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Seoul Subway Deploying Real-Time, Mobile Wireless Video Surveillance

Firetide mesh network to stream video to and from trains moving at 50 mph, at up to 20 Mbps. 

South Korea is about to launch a wireless video network in its subway system that will stream live video to train operators and managers—even when the trains are traveling 50 mph.

Workers install the Firetide wireless mesh network in the Seoul subway.

The Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation (SMRT) began investigating real-time wireless video surveillance systems following the death of 198 people in an arson fire in 2003 in a subway in the city of Daegu.

The wireless infrastructure mesh from California-based Firetide is expected solution in Seoul’s subway system. When completed in June 2010, it will be the first real-time, high-bandwidth (up to 20 Mbps) mobile wireless video surveillance subway system in Korea and the world, costing an estimated total of $60 million.

“Firetide was selected because no other vendor’s wireless mesh equipment could provide the high speed performance required to deliver streaming video from the station to moving rail cars and operate in one of harshest of environments for RF networks,” said Jung Yeong-Hyun, project manager of GlobalTelecom, subcontractor for Korea Telecom, which was charged with implementing the system . “We were also tremendously impressed with Firetide’s sophisticated regional support organization that understood the difficulties posed by the subway system.”

The Seoul Metropolitan Subway, one of the most heavily used rapid transit systems in the world, is operated by four different organizations. The SMRT operates Seoul subway underground lines with a ridership of more than 2 million daily and involves a total of 201 subway trains at 148 stations.

After the Daegu fire, the SMRT wanted a system where the operators of the moving trains would have a video of the station being entered. That way the driver could decide not to enter the station in case of accidents or other problems such as a person on the track. The ability to stream video from a station’s cameras to a monitor in a train moving at speeds of 50 mph was critical. Wireless mesh technology was the only option to transmit video to and from subway cars, as it provided seamless handoff and roaming along the fixed wireless infrastructure.

In competitive testing, Firetide was the only vendor to successfully complete the high-speed handover in the tests conducted in the subway between May and August of 2009. The subway environment is particularly harsh for RF communications because of the reflective metal surfaces, noise and vibrations, and high voltage electric power.

In addition to providing video surveillance from the station to train operators, the network will also provide video surveillance from inside of passenger trains to a monitoring center and video streaming of public announcements and commercial advertisements onto passenger train monitors.

In compliance with Korea’s regulation for subway and train radio frequency to avoid interference from other wireless equipment, Firetide’s mesh nodes are combined with an 18 GHz frequency converter provided by SeoulCommtech, a Firetide premier partner in Korea. A total of 1,000 Firetide mesh nodes will be deployed for all four SMRT’s subway lines along with 350 cameras in the stations and 300 in the trains.

“We have recognized for some time that there is a great opportunity for wireless infrastructure mesh networks that are capable of providing real-time communications for mobile applications in transportation to improve public safety and deliver innovating services to passengers,” said Bo Larsson, Firetide CEO. “As a result, we uniquely developed the technology and the support organization that can deliver the performance required for such challenging applications and their environments. In the future, we expect an even bigger focus on mobile voice, video and data applications.”

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