STE Security Innovation Awards Honorable Mention: The End of the Disconnect

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE- Innovative wireless network connects New York Waterway’s ferries for safety, security, ROI and more


Dealing with the Landscape

NY Waterways’ ferries operate over a huge area — with routes covering most of the Hudson and East Rivers, Upper New York Bay and Atlantic Highlands; thus, Fluidmesh needed to design a network coverage area that encompassed nearly every waterway surrounding Manhattan Island. The geography itself presents significant challenges for any radio frequency (RF)-based technology.

Fluidity enables NY Waterway to deploy redundant multi-tier mesh network infrastructures, meaning each ferry can be outfitted with multiple wireless routers at the same time while the system leverages each router to select the best point-of-access per network infrastructure available at any point in time. This provides better coverage, redundancy and fault-tolerance. The system also supports multiple frequencies within the same network, which allows for tremendous flexibility when working in crowded and dynamic RF areas like Manhattan.

The network was deployed at 22 shore-based locations in New York and New Jersey and on 35 individual ferries. Fluidmesh 3100 MITO, 1100 MITO series radios were used along the shorelines, which feature a small form factor that NY Waterway officials appreciated. An embedded patch antenna design helps maintain a high aesthetic standard found throughout ports and terminals. The 3100 Endo radio was selected for deployment aboard the ferries. The radio is designed for embedded applications, enabling the installer to mount the radio module and the antenna separately, thus allowing an omni-antenna to be used on the ships.

“To design Fluidity, we approached the mobility problem from a completely different point of view. Our goal was to build a solution not only suited for Internet browsing but for real-time streaming of video, voice and mission critical applications,” says Alessandro Erta, Fluidmesh CTO. “Mobility requires complex network operations such as handoff, IP address negotiation and mesh infrastructure point-of-access selection. We have taken a completely novel approach by designing, from the ground up, a cross-layer switching framework to completely hide these operations from user devices like cameras and VoIP phones.”

The result has been a reliable, high-bandwidth connection between the ferries and the ports. And while that was all the NY Waterway set out to accomplish in its initial plans, the design and engineering team asked another critical question during the planning stages: “With a network in place that can transfer such a large amount of data, how can we to turn all that data into actionable information?”

The answer, as it turns out, was a customized solution from Pantascene.


Realizing the Security Benefits

PantaScene develops customized software solutions that allow municipalities, police departments, port authorities, airports and other critical infrastructure to manage all security-related technologies in an integrated fashion, providing complete situational awareness and maximum efficiency in identifying and responding to any crisis.

With the wireless network in place, NY Waterway is able to take control of its fleet and passengers in a way that was not previously possible. New applications can include security, energy and fleet management, digital signage, public Wi-Fi, paperless ticketing and much more. With more data available to improve its business, the NY Waterway now needed a way to manage it.

PantaScene’s technology enables NY Waterway to focus on improving situational awareness and emergency preparedness via a user friendly and simplified map-based interface that displays all relevant data. By integrating with the ferry operator’s existing AIS system, NY Waterway officials can turn on a specific layer of the map to see the location [and other AIS data] of all watercraft in the area.

The ferries appear with a unique icon and are easily located on the map. By clicking on the icon, the camera streams from its onboard DVR immediately appear. If there is a need to speak with the captain, the security operator can initiate a VoIP call to the selected vessel; thus reducing and/or eliminating the need for mobile phones.