New Orleans plans to expand its Wi-Fi network after seeing how well it performed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. According to Chris Drake, operations manager for the city's Emergency Operations Center, the Wi-Fi network was the first to go back online after the storm passed. The system's architecture relies heavily on mesh-networking equipment from Tropos Networks and Motorola's Canopy system, which is used for backhaul, Drake said.

The system's durability was impressive, Drake said. “It suffered minor physical damage, which is why we were able to bring the system back so quickly.”

In fact, only a handful of nodes were lost during the storm, and then only when the tower or utility poles to which they were attached toppled. Every node still in place continued to be functional, Drake said.

The system originally was deployed as part of Mayor Ray Nagin's seven-step plan to fight crime in the city. Cameras were deployed to monitor critical infrastructure and to provide evidence that could be used in court. “It's a witness that can't be intimidated,” Drake said.

The video surveillance system that rides over the metro-scale Wi-Fi system has yielded impressive results: a 50% reduction in the city's murder rate and a 30% reduction in vehicle thefts.

Before deploying the system, the city encountered some resistance from the American Civil Liberties Union, which threatened to sue unless some of its concerns were addressed. Though the city didn't cave in on every demand, it did agree to refrain from recording audio, according to Drake.

“We decided not to be adversarial with them,” he said. “There is a certain expectation that when two people see a police officer approaching that they can whisper to each other without being heard, but the officer knows they're there. There's a stigma about eavesdropping, especially when you're using high-powered recording equipment.”