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Cal State Long Beach Implements Wireless Surveillance

California State University, Long Beach has gone public with its deployment of a wireless video surveillance system similar to those used at Super Bowl XLII and in cities such as Chicago and Dallas. The system, which employs wireless networks from Firetide, has already led to a dozen arrests, the school said in a statement.

The university administration and on-campus police department claimed they needed a surveillance system to supplement officers on patrol and couldn't temporarily shut down to lay fixed cable. "We would have been trenching all over the place, which is horribly disruptive and just wouldn't fly," said Greg Pascal, communications and IS manager for the university's police department. "We had no other option but wireless. It would have been phenomenally expensive to go with a hard-wired solution to get the coverage we needed."

In addition to keeping a population of 38,000 mostly commuter-students under surveillance, the CSULB police also watch many large and remote parking lots. "We're in close proximity to a couple of major freeways, so these spaces can play host to folks that aren't part of our university community," Pascal said.

Before selecting Firetide, the school's police department turned to neighboring law enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Santa Monica Police Department, for guidance. "We knew that the wireless technology used in this system would be essential to its success--choppy or granular video caused by limited bandwidth can be a critical flaw when it comes to surveillance. We were able to avoid any of these issues from day one."

Thirty-seven pan-tilt-zoom cameras, 29 of which are connected wirelessly, and 40 Firetide mesh nodes make up the university's surveillance network, installed by Moore Electrical Contracting. The network operates in the licensed 4.9 GHz band to reduce interference; the system includes Bosch analog cameras and IndigoVision encoders and video management. The majority of cameras are located on light poles and other structures around campus and its parking lots. Signs are posted in areas under surveillance warning of the cameras.

Dispatchers monitor the live camera feeds and communicate with police on patrol in real time. Pascal said a benefit of the cameras is that dispatch can be "on scene" in a matter of seconds after a call, providing police with information before they arrive.

Although the department used some existing fixed cable, it built an entirely new wireless infrastructure for the project. The university and police department own and operate the secure network, so they have the ability to add other high-bandwidth applications like data transmission. Ultimately, the network will be able to stream live video into patrol cars on the beat.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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