proponent of video's role in interoperability networks. He and Chen, who also worked at Motorola before founding Bada Networks, agree video will have a huge impact on future interoperable systems.

Flexibility required

     The construction of public safety networks may differ in design from one to another, making the need for flexible solutions. Plenty of solutions from a variety of vendors achieve different levels of interoperability.

     Mendocino County, California, for example, has launched an advanced public safety network that will enhance network interoperability and emergency response with strengthened communication across multiple agencies within the county.

     Alcatel-Lucent of Murray Hill, New Jersey, installed a mobile microwave backhaul network to handle the county's different communications systems. Built on an IP platform, the network provides interoperability for all users.

     "It (the network) also lays the groundwork for eventually delivering capabilities such as video and broadband communications to first responders and public safety," says John Mahrino, vice-president of Americas Region Public Affairs for Alcatel-Lucent.

     The new public safety network handles all of Mendocino County's secure high-speed transmission needs: mobile data terminals, secure videoconferencing, fingerprint identification, building security applications, and other sources of digital traffic. "We allow Mendocino County to leverage technology that's very economical," stresses Mahrino, "but without creating a situation where they have to rip out and replace what (equipment) they've got."

     Alcatel-Lucent used standards for the county's modernized network created by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which publishes standards for the Internet. "The big benefit for Mendocino County's network is that it's all IP," Mahrino added. "It allows the county to interoperate with its legacy equipment, and add applications that can work across many agencies and jurisdictions. The cost of upgrading this network will be very economical."

WiMAX speeds dispatch

     Another public safety network option some municipalities are adopting is the standards initiative called "worldwide interoperability for microwave access" or WiMAX, a 4G high-speed wireless network that uses IP as the core communication standard.

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