Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Detecting Gunshots

Detecting Gunshots
April 19, 2007, Wi-Fi Planet.com
By Naomi Graychase

Northern California-based ShotSpotter, the world's leading developer of gunshot location technology, recently announced the release of an upgrade to its highly effective weapons-fire detection system, ShotSpotter Gunshot Location System (GLS). Release 5.0 includes a new mobile version (PSC Mobile) of ShotSpotter's Public Safety Console (PSC) that provides real-time updates on gunshot events, including "dot on the map" incident details with visual and audio alerts for officers and medical personnel in the field.

The system is used domestically by police departments (and other first responders) in large and small cities to quickly and accurately detect gunshots as they occur. By deploying sensors throughout a coverage area, ShotSpotter puts accurate information immediately into the hands of police. Rather than depending on good Samaritans or victims to phone 911 in the minutes or hours following shots fired, police can be fed accurate data about the time, exact location, and situational details -- including video -- surrounding a gunfire incident.

"Because people in areas with frequent gun violence are afraid to call in, or they are immune to the sound of shots, less than 50% nationally get reported to police," says Gregg Rowland, senior vice president at ShotSpotter. "We give police information that they didn't have before; now they get all the gunshots fired in the city. Citizens are not trained observers. They may hear the echo off a building, or they may hear it from one direction when it came from another. The call may come in five to ten minutes after the event happens and send first responders on wild goose chases; first responders can't figure out where it came from, and they get there too late to render any aid, or to get any witnesses, or to get forensic information. We present gunshot information to them within 10 to 15 seconds. Officers sometimes arrive while the shooting is still going on. They can render aid to individuals, get video, identify witnesses, and get evidence left behind by the shooter, which is better for criminal prosecution."

Every city where ShotSpotter has been deployed, including Los Angeles and Oakland, California, and Washington, D.C., reports that gunfire-related arrests have gone up significantly, in some cases by 50%; violent crime rates have dropped by a minimum of 30%; and gunfire rates have been reduced by as much as 80%.

"There is a deterrence factor," says Rowland. "Cities tell you that once they make a few arrests due to it and they announce it publicly, that deterrence factor is huge and has been a good bit of the impact in reducing violent crime in the cities where it's installed. The gang members do bravado shooting, just to make themselves known -- those, and gang-style murders, don't happen in ShotSpotter cities any more."

Wireless sensors are at the heart of the ShotSpotter system, and Release 5.0 adds mobile sensors for individuals and vehicles.

"We have highly portable sensors to be mounted on officers, soldiers, SWAT teams, etc., so it's people moving around," Rowland says. "It took the ability to use prolific wireless networks to make this happen. We need good coverage. By having all this good wireless technology out there, we can build these small, portable, compact sensors."

The portable sensors are about the size of two PDAs stacked on top of one another, and include an antenna, batteries, and support for any radio network that users might need to connect to, including 802.11a/b and new licensed bands.

"Version 5.0 is a lot more wireless-friendly," says company senior vice president Gregg Rowland. "It includes the ability to use any wireless network to connect our sensors. Our older software was designed to communicate over phone lines. Now, we can plug our sensors into any network. We're wireless-agnostic."

While the system is highly effective in open areas such as city streets, city parks and military environments, its primary limitation is detecting indoor events. In the case of a shooting incident like the one at Virginia Tech, which took place inside a building, the sensors are not guaranteed to detect gunfire or assist in speeding response.

"We're hoping that campuses won't have a lot of gunshot problems," says Rowland. "But the system only works well if the shooting is outside. If someone was shooting inside a dorm room or a classroom with no open windows, there's a good chance we might not even detect it. The advantage of our system is that if something is happening outside, we'll tell the police exactly what was happening."

For cities that adopt the ShotSpotter system, the learning curve for using the technology is not steep, but it does require comprehensive training and a new level of readiness on the part of first responders who might suddenly find themselves in the midst of a shooting instead of arriving on site long after the perpetrator has fled or been disarmed.

"We train the dispatchers," Rowland says. "We train the patrol officers. We leave trainers behind who can train detectives and prosecutors on how to get evidence out of our system. We want the PDs to be as self-sustainable as possible to do their work. It usually takes the police department about a month to really get up to speed and figure out how to use it. They have to change a lot of policies. The info comes so quickly, and they have to learn how to take the information and do something with it. We double the amount of shots fired on the first day it's turned on. They have to be equipped to deal with that and dispatch officers accordingly. Initially, they have to deal with the fact that officers may arrive in the middle of a gun battle, rather than when it's over."

