I recently interviewed the director of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC). The office oversees Chicago’s vast video surveillance network, dubbed Operation VirtualShield, which links nearly 3000 cameras and stretches throughout the city’s downtown financial district, as well as into the surrounding neighborhoods, schools and private businesses.

It would be inaccurate to say video surveillance systems are futuristic. More municipalities throughout the U.S. are deploying them, and European cities like London have used video systems for years to combat crime. It’s no wonder it will be a hot topic at the IWCE 2009, to be held in Las Vegas in March. The topic will be discussed during the session, “Utilizing Wireless Technologies in Deploying Video for the Protection of CriticalInfrastructure.”

The session will be hosted by Ken Colley, the senior manager for training and customer care at ObjectVideo. Colley has worked in the industry for more than 15 years, according to his bio. In the session, he will address how, in the past, wireless network solutions could not be effectively used to deploy video security systems because each camera needed wideband connectivity to a central location. Now, wireless networks are more robust, but video surveillance systems also have become more complex, using video analytic tools and other technologies to improve security and the cost-effectiveness of video security applications. Colley will explore such tools as well as video technologies used in both conventional and wireless applications.

I’ve attended many IWCE sessions over the past few years and continue to learn about cutting-edge technologies and deployments. But let’s face it. Such technologies cost money. One thing I learned from my chats with the OECM is that the deployment of any video surveillance system takes a significant investment. The city first had to build out a core, fiber-based network throughout its downtown and install wireless access points to extend it into the neighborhoods. It also had to purchase video cameras and related systems.

Before any of this happened, however, the OEMC had to develop a governance policy that included details on how the system would be run and safeguards for protecting the public’s privacy—no easy task in city as large and as bureaucratic as Chicago.

I believe it would be beneficial for any public-safety entity to attend the session and learn how to deploy a video surveillance system in their jurisdiction. My hope is that it will address the technology issues as well as the intense and essential planning process that must take place before any such endeavor is undertaken.