City buses in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, have been broadband-enabled wirelessly to improve security and entertainment for riders via Motorola’s 2.4 GHz mobile mesh-networking solution that has been deployed citywide as part of a revitalization project.

Working in conjunction with intelligent transit solution (ITS) software from system integrator Trapeze Group, the mesh network delivers broadband to each bus. The resulting system lets dispatchers from Five Seasons Parking and Transportation—the company that operates the city bus fleet—monitor real-time security video on buses, even if they are in motion.

Although demonstrated previously at CTIA in 2002, the Cedar Rapids deployment marks the first time that the Motorola mesh-networking architecture has been deployed in a bus system to let passengers access the Internet, said Rick Rotondo, director of marketing for Motorola’s mesh networks product group. From a security standpoint, a driver can press a button during an incident to activate video showing action inside the bus to dispatchers, according to Motorola.

“Initially, this was conceived to increase ridership and provide entertainment on buses,” Rotondo said. “Not only does it do this and provide updated information, it gives you access to security video on the bus.”

The fact that Motorola’s network delivers this performance while buses are moving was a primary reason Cedar Rapids’ system chose it, said Bill Hoekstra, transportation and parking director for Five Seasons Parking and Transportation.

“We looked at several options, but only Motorola and Trapeze were able to reliably provide a two-way broadband connection and applications to the buses while they were in motion,” Hoekstra said in a prepared statement.

When such security measures are unnecessary, passengers benefit from the mesh network by being able to use mobile devices such laptops or PDAs to access the Internet. Passengers without such devices can view streaming video of news, entertainment and transit information displayed on a 23-inch plasma screen positioned at the front of the bus.

“This is a major breakthrough for transit in North America,” said Greg Tomsic, vice president and general manager of the Trapeze Group’s ITS Division, in a prepared statement. “Forward-thinking transit organizations like Cedar Rapids can now provide a ‘mobile Internet café’ for their riders. This innovative service will enrich the riding experience on the transit corridor and contribute to ridership growth.”