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Case Study
WiFi Mesh forRailway and Transportation

Wireless Mesh Train Data, Video & Voice Communications

In the news:U.S. public transportation ridership rose 5.2% during the second quarter of 2008, spurred by higher gasoline prices, the American Public Transportation Association reported Tuesday.

Riders logged 2.8 billion trips on subways, buses, light rail transit and regional passenger rail, up from 2.7 billion trips in the second quarter of 2007.

The North County Transit District, is using Strix Wireless Mesh for railway video surveillance, on-board systems communication and troubleshooting. Considered the first of its kind in San Diego County,the network utilizes solar-powered wireless network nodes by Strix Systems which are mounted on poles at a distance of one mile apart along the edge of the railroad tracks. Additional outdoor wireless nodes are located and mounted on the train stations. While trains run at up to 90 miles per hour, network communications including real-time video surveillance and critical railway communications, is handed off wirelessly from node-to-node, preserving the throughput and low latency requirements of these timing sensitive applications.

The San Diego North County Transit District installs cutting-edge wireless computer network. Read the article.

OCEANSIDE ---- Things are meshing nicely along the Coaster rail line from Oceanside to San Diego.

The North County Transit District, which owns the 42-mile coastal commuter rail line, is testing its new "mesh" wireless computer network, which covers about one-quarter of the rail corridor.

The network, which cost $170,000 and was paid for with a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is designed to help the district more easily, and cheaply, install video cameras to monitor the railway and detect intruders, especially near numerous bridges that carry trains over the region's series of coastal lagoons.

Believed to be the first of its kind in San Diego County, the network is composed of 11 solar-powered wireless radios mounted on polls planted a little less than one mile apart along the edge of the railroad tracks. Additional wireless base stations are screwed onto the sides of six train stations. Taken together, the wireless stations ---- called nodes ---- blanket the rail with a wireless signal. Any given node can pass information on to its neighbor, relaying information through the air to the district's high-speed fiber-optic network, which is used to carry video to a central security center.

Kirk Talbott, chief information officer for the district, said the network gives the rail line two key abilities that it never had before.

Strix Systems selected for North County Transit District

"We can deploy (security) video cameras anywhere in our right-of-way at a much lower cost than ever before, because we do not have to dig trenches and run cables," Talbott said. "We can just put a wireless camera where we need it, and it will connect to the mesh network."

Secondly, the district will now be able to communicate with its trains ---- which travel as fast as 90 mph ---- as they rush from one station to the next. In a few weeks, this will allow the district to get real-time data on a train's performance, relaying everything from speed to oil pressure back to the main office.

"If a train breaks down in the field, mechanics will be able to talk to it and find out what broke so they bring along the right part," Talbott said.

Discussions are in the works to put cameras on trains that could relay real-time security video feeds to the security department.

David Papworth, director of the district's security department, said Friday that if cameras were on each train, emergency personnel would be able to use wireless, hand-held computers to peer inside trains while standing nearby.

"If something happens, we will be able to see inside before we go inside, and, from a tactical standpoint, that can be a big advantage," Papworth said.

At present, the new network is still being tested. A few wireless cameras have already been deployed to watch over several key rail bridges, but the district must still work through several legal issues before putting cameras on trains.

The mesh network was installed by Datel Systems, a technology-consulting firm in San Diego. Bill Bryant of Datel said the network is a first for the region.

"I believe this is the first municipal mesh network to be installed in San Diego County," Bryant said. "We are viewing this as a test case."

The mesh network, which uses equipment designed by a company called Strix Systems, is not limited to handling security data. The transit district has published a request for proposals to install his���� wireless Internet access on its Coaster commuter trains.

Talbott said the network, which can transfer data at speeds between 17 and 20 megabytes per second, potentially has enough extra capacity to serve as part of a wireless Internet backbone. A typical high-speed home Internet connection generally downloads data at speeds ranging from 1 to 5 megabytes.

He said extending the network to cover the rest of the rail right of way will be relatively easy.

"The nodes only cost a couple grand each, so we can creep south a little at a time as the money becomes available," Talbott said.


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