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ASIS 2011: Firetide Wins Houston Contract

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Firetide has deployed a wireless surveillance network for the City of Houston, supporting some 300 high-definition IP cameras in the city's two-square-mile downtown area.

The project, announced today at the 2011 ASIS International Seminar and Exhibits in Orlando, Fla., will use 200 Firetide HotPort mesh nodes with four gateways that connect to Houston's fiber optic network. Cameras, from Axis Communications, will require 2 to 3 Mb/s of bandwidth, calling for network performance close to 1 Gb/s.

Firetide won the contract on the basis of its ability to deliver high throughput performance in such a high-density area crowded with other RF traffic, including hundreds of commercial WiFi hotspots, traffic control devices and parking meters, according to Pramod Akkarachittor, director of product management at Firetide. Interference problems were handled through recent software enhancements to the HotPort line, Akkarachittor said, and these additions led to Firetide winning the contract from another, undisclosed, vendor at the eleventh hour. In all, cameras will monitor 143 intersections. The system, which recently went on-line, is managed by the Houston Police Department, which will maintain a control center similar to operations in other cities, including Dallas, the subject of a Security Squared video last year.

The cameras use H.264 compression and variable bit rate encoding, Akkarachittor said. Project development was overseen by the Houston Mayor's Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security and funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Value of overall contract, however, has not been disclosed. Other partners in the system development include NWN Corp., which did network engineering and design; Pfeiffer and Son Ltd, which did configuration and integration, and Vidsys, supplier of Houston's physical security information management system.

The current system could be just the first phase of a larger wireless surveillance system covering other parts of the city. Akkarachittor suggested, although he said no definitive plans have been made as of now. Natural extensions of the network include the city's Midtown and Museum districts to the south of downtown, and the Uptown and Heights districts to the West.

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