Chicago Taps IBM, Firetide To Install 'Operation Virtual Shield' - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications

Chicago Taps IBM, Firetide To Install 'Operation Virtual Shield'

The citywide video surveillance system uses a combination of unified fiber and wireless mesh networking to make data available in real time.

The City of Chicago has installed a state-of-the-art video surveillance system that will capture video at hundreds of points throughout the city and make the data available for real time analysis.

Announced Thursday by Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) and lead supplier IBM, the project builds on a unified fiber network in downtown Chicago and is enhanced by a wireless mesh network provided by Firetide.

Called "Operation Virtual Shield," the deployment is slated to eventually cover the entire city with thousands of video surveillance access points.

"Cities are faced with ever-increasing threats such as routine crime or terrorist activity and the only way to preventively protect citizens is through a truly sophisticated security surveillance system," said Mike Daniels, senior vice president, IBM Global Technology Services, in a statement. Much of IBM's Smart Surveillance product was developed at its Watson Research Lab.

Tony Ruiz, OEMC executive director, noted that Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley has promoted a plan of incorporating "cameras from pubic entities and private sector businesses into a single unified system allowing first responders access to real time visual data."

Key to collecting and transmitting the video data is Firetide's mesh technology, which supports wireless public safety applications ranging from traffic control and VoIP communications to covert and overt video surveillance. The Firetide system allows Chicago's first responders to access databases rapidly and is configured to allow the addition of thousands more video access points in the future.

Firetide's mesh network, which utilizes the firm's HotPort 6000 product family, operates within the 2.4 GHz, 4.9 GHz public safety licensed band, or 5.0 GHz band.

"Because the technology is radio-agnostic, any license-free or licensed spectrum (can) be meshed," said Bo Larsson, Firetide CEO, in an e-mail. 'Firetide is unique in that our nodes can be decoupled from access points. Sometimes the best location for an access point is not the best place for a mesh node."

The system features some security cameras that can detect gunshot sounds that prompt the cameras to turn toward the sounds before automatically calling 911. The system can also read license plate numbers.

Another key partner to the surveillance operation is Genetec, whose Omnicast video management platform is used to piece together various camera data into the system.

While the Chicago system has been hailed by security specialists, it has been questioned by civil liberty advocates who fear the system could represent an invasion of privacy.

Cost of the system hasn't been released by the OEMC, but at least part of the funding is being covered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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