The cost of deploying ShotSpotter in an urban environment depends on the topology and the options. For an average-sized city, the cost is about $1,000,000. For larger systems, such as the one in Washington, DC, the price can double.

Current ShotSpotter cities also include Phoenix; Rochester, New York; Minneapolis; Charleston; Birmingham; Chicago; East Orange, New Jersey; and, coming soon, Boston.

ShotSpotter is also used by three of the four branches of the military: Army, Air Force, and Marines.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Nationwide Wi-Fi a Success in Macedonia

by Naomi Graychase
December 22, 2006
Wi-Fi Planet.com

What began as an attempt to get more computers (and Internet access) into schools in Macedonia [perhaps technically known as the Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia (FYROM), as per the United Nations, until the country and Greece work out their differences; the U.S. Government, however, recognizes the country as the Republic of Macedonia - edited 1/9/07], has become, through the unlikely pairing of American dollars and Chinese computers, a successful deployment of a nationwide broadband wireless network. The network is revolutionary, not simply because it is considered the largest hotspot in the world, but because of its impact on the economy and culture of the country it connects.

Read the whole story.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

US Internet Sets Sights on New Cities

November 17, 2006

by Naomi Graychase
Wi-Fi Planet.com

Last month, Minnesota-based ISP US Internet announced that it had been chosen by the city of Minneapolis to provide citywide Wi-Fi. To win the contract for the 60-square-mile broadband wireless network, the ten-year old company with no previous municipal Wi-Fi experience beat out some heavy hitters, including EarthLink.

The victory, says Joe Caldwell, US Internet co-founder and CEO, came down to the fact that US Internet gave the city what it wanted.

"We really read the RFP," says Caldwell. "We didn't come in with any preconceived notions of what we wanted the city to have. A big part of the city's need was public safety, another was bridging the digital divide, another was a network that could support voice and video. They wanted a network that could support consumers and businesses. They wanted so many different things. We brought them the combination of the best solutions."

Despite being something of a new kid on the block in this particular arena, Caldwell says he and his team never doubted they would emerge victorious. "We did beat out some stiff competition, but I thought we were always the favorite going in," he says. "When we were picked as a finalist, I thought we were way ahead of [EarthLink]. In our mind, what they brought to the table was not what the city asked for in the RFP."

The Minneapolis deployment is just beginning of the roll-out.

"We have a one square mile area up and running right now that was used in the 'bake-off' between us and EarthLink this summer," says Caldwell. "We are only offering 250 accounts in that one square mile, but in one day, we sold all 250 accounts."

So far, Caldwell says the feedback from early users has been positive. However, not inclined to rest on its laurels, the company has partnered with Atlanta-based Charys and is already pursuing contracts in other major metropolitan areas, including Boston and Atlanta. One news report prematurely indicated that the Atlanta contract had been won in early November, but Caldwell is quick to point out that it's too soon to announce any new victories.

"I don't know how that got interpreted," says Caldwell. "We haven't landed contracts. In Boston, they are putting in two one square mile pilot areas, and we are putting in one of those. Then we'll have a bake-off, like here. Then someone will get awarded the contract. In Atlanta, we just had our second big meeting. It's down to two of us. It's us and EarthLink. We have a lot of deals in play right now, but the only thing we've won is Minneapolis."

Caldwell sees municipal Wi-Fi as an area of reliable growth, and he says his company will continue to aggressively seek ways to expand its presence in that market. "As our society becomes more and more mobile, being able to have wireless broadband will be essential, and Wi-Fi is the best delivery method," he says. "There's so many things you can do with Wi-Fi. In Taipei, they have Wi-Fi child-finding devices. In Minneapolis, we're delivering security cameras over Wi-Fi. We can deliver that over the mesh network. That's what we're excited about. It's the next big thing when it comes to Internet."

The company, which currently employs about 100 people, takes an old-fashioned approach to its high-tech business, an approach that helped the company weather the stormy years of the dot-com bubble's burst.

"In the beginning [1995], there were just three of us in the basement of a house running US Robotics modems -- now we have offices in Singapore," says Caldwell. "The big thing we did right was we didn't take on any debt. We didn't have a 'build it and they will come' mentality. Every penny that this made went back into growing it. A lot of companies built these 100,000 square foot data centers. No one gave us the money to do anything that stupid, so we didn't. We always kept our eye on the bottom line, because it's always been our bottom line, not some VC's [venture capitalist’s] bottom line. Our agenda has been, take care of the customer, and the rest will take care of itself, and that's what we found to be successful."

