Nestled among the orange groves and cattle ranches of central Florida, the small city of Sebring, which has just 10,000 citizens, seems an unlikely stage for world-class auto racing. But every year during one week in March, the city draws throngs of visitors from around the world to its Sebring International Raceway for the annual “Twelve Hours of Sebring,” a famous endurance challenge and official leg of the American Le Mans Series of races.
The race is an affair in high gear: during the four days it’s open to the public, it features not only the marquee event, but also numerous support races, Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, millions of dollars worth of cars on display in the Gallery of Legends, a full-fledged Party Zone, fireworks shows and even overnight camping.
This year’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring provided 170,000 race fans and auto enthusiasts an opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with some of the fastest cars in the world (think Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche). It also provided the Orlando Police Department its first opportunity to get behind the wheel of its own newly acquired wireless video surveillance system.
The Orlando PD is one of the first public safety agencies to deploy “Event Mesh,” a portable wireless mesh video surveillance architecture for securing public functions. As early as 2005, the police department started using fully distributed mesh systems developed by Firetide as the wireless backhaul for video security applications.
Event mesh enables the Orlando PD to network video cameras for flexible and scalable surveillance, to monitor a variety of unique situations. “On one day, we might need the system to secure the annual ‘4th of July in the Park’ event,” says Orlando PD Electronic Surveillance Support Team agent Jeffery Blye. “The next day, we might need more mobility so we can closely monitor crowds during the ‘National Socialist Movement of Orlando Parade.’ Event mesh allows us the flexibility to scale for both.”
As one of the early adopters of event mesh, Blye is uniquely aware of how the market has changed in just two or three years. “Not only do lower costs help us justify new acquisitions, but better integration helps us save time getting our system into the field,” Blye says.
The Firetide/Avrio Group’s Rapid Deployment Surveillance System (RDSS), which Orlando acquired in February for approximately $80,000, includes eight of Avrio’s Pole Cams (each containing a Firetide HotPort wireless mesh node and a high-end pan/tilt/zoom camera in a self-contained, weather-treated enclosure), two additional Firetide dual-radio nodes and two laptops equipped with video management software from On-Net Surveillance Systems Inc. (OnSSI). The cost of the system was covered by a grant provided by the Department of Homeland Security.
The RDSS had successfully supported the Phoenix Police Department’s widely publicized security efforts at Super Bowl XLII. The Twelve Hours of Sebring event would represent Orlando’s first application of the integrated event mesh system.
“It took less than a day to deploy the system,” Blye says. “I was able to configure all the Pole Cams in the truck in less than an hour. The rest of the time was a matter of getting a lift to elevate and position the boxes around the facility.”
Blye says he could have easily connected a variety of mobile devices — such as in-vehicle laptops — to the event mesh network, but the project required only a single, on-site desktop computer readily accessible near the paddock. The OnSSI video management application transformed the desktop into a command-and-control center. The software provides each deputy on duty — just one at a time was required — the ability to control and monitor any of the eight cameras pointed toward the vehicle paddock, the grandstands, the media center and the fueling station while monitoring and recording live streams.