Chattanooga testing wireless network at Riverbend

Chattanooga testing wireless network at Riverbend

June 11th, 2009 by Jacqueline Koch in Fyi Riverbend2009

Staff Photo by John Rawlston Mark Keil, left, chief information officer for the City of Chattanooga, and Rodger Jenkins, president and CEO of Excalibur Information Systems, discuss the integrated security camera system being tested at the Riverbend Festival this year during a news conference at the police command center at the festival site on Wednesday.

During a demonstration Tuesday night of a new wireless network meant to improve public safety, a Chattanooga police officer received information about someone throwing rocks off the Walnut Street Bridge.

About 20 minutes later, after viewing a wireless video feed from the bridge, officers apprehended the man.

That's one example of the way the private network can improve communication in the city and eventually across Hamilton County, officials say.

Chattanooga and Hamilton County officials are using the Riverbend Festival to test the network, which is accessible by a variety of city departments and uses EPB's fiber optics for connectivity.

"We started this whole process by realizing this was the future of communications in government," said Dan Johnson, Mayor Ron Littlefield's chief of staff. "Fiber is the best and fastest communication there is in today's market."

The private government network is not accessible to the public.

Officials hope the coverage area can expand beyond the 2- to 3-mile zone tested during Riverbend, and personnel will begin working on a business proposal to assess costs before the project goes to bidding.

The test has shown the extent of the network's bandwidth, or how much information can be sent and received on the network. Plans are in the works to double the bandwidth in coming years, said City Information Officer Mark Keil.

"We're identifying the highest need," he said. "It needs to be user-driven."

During Riverbend, the network, which is deployed by Motorola and its partner, Excalibur Integrated Systems, gives officers the ability to monitor in real time 16 cameras placed on the North Shore, in Coolidge Park, Renaissance Park and along the festival site. The network provides fast Internet access for officers to file reports or look up suspect information.

It also offers live video of festivalgoers from Ross's Landing so those at home can watch from their computers.

"This is the culmination of a lot of work, a lot of collaboration and a lot of preparedness," said Roger Jenkins, president and CEO of Excalibur, who added that the entire process was set up in 30 days.

Chattanooga Police Department officers also connect to the network, which is faster than Wi-Fi, to use laptop computers, look up information about suspects or file reports quickly.

Mr. Jenkins said the network eventually could be used for traffic signal and sewage management, for example.

Other cities, including Nashville and Knoxville, as well as the state of Georgia, have expressed an interest in visiting Chattanooga to learn more about the network, officials said.