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Connected Cops and the Networks That Empower Them
Author: Christina Richards, Vice President, AOptix
Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content
Around the world, public safety agencies have successfully deployed cutting-edge surveillance systems as a means to provide greater protection to local communities. From police body-cams to sophisticated networks of cameras on public streets and intersections, these investments give citizens peace-of-mind, while simultaneously equipping law enforcement with new streams of data that can be used to prevent criminal activity.
Right:Bodycams are empowering today’s connected cops. Photo: Bloomberg
That being said, the larger these projects become, the more support is needed to make these surveillance networks actionable in real-time, rather than just creating records for events that have already passed. As tactics and technologies grow increasingly complex, with greater emphasis on data analysis in order to recognize and flag potential threats to law-enforcement, officials are encountering an entirely new set of technical challenges.
To take full advantage of the added security and insights that these technologies bring to our communities, agencies must also implement infrastructure that is capable of fully supporting the data requirements that are created as surveillance information is gathered, transported and analyzed. This means developing networks that are robust enough to support multiple gigabits per second, while ensuring that they are proprietary to law-enforcement and remain inaccessible to the general public.
Different Data, Same Requirements
In urban and residential settings alike, the options for more sophisticated surveillance continue to grow and can often be used in tandem with one another. While many of these technologies have separate use cases for law enforcement, they each share a common feature in requiring the high-speed transmission of large quantities of data.
As video surveillance technology has become more accessible, and its benefits have been realized in major metropolitan areas, law-enforcement agencies in rural and suburban areas across the country have begun to consider and implement these technologies as a means to empower and bolster police forces with limited manpower.
The city of Corpus Christi in Texas, for example, recently announced a $290,000 program dubbed the “camera interoperability project” that works to aggregate video data from over 200 cameras already installed around the city to give law enforcement a more detailed view of what’s happening in any given location.
On the other end of the spectrum is Los Angeles County, which has a long track record of using cutting edge technologies to aid police officers with intricate networks of cameras that are supplemented at times by wide area surveillance tactics, which involve using aircraft surveillance to generate a detailed view of the activities across a large geographic area.
Likewise, in jurisdictions across the country, officials are recognizing the need for video at a more pedestrian level, with several police departments beginning to integrate police “body-cams” in order to document day-to-day operations and interactions with civilians.
While each of these technologies has the potential to serve a different purpose, they all share the same challenge of transmitting data from point A, where it is being captured, to point B where it will be viewed, processed, analyzed, and accessed at later dates.
Networking for Success
The individual networks that support public safety activities will often vary between jurisdictions based upon the size of the policed area, geographic features, and access to existing fiber optic cable and cellular tower infrastructure. San Francisco’s iconic Sutro Tower, for example, supports several services within the city, including police communications.
However these communications become exponentially more difficult to support when they include streaming video data, which often requires multi-gigabit connectivity to function optimally. In order to meet these growing data requirements, many agencies are forced to bolster their existing networks, or build entirely new ones that are capable of transmitting large quantities of data quickly and reliably.
Above Right: The AOptix intellimax looks like a surveillance camera, but isn’t. It is a high capacity wireless transport solution to supplement or replace fiber-based networks. This product is an example of some of the networking infrastructure that public safety agencies are considering to support increased data requirements.
Across the country, several municipalities have been rolling out projects to better connect their communities by trenching fiber optic cable, which offers the capacity to support high-bandwidth activities like video surveillance. Because of physical or budgetary limitations however, fiber is not always a viable solution. This is driving greater consideration for high-bandwidth, wireless solutions that can be deployed quickly and at a lower cost to tax payers.
Calling for Backup
As with any system that’s designed to protect the public, there must also be an element of redundancy that’s capable of providing support in the event that front-line operations become compromised. The same natural disasters and emergency situations that have the potential to take down communications infrastructure are also the events during which the general public relies on law enforcement the most.
With communications networks, path diversity can be an extremely effective method for reducing the risk of system failure. This is accomplished by establishing two or more high-availability connections that use either a different form of technology or follow a different physical path. For this “back up” to truly be effective, these dual connections must also be completely redundant in the data they transmit.
At the end of the day, surveillance deployments can only be effective as the networks that support and connect them back to law enforcement. With more sophisticated technology comes more challenging data requirements; but with effective infrastructure in place, police forces can be better equipped to keep our communities safe.
Christina Richards is a 20-year veteran of the wireless communications industry. As VP of Marketing for Aoptix, Christina is responsible for the company’s strategic marketing vision and execution, and leads awareness efforts for the company's Laser-Radio Technology. For more information, see http://aoptix.com