US Internet has come a long way from its days as the dream of three guys in a basement in Minnesota, and it expects to go much, much further. "We want to be a world leader," says Caldwell. "We didn't get into this just to do Minneapolis. Back in 1995, we had about $1.25 to our name. We had about enough to cover the apartment building in which we started. But we named our company 'US Internet.' We're not lacking vision here. When we do Minneapolis right, we're going to have a calling card to go in and do these other cities."

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Syracuse City Schools Get Expansive WLAN

by Naomi Graychase
April 11, 2005
Wi-Fi Planet

The city of Syracuse, N.Y. is in the second of a three-phase plan to roll out a wired and wireless broadband network serving all 41 of the public school buildings within its city limits. The $80 million project, which will include 18,000 network drops and up to 300 Cisco Access Points, will bring high-speed Internet access to approximately 23,000 students and 2,000 faculty members.

Syracuse, which is home to roughly 700,000 residents, has contracted with Bluesocket to handle security, including access control, authentication, encryption and bandwidth management, and with IBM Global Services and Cisco to create the infrastructure.

"We were able to wholeheartedly embrace wireless because of the authentication abilities with Bluesocket," says Don Spaulding, director of Information Services and Technology for the City of Syracuse school system. "We tried to create a defense layer on the outside of the network. We have those measures in place as well."

The involvement of IBM and Bluesocket is the result of a new alliance between the two companies, which announced today that they will be working together to introduce an approach to large-scale, heterogeneous, wireless LAN environments which integrate multiple equipment providers and where centralized configuration, radio-frequency management and intrusion detection are vital.

Bluesocket also provides secure Internet access at two other school districts, the San Juan Unified School District in Carmichael, Calif., and the Coppell School District of Coppell, Texas.

The Syracuse network is currently active in 20 instructional buildings, with another six expected to be online by May 1. It will serve both administrative and instructional purposes. Grading systems, purchasing, payroll, and even the cafeterias have been connected. Enough bandwidth has been incorporated to allow for videoconferencing and video streaming, as well as other educational applications. Wi-Fi-enabled laptops have been deployed in classrooms to give students hands-on access to the broadband wireless network, including access to digital video programs offered direct-to-the-classroom by a local public TV station. Voice over IP (VoIP) is also being deployed.

Syracuse is not the first municipality to unveil a large, public Wi-Fi system in schools or otherwise, but Spaulding says planners there did not look to any one specific city for guidance as they mapped out their plan.

"I think in a lot of ways we've taken from instances where we felt things worked well," says Spaulding. "We knew what we wanted to do in our classrooms and what we wanted our kids and teachers to be doing. There are many ideas that we do borrow, but also many things we went and did on our own. We didn't want to meet where people were at, we wanted to look ahead and get out there a little further."

The project required a lot of new construction. Because of the outdated electrical and structural aspects of the buildings involved, much of the $80 million budget was spent on building modifications. Everything from creating space for the servers and other equipment to providing adequate air conditioning and ventilation had to be done.

Funding for the project comes from an assortment of state and federal grants, including No Child Left Behind (NCLB) grants, reading and curricular-related grants, and a $3.6 million grant which will be spent on teacher training and development to help faculty and staff get the most out of their new equipment.

"We competitively secured money," says Spaulding. "For teacher access, for equipment, for everything. We are terming it here as 'a convergence of events.' A lot of different things have gone on that we've been able to coordinate and facilitate in a way that makes sense."

The city is also working closely with local collegiate powerhouse Syracuse University and with other local partners including hospitals, PBS stations and other entities that can be beneficial to the educational mission of the network.

The project leaders see it as expansive in its scope and thorough in its execution. The result will be a major change for students and educators in the Syracuse school district.

"I don't think anyone expected it would get off the ground," admits Spaulding. "A lot of people are surprised. We were a district that didn't really have anything, now all of a sudden you can get to a WAN with a significant amount of bandwidth. And we've implemented a lot of applications with this project: portable distance learning carts, a new e-mail system, active directory, all types of remote maintenance devices, many different types of VLANS to support the applications. We went from a limited network with limited connectivity to a state-of-the-art sophisticated network."

The entire project is expected to be completed sometime in January of 2007.

