New York City goes wireless

Wireless network supports transfers of large files, such as fingerprints, maps and full-motion streaming video

New York City now has a high-speed, mobile data network that spans more than 300 square miles and all five boroughs and wirelessly links first responders on scene with incident managers at remote sites through real-time data and video feeds.

The IP-based New York City Wireless Network (NYCWiN) supports transfers of large files, including fingerprints, city maps, automatic vehicle location information and full-motion streaming video. The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) developed the network with Northrop Grumman Corp. and IPWireless.

DoITT and the New York City Police Department are installing wireless modems in 1,800 vehicles to give patrol officers access to critical applications previously available only on desktop PCs.

"The NYCWiN technology platform provides data transfer speeds 100 times that of our legacy networks and enables us to deploy a wealth of broadband applications, including streaming video, to increase situational awareness among our first responders," said Steve Harte, DoITT's associate commissioner of wireless technologies. "Leveraging this capability, we have also created an interoperable video management system that allows the mayor's office, NYPD, Fire Department, Office of Emergency Management and a variety of other agencies to access shared, incident-based video feeds as needed."

The video system was recently used during Operation Safe PATH 2009, a full-scale, multi-agency exercise to test the city's and the Port Authority's response to the simulated detonation of an improvised explosive device on a New Jersey-bound commuter train, and the response to the crash of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, which made an emergency landing in the Hudson River in January. In each case, the video system was mobilized at the incident scene and enabled first responders to stream video back to the city's Emergency Operations Center.

More than 50 applications originating at 19 agencies are planned or under way, including automated water-meter reading, traffic signal control and a variety of handheld inspection-related programs. Wireless cards will enable city employees to remotely access agency systems.

DoITT awarded a five-year, $500 million contract to Northrop Grumman in 2006 to implement and maintain the wireless network. To help fund the network’s creation, the city secured roughly $20 million from the federal Homeland Security Department. The network consists of 400 sites managed from two fully redundant network operations centers.

About the Authors

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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