IT on the beat

From video cameras mounted on agents' helmets to X-ray machines scanning for weapons, dozens of surveillance, detection and communication technologies assisted thousands of federal, state and local law enforcement officials in safeguarding the Republican and Democratic national conventions in New York City and Boston, respectively.

Security technologies included air-monitoring equipment, satellite communications, handheld X-ray machines for examining packages, larger X-ray machines for inspecting vehicles, and surveillance cameras on a wireless network, among other things. The technologies transformed the convention buildings and surrounding areas into secure zones. The Homeland Security Department's Homeland Security Information Network allowed law enforcement officers to share information securely via the Internet.

"Our goal is that any attempt on the part of terrorists to attack us will be frustrated and repelled by multiple layers of security that they will encounter all around the city — for that matter, all around the region," DHS Secretary Tom Ridge said during an Aug. 25 press conference in New York City before the Republican National Convention opened there.

At the Republican and Democratic conventions, Federal Protective Service officials relied on hundreds of video surveillance cameras that used an IP-based control system from LiveWave Inc. of Newport, R.I. The company also provided wireless cameras embedded in officers' helmets. Officials in the control center or mobile units received video images, encrypted them and published them on the Internet so other officers could view them on wireless devices.

Law enforcement agents used mobile command vehicles as primary or backup radio base stations to monitor video surveillance feeds and real-time aircraft video feeds. In New York City, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials equipped transit employees with mobile satellite phones for voice and data communications. World Communications Center Inc. officials provided satellite services, based on services by Iridium Satellite LLC, using Eagle Broadband Inc.'s SatMAX wireless satellite repeater. The repeater lets satellite phone users talk indoors or underground.

In Boston, Massachusetts State Police officers carried handheld devices to access many law enforcement applications, including one from LocatePlus Inc. The company's locator application allowed law enforcement officials to search information about individuals using a first or last name, date of birth, or previous address. The results provide "a complete dossier on an individual, with complete links to every other individual connected to them," said Jon Latorella, chief executive officer of LocatePlus.

Using Research in Motion Ltd. BlackBerry devices, Boston officers in a unit patrolling the city's airport, bridges and major highways could perform identity and background checks to supplement law enforcement databases, such as the FBI's National Crime Information Center system.

Convention officials in Boston and New York carried mobile devices from Hewlett-Packard Co. to coordinate activities and communications among staff and delegates. The devices included the company's iPaq Pocket PCs, tablet PCs and laptop computers with integrated wireless capabilities. HP also provided the network in Boston.

After the Democratic convention, HP officials donated those devices to local governments and nonprofit groups in Massachusetts and to law enforcement offices. Several hundred iPaqs and tablet PCs went to the Massachusetts State Police, supplementing the agency's HP equipment, said Juergen Rottler, the company's senior vice president of public sector, health and education.

The relationship with HP allows state police officers to take advantage of the new technology, extending the agency's mobile reach, Rottler said.

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Four protective technologies

Federal, state and local agencies that participated in the recent Democratic and Republican national conventions used various communication, coordination and security technologies, including:

Video surveillance cameras linked to the Web.

Voice and data satellite phones.

Wireless communications access to background check applications.

Wireless-enabled handheld, tablet and laptop PCs.

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