Surveillance in your pocket

Brian Geoghegan, vice president for corporate development at Herndon, Va.-based Reality Mobile LLC, would be the first to tell you the admittedly cool technology his company just took public is more pilot than production system. And during an impressive demonstration of RealityVision at GCN's offices, he's clear on that issue.

Still, RealityVision works today. Geoghegan even took it to the 2006 Super Bowl in Detroit, where two federal agencies he isn't allowed to name used the system as part of their security surveillance. Based on those experiences, Reality Mobile further enhanced the product and decided it was ready for wider scrutiny.

RealityVision is client-server software that takes advantage of existing cellular or WiFi communications to allow mobile users to share live video over a variety of off-the-shelf devices, such as the Palm Treo 650 or a notebook PC. (It does not, however, run on BlackBerry devices.) The system comprises three basic parts: a server-based command-and-control console, a database and a mobile client application. In the console, a user can see a list of video-enabled mobile devices and their owners, plus any number of fixed IP-based surveillance cameras the organization might have in its network.

Also from the console, the user can receive live video from the field, share video with other mobile users, map the location of devices in a geographic information system (Geoghegan used both Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth), and even force a remote device to start transmitting video images. The system has TiVo-like functionality so the command center can review video footage and transmit portions back to the field.

It's not exactly smooth video. Geoghegan estimated it at about a frame per second, depending on the quality of the network connection. In our conference room, where cell coverage is spotty at best, video more closely resembled a slide show. And as it continues to enhance the product, the company has its eye on other capabilities. RealityVision does not yet support peer-to-peer video sharing, which would be handy in a surveillance situation. As of now, it's a 'hub-and-spoke system,' Geoghegan said. One mobile user cannot reach out to another and share video feeds. And the product doesn't currently support over-the-air provisioning, although Geoghegan said it could.

Where else will the product need to evolve? Mainly in the area of security. So far there's no built-in cryptography ('Because every group has their own,' Geoghegan said) and no access control feature. And for now, as the company shows RealityVision to prospective government customers, the back end is housed on a secure Reality Mobile server. But Geoghegan said it would run on agency servers where required.

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