Providence, R

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2007-09-10 Print this article Print

.I."> Providence, R.I. One of the most successful muni wireless implementations is in Providence, R.I. In this midsize New England city, there was really only one goal for the citywide wireless network: to make sure emergency services had the communications they needed. The Providence project was announced in August 2005, was first tested in April 2006 and was demonstrated to the public in September 2006.
Chip Yager, director of Motorolas Mesh Network Product Group, in Lake Mary, Fla., said Providence is a true success.
Yager had a lot to do with how Providence and its CIO, Charles Hewitt, approached muni wireless. "When I look at the success of Providence, it was a given," Yager said. "We didnt have doubts that the Motorola piece would work fine. The successes are the things that Charlie Hewitt had control of, such as managing the folks and the pole rights." Yager said that for the Providence police department to get the access it needed—a major goal of the wireless network—he had to be able to control the load and the bandwidth. What is the cost of "free" wireless? Find out here. Now that the network is in place, the police force is using it for everything from delivering mug shots and reports to allowing police supervisors to perform their administrative duties from the field. Providence CIO Hewitt said this effectively increases the size of the police department because it means that officers are in the field full time, except when they have to physically deliver evidence or suspects to the police department. Hewitt said Providence police officers have access to the same software in their squad cars as they do at their desks, giving them true mobile offices. Getting buy-in from the police department was crucial to the projects success, Hewitt said. "Every application Ive ever done involves getting the right people involved," he said. "In the case of public safety, the first thing I did was make sure the chief of police was right behind me with his staff. We never would have undertaken this project if we hadnt had a good, strong backing from public safety." Yager said that while Providence is using the unlicensed 2.4GHz band, its not using Wi-Fi. Instead, the city is using proprietary communications technology licensed by Motorola from the Department of Defense. Yager said this made the network more secure and less subject to interference from other devices operating on the same frequency band. Meanwhile, the police department continues to add applications. Video is on the way, for example. In addition, other departments will soon be joining the Providence network. "Next, we are expanding the use within public safety and getting the fire department on board," Yager said. "Then well extend the use of the network into the building inspection area." Hewitt said he doesnt plan to add public Wi-Fi access any time soon, although he figures that will come along eventually. "Im sure it will happen," he said. "I keep in touch with whats going on in Boston. The model theyve set up is probably what will work here in Providence. They set up a nonprofit and got the activists involved. Theyve got the municipal government as a tenant on the network. I dont think the city of Providence will try to do it on its own. We are very challenged in getting funding." Page 3: Welcome to Wireless

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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