- Face-Chewing Victim Recovering in Miami
- Newly Released Photos of Tucson Shooting Scene Show Investigative Tactics
- Search for Survivors in Oklahoma Nearly Complete
- Police Chief: No Charges Likely in Virginia Parade Crash
- Suspect in Abduction of 2 Girls Found Dead in Iowa
- Training for Active Shooter Response
- Utah Police Close 2009 Cold Case
OKLAHOMA CITY -- When Oklahoma City firefighters received a report that a body had been buried in a shallow grave at Lake Overholser, they consulted detailed topographical maps from the field as they pinpointed where to look.
That wouldn't have been possible without access to the city's new Wi-Fi mesh network, said fire Capt. Jim Kruta, who held a display of the network applications with police and other city officials on Tuesday outside City Hall.
"We pulled up a topographical map and were able to see where the water had receded and where someone might try to bury a body," Kruta said, adding, "We actually did find it."
The $5 million Wi-Fi network system covers a massive 555-square-mile area and was funded with money from a public safety sales tax and city capital improvement funds. City officials say it's the largest city-owned and -operated Wi-Fi network in the world.
The network, which is used only for public safety and other city operations, includes 1,200 nodes, or routers, attached to street lights, utility poles and other spots across the city. It's structured as a "mesh," meaning that if one node or router goes down, another fills its purpose.
Computers in fire trucks, police cars and other city vehicles can now quickly access the Internet and city databases.
"It gets data back to us a lot faster," said police Lt. Wade Gourley as he sat inside his cruiser and pulled up video streaming from cameras mounted across downtown Oklahoma City. "With our old system, we just got text-based data."
He said the network enables police to get "better information a lot faster." Officers can gets detailed photographs of suspects or victims, run license plates of or exchange information on the go.
While driving to calls, firefighters can download floor plans of buildings, locate data on all of the city's fire hydrants or determine whether there is a risk of hazardous materials on a fire call.
Many cities across the country have seen commercial municipal wireless projects fail.
Oklahoma City's is successful because it is focused on public safety applications, said Craig Settles, an Oakland, Calif.-based business strategy consultant and the author of "Fighting the Good Fight for Municipal Wireless."
"My guess would be that Oklahoma City will become one of the new poster kids for municipal broadband, which is a good thing," Settles said. "The city built a network to address the needs of city government.
"The pursuit of the network for city purposes is one of the primary financial justifications for doing one of these networks as opposed to the hype of free networks (for residents). Free networks are nice as a concept but pretty much useless as a business model."
City officials are excited about future applications. Oklahoma City Information Technology Director Mark Meier said traffic engineers have discussed monitoring and linking signal lights to control traffic flow, while transit authorities would like to use the system to coordinate movement of buses.
"We built this for a specific purpose, and we built it with capacity in mind to do specific things, but the truth is the possibilities are even far more exciting," Meier said.