Video surveillance riding over Firetide mesh networks played a key role in helping the Phoenix police secure various venues associated with the Super Bowl earlier this month, according to a Phoenix police detective.

For the Super Bowl, the city of Phoenix deployed five mesh networks that included 40 Firetide HotPort 6000 dual-radio mesh nodes to support 42 cameras deployed in the downtown area, where the NFL headquarters and media center was located, said detective Chris Jensen.

“We were able to use the video effectively not only to enhance [security] but replace some officer positions,” he said.
Theoretically capable of data rates of 70 Mb/s, the Firetide solution typically provided throughputs of 55-60 Mb/s during the Super Bowl period, Jensen said. The flexibility of mesh networks proved especially valuable during the weeks before the big game, when Phoenix decided it needed to add the fifth mesh network to ensure the performance desired, he said.

“When all the world’s media moved in with all their networks and dishes, we started seeing a degradation in our throughput,” Jensen said. “So, we just added another mesh in a matter of hours, we moved some cameras to the new mesh, and we boosted our output again.”

In addition to the video feeds—something Phoenix police was familiar with, having used Firetide solutions to establish temporary video-surveillance posts for more than a year—the mesh architecture also was used to deliver encrypted voice-over-IP (VoIP) communications, something police had not tried before over a mesh network.

“Where we saw value in that was, number one, we were not dependent on a commercial network—the cell-phone coverage in Phoenix took a nose dive as everyone came into the valley,” Jensen said. “As a last secure, uninterrupted communications link, we always knew [the mesh network] would be available.”

When deciding to establish VoIP communications between the joint operations center and downtown operations three miles away, there was some concern that there might be latency in one of the 42 video feeds or in the voice communications. But those concerns proved to be unfounded, as tests showed quickly, Jensen said.

“We had one overall view that would bring all 42 cameras back to them, and we had them bring that up on their monitor,” he said. “So, we had 42 camera [views] coming across, along with the voice-over-IP phone [communications]. And we had no hiccups.”

Phoenix police has used Firetide mesh solutions to support temporary video surveillance endeavors, such as stakeouts, but the Super Bowl marked the first time the city established fixed cameras for such a long period of time. Although the cameras and networks originally were expected to be taken down after the Super Bowl, Jensen said city officials came away so impressed with its capabilities that the mesh networks and cameras could become a permanent fixture in downtown Phoenix.