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Boston Convenes Wi-Fi Summit

Boston Convenes Wi-Fi Summit

May 17, 2005, Naomi Graychase for Wi-Fi Planet.com

On May 19th, citizens and leaders in the City of Boston will gather in a public forum at the Museum of Science to discuss ways to bring free, public Wi-Fi to Boston. The Wi-Fi Summit, which is free and open to the public, was the outgrowth of an order Boston City Councilor John Tobin filed late last summer. Tobin is leading an effort to find ways to bring more widespread, public wireless access to America's fifth largest city.

On May 19th, citizens and leaders in the City of Boston will gather in a public forum at the Museum of Science to discuss ways to bring free, public Wi-Fi to Boston. The Wi-Fi Summit, which is free and open to the public, was the outgrowth of an order Boston City Councilor John Tobin filed late last summer. Tobin is leading an effort to find ways to bring more widespread, public wireless access to America's fifth largest city.

"In January, my office convened the Wi-Fi Task Force to plan the Summit," says Tobin. "We reached out to a diverse cross-section of creative and talented wireless technology experts, neighborhood leaders, educators, government officials, businesspeople and non-profit representatives, and asked them to help us put the event together."

BTS Partners, a privately held Boston-based consulting firm which focuses on deployment of large network solutions, was issued a $25,000 Boston Foundation grant to study and analyze the current state of wireless technology in Boston. The primary focus of the Wi-Fi Summit will be the presentation of the results of that survey.

"We believe that we can build on the momentum created by the Summit and keep the conversation going," Tobin says. "We hope that some of the participants in the Summit will volunteer to help us plan the next steps. The information gathered by the [BTS study] will give the city a great place to begin."

Among the central players in the effort to bring more Wi-Fi to Boston are the three founding members of the Boston Wireless Advocacy Group (WAG): Michael Oh, Susan Kaup, and Pat McCormick. The group, whose mission is to "advocate, educate, and inspire," was invited to join the Wi-Fi Task force and assist in planning the summit and helping to guide future plans for public Wi-Fi.

"We're hoping to build some consensus around what the next steps would be. We don't have a definite goal," says McCormick. "As we put on the table the results of [the BTS study], we'll start looking at what the best solutions are for Boston. They are looking at the existing infrastructure in terms of fiber, buildings, street lamps—things the city owns—and institutional networks, universities, hospitals. We're hoping to see where we have some overlap."

The most powerful motivation for Tobin, McCormick and others on the task force seems to be concern for working class and lower income residents who have been lost on the other side of what is commonly referred to as "the digital divide."

McCormick, who is the former CIO of Somerville, Mass. (just north of Boston), says "Wireless won't solve the 'digital divide' problem, but it will help. These days, computers are mostly about being online. Most people don't see them as being very useful if they can't be online, high speed, all the time. The cost of that access is prohibitive for a lot of individuals."

"The way I framed it is, if we can solve the access problem, then we can gladly take on the hardware problem," McCormick says. "It's like building a bike path or jogging path in an area with really dangerous streets. Whether people will go out and buy roller blades or bicycles, it's an issue, but it shouldn't prevent us from talking about the connectivity issue. I'm not saying the hardware issue doesn't exist, but we're moving into a world where the connectivity issue is maybe not primary, but it's up there with hardware."

Among the speakers and presenters at the summit will be Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who has been supportive of the work of the task force.

Tobin and McCormick both say that Boston is not planning to follow perfectly in any other city's footsteps as it moves toward expanding public Wi-Fi.

"At the Summit, we plan to discuss several different models outlined in the BTS analysis," Tobin says. "We will look at other cities' successes and talk about what didn't work out as well."

"Certainly, at this point, it's not as though Boston is looking to go down the path of a Philadelphia, or even a Cleveland," says McCormick.

At a pre-summit community meeting organized by Tobin's office, citizens were generally supportive of the idea of pursuing widespread public Wi-Fi.

"I was pleased that there was a lot of interest in the digital divide as being a primary goal of the wireless Internet at that meeting," says McCormick. "There was also some interest in the aspects of economic development, but more interest in getting Internet out to people who can't afford it."

Of course, altruistic motivations aren't the only driving force.

"Wi-Fi could help us to educate our children, enhance local business districts, and bolster tourism," says Tobin. "We need to examine how Wi-Fi could be used to make Boston a better place to live, work or visit. If Boston wants to stay competitive, we need to make sure the latest technology is easily available."

