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October 30, 2007
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Interoperable communications: Is mesh technology the answer?

By Deputy Chief Randy Schoen
Medford (OR) PD
Reprinted with permission from Police Futurists International

Medford's population is just over 70,000 and is located in Jackson County, Oregon. Jackson County's population is home to eleven law enforcement agencies, with Medford being the largest. Jackson County 's LE agencies are dispatched by two separate 911 centers and its communications systems are probably representative of many of the nations law enforcement agencies.

Current Communication System
Primarily three components make up the County's Communication Systems; low range VHF frequencies for radio communications, Greedy Perimeter Stateless Routing (GPSR) for data transmission to Mobile Data Computers, and AT&T Cell phones. The limitations to these systems include the following:

  1. Overload on radio frequencies during peak activity times and during emergencies that prevent first responders from transmitting emergency information
  2. Inability for high speed, high memory digital transmissions to occur in real time to mobile data computers, which are needed, for streaming video.
  3. Cell phone system crashes due to overload during critical incidents.

In July of 2003 Medford received grant funding to install a MESH wireless communications system to promote interoperability and to overcome the current systems limitations.

Mesh Technology - General Description
Mesh technology was originally created for the Military. It was developed to deploy quickly and to automatically expand the coverage area of communications as more devices are added to the network. The technology is an ideal solution for establishing a peer-to-peer communications network anywhere, anytime.

The technology may be used for interoperability among multiple agencies during an emergency, or it may be used for daily operations. It allows personnel communications to roam throughout the coverage area without interruption to data, voice or video services.

Mesh technology offers big boosts to range and speed of wireless signals. It offers a self-forming, self-healing, and self-balancing network. The performance gains and security features make the technology extremely appealing.



Architecture Components

The network architecture consists of four hardware and software components:

WMC6300/Wireless Modem Card – PCMCIA Type II card (PC card) used to connect client devices to the network.

MWR6300/Wireless Router – enables non-line-of-sight communications between clients and Intelligent Access Points.

IAP6300/Intelligent Access Point – acts as the transition point from wireless devices to the Internet and the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).

MiSC/Mobile Internet Switching Controller – provides routing, switching and management functions for the wireless network.

Technical Benefits to Mesh
Self-forming – The network automatically detects new devices added to the network and expands the coverage area accordingly.

Self-healing – As devices fail, the network automatically reroutes network traffic.

Self-balancing – The network automatically determines the optimum path for network traffic and balances the load across the network.

Advantages to Mesh
Seamless Roaming – Seamless roaming means first-time responders maintain connectivity to the network and gain real-time access to data anywhere in the wireless coverage area. This technology provides true mobile computing. It is not based on “hot spots”.

Advanced Security – T his technology allows secure access to confidential data anywhere in the coverage area, while maintaining Government-strength encryption. This technology supports standard-based authentication, including support for RADIUS, Active Directory, Kerberos, Cisco LEAP, and VPN, as well as VPN-level encryption with AES, Twofish, 3DES, or DES. In other words, first responders know they have mobile and secure high-speed access to critical information and services.

Dynamic Routing – This technology automatically determines the optimum route available for data transmission on the network. It will also build redundant data paths. If devices fail, other routes are instantly determined, thus providing improved reliability and disaster preparedness, without human intervention.

High Speed Bandwidth – Mesh offers high-speed wireless connectivity. This allows data, voice and video transmissions on the network.

Geo-location and Navigation Services – This technology provides 3D location data in standard GPS format so applications that operate with GPS data work seamlessly with the wireless modem card.

The Answer – Mesh Technology
Medford believes the answer to its communication needs now and into the future is Mesh Technology and we look forward to sharing with the law enforcement community our successes and limitations.

By Deputy Chief Randy Schoen
Medford Police Department
Medford , Oregon
randys@ci.medford.or.us

Police Futurists International fosters excellence in policing by promoting and applying the methodologies of futures research. Our members include active and retired law enforcement officers and civilians, members of the academic community, students, governmental and private sector security experts from around the world.

Information weblinks:
www.meshnetworks.com
www.viasyscorp.com
   
In the news: Colorado community goes wireless with mesh surveillence network

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