Government Technology

Making the Case for Wireless Video Surveillance

Video Surv. Best Practices

January 23, 2008 By

For several years, the residents of the Rockford Housing Authority in Illinois faced a peculiar security challenge. They often witnessed strangers loitering in the vicinity selling rugs, drinking, or otherwise engaging in offensive behavior. And despite various security measures, such activities continued unabated because, they discovered, the vast majority of these people engaged in such activities were not residents at all.

Officials of RHA realized that on top of all the measures already taken, another security layer was needed - ubiquitous video surveillance. But how? With 15 properties that include 2100 housing units, RHA is the third-largest public housing authority in Illinois, and wiring the whole area was neither cheap, nor easy. "There were a few regular wired cameras (called the CCTV cameras) installed already but those were not flexible and couldn't provide very effective surveillance because RHA had a lot of trees," says Paul Hackerson, security director of the Rockford Housing Authority.

The solution came from Montel Technologies, a provider of wired and wireless networking systems, that installed a new security monitoring system with IP-based video cameras and a wireless mesh network from Firetide, Inc., one of the leading providers of mesh networks for industrial and municipal applications.

"Crimes plummeted by 20 percent soon after we installed the wireless cameras," says Paul Hackerson. "And now we monitor the property not only from the monitoring office but also from our homes if need be, and we use the cameras for a lot more than security surveillance. The cameras also tell me if the property in being maintained properly, if the grass is getting mowed, or if there are any hazards I need to hamdle."

If Paul Hackerson is using wireless video cameras for checking crime rate and also to keep an eye out on the maintenance of the large property under his care, others such as the Phoenix Police Department -- reportedly the first police department in the country to use wireless video surveillance for time-critical investigative deployments - is already moving on to the next step. The department, according to Chris Jensen, a detective with the city's Drug Enforcement Bureau, is trying to develop new uses of wireless video surveillance so that the cameras do more intelligent things like reading the number plates of cars, crime suppression through interpretation of movements, and as an officers' safety tool.

Indeed, following the 9/11 terror attacks, as homeland security initiatives gains immense importance in America, wireless video surveillance is fast emerging as the most preferred video surveillance tool for police departments and municipalities.

"Video surveillance over Internet Protocol is accelerating very fast with numerous law enforcement and public safety agencies across the U.S. adopting wireless video surveillance in order to make their jobs more efficient and cost effective," says Bo Larsson, CEO of Firetide Inc., the California-based developer of wireless mesh networks that claims to be the largest player in wireless video surveillance market in US.

According to Larson there have been over 40 installations of IP-based video surveillance in the past 18 months systems in the US, "and soon, you will see some very big announcements too."

Firetide estimates that out of the global $1.5 billion IP-based video camera market in 2008, the US alone will account for well over $650 million.

Several factors are driving this trend. But foremost among them is the fact that wireless digital video cameras are easy to install. "We were pleasantly surprised at the speed of implementation [of a wireless video surveillance system]," says Tom Lawrence, deputy police chief of the Dallas Police Department.

Dallas has a population of 1.2 million and spans 385 square miles. Downtown is an especially busy zone with hundreds of thousands of people coming into the area during the day. And thousands dine at the district's restaurants or spend an evening at the many clubs and entertainment venues. The police department's

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