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Michigan Tries Wi-Fi for Travelers

Michigan Tries Wi-Fi for Travelers
May 23, 2005, Naomi Graychase, Wi-Fi Planet.com

SBC Communications has teamed up with the state government of Michigan to offer Wi-Fi access at rest areas, state parks, marinas, and welcome centers throughout the state. The pilot project, dubbed MiWiFi, was rolled out last September and includes ten locations throughout the state.

SBC Communications has teamed up with the state government of Michigan to offer Wi-Fi access at rest areas, state parks, marinas, and welcome centers throughout the state. The pilot project, dubbed MiWiFi, was rolled out last September and includes ten locations throughout the state.

Visitors to the Ludington State Park, New Buffalo Welcome Center, Coldwater Welcome Center, Clarkston Rest Area, Grand Haven State Park, Holland State Park, Mackinak Island State Dock, Charles Mears State Park, Sterling State Park, and East Tawas State Dock can purchase wireless access to SBC FreedomLink hotspots in 24-hour blocks for $7.95. Existing SBC customers pay significantly less.

During the month of April, SBC offered free access to everyone at the MiWiFi locations, in the hopes of raising awareness and generating interest as the state moves into the busy summer travel season. The free trial month saw a dramatic spike in usage, but it remains to be seen whether those numbers will remain high this summer, when travelers will have to open their wallets to get access to the service.

The pilot program is intended to run for three years, but at the end of this summer, planners will conduct their first serious assessment of the success of MiWiFi and determine whether to go forward.

As cities and communities around the country struggle to find a successful model for incorporating public Wi-Fi, Michigan has opted for the pay-as-you-go method that requires that virtually no burden be placed on taxpayers.

"The start of this thing was the national craze for wireless," says Kurt Weiss, Communications Director for the Michigan Department of Information Technology. "The Michigan Department of Natural Resources asked their campers, 'What would you like to see in the campgrounds that we don't offer you?' Wireless and cable television were what they wanted. That's what prompted our early negotiations with SBC. We said, 'Here's a service we'd like to try. The state is broke. We don't have taxpayer dollars to go around.' And they said, 'We'll pay for the pilot. We'll pay for the installation of the Wi-Fi.' They get paid every time someone logs on, and we didn't have to pay for the installation. There's something in it for them and for us."

Nationwide, SBC is currently operating roughly 6,700 hotspots within its FreedomLink network, mostly at airports, restaurants and other public locations. 300 of those hotspots are in Michigan. The hope is that truckers, boaters, and recreational and business travelers will put the ten major MiWiFi hotspots to use in large numbers.

Two state marinas, both in the northeastern quadrant of the state, will be offering MiWiFi hotspots when they open this summer.

"Even on their boats, people are doing business," says Weiss. "Our thought process was that there's two kinds of vacationer—the ones who want to get away from work completely, and the ones who feel they can't do that. But if wireless were there, they could go and enjoy it. They could still log on and get a little work done. That segment of the population is who we're targeting: the ones who need to be in touch all the time."

With the initial rollout of MiWiFi last fall, Michigan became the first state in the nation to offer Wi-Fi at state parks. Because of what Weiss calls the state's "bare-bones budget," promoting the new service has been difficult.

"Originally, we were going to do road signs, but at this point, the signage is only at the rest areas, docks, and campgrounds," Weiss says. "You have to be there to know there's Wi-Fi available. There are no billboards. There's just not money to promote this project. SBC and Intel partnered with us and they purchased a bunch of brochures. But the signage before you get there is missing."

While it's too early in the pilot to know if SBC and Michigan are reaching their target demographic, Weiss says at least one young person was delighted to discover she could complete an assignment while sitting on the beach.

"We were at Holland [State Park], a great, gorgeous sand beach," says Weiss. "We've got the antennas up, and the news showed up, and we launch the thing, and this old guy, about 75 or 80 years old, drives by on his bike and says, 'Can't you keep these damn computers out of anywhere?' And then a student from college, a young girl, says 'Oh, awesome! I have to turn in a paper. Can I log on?' And she mailed a paper to her professor, sitting right there in the sand."

The MiWiFi pilot will be monitored by SBC and overseen by the Michigan Department of Information Technology, in conjunction with the state's Department of Natural Resources, which runs the campgrounds, and the Department of Transportation, which maintains the rest areas. A nonprofit organization called Travel Michigan is also involved.

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