PacketHop Wireless Mesh Network Survives Initial Trial

In a real-world test, the wireless mesh network enabled a number of California state agencies to quickly coordinate to prevent a simulated attack on the Golden Gate Bridge.

PacketHop Inc.s wireless mesh network has successfully passed a field test by several California state agencies, according to the companys CEO.

PacketHop, whose software is designed to reroute and heal a constantly shifting mesh of wireless connections, was put to the test by the Golden Gate Safety Network, a collection of 12 agencies, including representatives from agencies at the city, county, state and federal level. PacketHops mesh allowed the different agencies to quickly coordinate to prevent a simulated attack on the famed Golden Gate Bridge.

In the 3-hour simulated emergency, the Marin County Office of Emergency Services was first to the scene, followed by the San Francisco Fire Department. Normally, both offices use different radio systems, which cant communicate with each other, PacketHop chief executive Michael Howse said.

In this case, the Wi-Fi mesh network proved to be the lowest common denominator, tying the disparate agencies together. PacketHops network connected representatives from the California Governors Office of Emergency Services, the California Highway Patrol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Marin County Office of Emergency Services, the Marin County Sheriffs Department, the National Park Service, the Presidio Fire Department, the San Francisco Emergency Communications Division, San Francisco Fire and Police Departments, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Park Police.

"Interoperable systems tied together agencies using common Internet protocols and off-the-shelf technologies," Howse said.

In all, 35 nodes were connected, including a mobile van, marine units and fixed sites. Each agency used either a Windows-based laptop PC, tablet or PDA, supplied by partners 3eTI, Itronix, Intermec, Panasonic, Proxim, Symbol, TDS and Xybernaut.

The California Office of Emergency Services also connected a virtual private network to the network, to command the operation remotely. Each node was equipped with a GPS to transfer positional data, and the network also was used to transfer video, including multiple "camera angles" of the same scene viewed by different nodes. Finally, participants kept in touch via a peer-to-peer messaging system, Howse said. PacketHops technology does not require a central server.

Although the test was not a formal qualification of PacketHops technology, the Golden Gate Safety Network is investigating the need for such a service, Howse said. PacketHop hopes to conduct similar trials with other agencies in preparation for a product launch later this year, he said.