Mesh Without Wires

September 2, 2010

Chicago Walking Tour, Wireless Video Surveillance Edition

This summer I had a chance to visit Chicago for an event we were hosting. The afternoon prior to the event, our systems engineer and I had a few spare hours so we embarked on a walking tour of downtown Chicago to capture some of the Firetide installations in the city.

For background: Chicago OEMC (Office of Emergency Management and Communications) manages one of the nation’s most extensive public video surveillance networks, known as Operation Virtual Shield (OVS).  Firetide has been deployed in Chicago as part of OVS since about 2007, and the deployment continues to grow and evolve; that is why you’ll see various types of installations, different enclosures and two generations of the Firetide wireless infrastructure mesh.

Delaware Street – Magnificent Mile Vicinity

You can hardly step anywhere in the downtown area without being in view of a public video surveillance camera, many of them on wireless mesh. I came across the first one right behind the hotel I was staying at. To spot wireless-networked cameras, check for antennas – they are painted black and are positioned as diamonds in HotPort 6000 series (non-MIMO) and as squares in HotPort 7000 MIMO mesh installs. The cameras are also painted black. Firetide mesh nodes are housed in black boxes lower to the ground.

Video Mesh Camera at Delaware

Mesh Video Surveillance Camera at Delaware St (click to enlarge)

River North

Our engineer and I met up at Wabash and Huron Streets and headed south to the area known as River North, which is famous for having Chicago’s highest concentration of restaurants. Major thoroughfares, such as Michigan Ave, have access to fiber, but ‘minor’ streets like Wabash, lacked it, so that’s where wireless stepped in to fill the “fiber gap.” Below are two pictures from around Ohio St; I could not resist taking a picture of a Chicago’s landmark – Pizzeria Uno – with a video mesh camera in view.

Mesh Vide Surveillance at Ohio St

Mesh Video Surveillance Camera at Ohio St (click to enlarge)

Video Surveillance Camera in Front of Pizzeria Uno

Mesh Video Surveillance Camera Next to Pizzeria Uno (click to enlarge)

Lower Wacker; Chicago Riverwalk

Going further south, we crossed the Chicago river and snapped some pictures at Lower Wacker. Wacker Drive is a two-level street, with the the lower level designated for through-traffic and trucks servicing buildings on the road. The lighting was not the best, but I took a picture of the Firetide IVS (integrated video solution). This one is connected directly to fiber.

Firetide IVS at Lower Wacker

Firetide IVS at Lower Wacker (click to enlarge)

Emerging from the not-so-pleasant Lower Wacker, we moved west along the river via a public promenade; this area is known as Riverwalk and is one of the city’s newest attractions. I’m told (not sure if true) that one of the starting points for the video surveillance project in the area was the fact that these memorial plaques had once been stolen (for copper). Cameras are trained on this spot to make sure it does not happen again:

Chicago River Embarkment

Chicago Riverwalk (click to enlarge)

Theater District

Heading south on State street we found ourselves in the Theater District, where cameras continued to be in abundance. Another iconic image of Chicago with the diamond-shaped antenna reflecting the sun:

Mesh Video Surveillance Camera at State St

Mesh Video Surveillance Camera at State St (click to enlarge)

Check out Part 2!

Part 2 is now available as we tour Millennium Park and vicinity.

For more posts on Firetide deployments, see:

Blog at