Welcome to the melting pot

The 'muni' market sizzles with diverse initiatives and partnerships

The world is changing. We can no longer live in our own personal silos. Technology is merging and touching every part of our lives-and integrators have to learn how to parlay systems and services as essential solutions for this vertical market.
Municipalities and cities are a melting pot of people, places, risks and threats. There's potentially high crime, gang activity and even foreign threats. Approximately 62 percent of the U.S. population lives in cities, according to 2000 statistics and more than 174 million people live in areas with municipal governments.

Some of our largest cities in the U.S. have been identified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as having a high risk of terrorist attacks. This vertical market also has to work with businesses and tourists and address vagrants and supervise rallies and other large gatherings. The market is diverse and deep and may include government, utilities, public/cultural venues, convention centers and stadiums and critical infrastructures.

The opportunities are many for the value-added reseller who can bring integrated solutions to the table that save money and manpower while adding efficiencies. Paramount is the ability of the system to grow with the city and address current and future needs, as well as provide value in total cost of ownership.

For cities and municipalities, cameras and surveillance has in many cases replaced and augmented 'boots on the ground,' but the approaches are as varied as the cities they protect. Cities like Chicago, for example, have deployed hundreds of cameras, while others such as Richmond, Calif., target primarily high-crime locations. Wireless cameras and signaling and mesh networks are critical components for the cities, which are often stretched across vast terrains. Video is also a much-used and integral component to transit and traffic management and proactive risk assessment.

On the law enforcement front, technology is the first responder's friend and gives users the ability to target their response with two-way radios, mobile video and other mediums that incorporate instant messaging and live video feeds. Global positioning systems (GPS) are used to track officers, fleets and even offenders, as police move increasingly to digital technology and Internet-based services that allow them to do their jobs more effectively and incorporate added intelligence. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter and more are helping officers as well, getting alerts out to the public, keeping cities aware of gatherings and fostering overall situational awareness.

Leveraging technology for safety

Technology is the helping hand cities and municipalities have been looking for, but funding dollars are meager or non-existent, adding to the challenge for the systems integrator. Budgets are stretched and communities are searching for ways to leverage systems and services and in general, do more with less.

"This market is all about putting intelligence in place for our public safety professionals," said Steve Russo, director of Physical Security Technology, IBM Security Services, New York.

"We are seeing a push from closed networks to open platforms and the ability to take and gather intelligence from IP devices. We are taking information from video and transactions and events and turning it into intelligence," he said. "Technology is not replacing people but allowing them to become more productive."

IBM and the City of Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) recently implemented an advanced city-wide intelligent security system. The specification is a part of Chicago's Operation Virtual Shield, a project that encompasses one of the world's largest video security deployments.

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