Networking video at Super Bowl XLII

Phoenix's PD throws a Hail Mary surveillance pass for a security touchdown

"Once the criminals notice the cameras, they move around the corner," said Jensen, "so we had to be ready to move too."

He said the city is also affected by urban sprawl, and the expansive landmass meant the police would need flexibility in installations. The temporary design means the city could redeploy when necessary; Jensen notes that they've moved the cameras four or five times just in the month since the Super Bowl was in town.

Besides the 30-something pole-mounted units, the department also had four rapid-deployment tripod-mounted surveillance units. These devices could be rolled out in the backs of vehicles and set up in very short noticed for localized events. These units also featured solid-state, custom NVRs using OnSSI's video surveillance software. In addition, the department added an encoding and transmission system to move video from the NFL's temporary operations headquarters in Phoenix into the police department's video management system, in case the need arose with an incident at the NFL operations.

The department pushed the envelope even further when it came to mobile surveillance. Officers were dressed in plainclothes so they looked like any other football tourist and sent out with Jansport-style backpacks into the field. Inside the backpacks, says IPVision's Ben Green, was an Axis video encoder, a lithium ion battery pack and a cellular type wireless transmitter, all attached to a covert camera on the backpack strap. The design gave an "officer's eye" view back to command center.

While security overall for the Super Bowl was "very mellow" according to Jensen, the mobile, flexible nature of the surveillance system allowed the department to have an overall domain awareness. At the same time, it allowed officers to witness and respond to the more mundane crimes like ticket scalping or public drunkenness which might have been easily overlooked otherwise.

According to Sony's Miguel Lazatin, the use of municipal surveillance has been rapidly growing in the last few years as U.S. cities take a note from similar projects that have been common place in the UK. Lazatin noted that surveillance cameras have the ability to work as a force multiplier, by making more police "eyes" available. Lazatin said the growth in the municipal surveillance industry has been driven by two factors: IP/network cameras and wireless mesh systems.

"The Phoenix Super Bowl event," said Lazatin, "is a good example of a specialty event that is part of a larger municipal security initiative. And it's happening because municipal surveillance lends itself to IP systems. There are so many areas to watch, and the mesh networks really open the door. It becomes just a lot more cost effective (than physical cabling)."

As successful as the surveillance system was, it wasn't without its challenges.

"It really worked awesome," said Jensen. "It really worked better than I thought it would. Technically I knew we could do it all, but the challenge was the timeline."

Green, who worked primarily as their product-builder, consultant and integration partner, said that the timelines were indeed the biggest challenge, with everyone involved rushing to get the project installed some two to three weeks before the game. They had to deal with the challenges of working downtown (previous surveillance for Phoenix hadn't been in the downtown area), and that brought up issues with signal travel in an urban area - all new issues to deal with in a short period of time.

In the end it came down to the abilities of the police department's surveillance unit, which has so much in terms of integration skills that IPVision's Ben Green jokes, "I'd hire them anytime!" The team deployed the varieties of technology under the wire and had surveillance ready to go weeks before the kickoff.

Asked whether this was a once-in-a-lifetime type of deployment, Jensen said "No, we've got the NBA All-Star game coming up in 2009."