RealTime IT News

Motorola Connects Border Security

Around the port of Miami and its adjacent coastline, the government has arrayed a heap of technology to keep out the Bad Guys.

Project Hawkeye detects threats by sea through a complex series of sensors including specialized radar, infrared detection and high-resolution optical tools. If anything so much as twitches, it gets noticed.

But there has been a piece missing up to now: That is, the ability to stitch together all these components into a seamless whole. Now the U.S. Coast Guard is declaring a win in that effort, thanks to a wireless solution produced by Motorola.

“Motorola has delivered an intelligent capability, something that can adjust to the environment that we are in,” said Hawkeye System Engineer Rhett Rothberg.

The Miami solution comes out of Motorola’s MOTOwi4, an umbrella effort incorporating a wide range of wireless technologies. Dubbed by Motorola as fourth-generation tools, technology within the MOTOwi4 product portfolio include mesh, broadband, point-to-point, point-to-multipoint and WiMax.

Prior to going into Miami, the MOTOwi4 team had developed its expertise in a range of large, institutional settings. Earlier projects have included universities, hospitals, federal and local government networks and also emergency personnel networks.

But work along the Miami coastline was somewhat different, according to Phil Bolt, general manager of the point-to-point fixed wireless solutions group at Motorola.

"If we look at the U.S. Coast Guard and homeland security and so on, obviously there is a big drive to improve border security," Bolt said. Yet even with all the sensors already in place at the port, "you still need a way of connecting these. Some of them are in built up areas, some are in remote areas and you need a way to bring all of these elements together."

That’s no small trick in a busy port, where choppy water can send a signal bouncing around, and nautical traffic can present a moving obstacle for a wireless signal. “In ports you have very, very large vessels going in and out, and they can break the radio beam," Bolt said.

The ability to overcome such obstacles offers a sound example of the value to be found in Motorola’s broad-based wireless strategies. By drawing from across the spectrum of MOTOwi4 specializations, Bolt was able to put together wide-ranging solutions. First he added system gain to eliminate the signal loss caused by the non-line-of-site situation. Then he weaved in signal equalization with orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing. Next comes specialized coding and multiple receivers to ensure the data presents a uniform picture at the end of the line.

All this is based on a point-to-point solution and an IP wireless Ethernet bridge. Rothberg likes the muscle he gets out of that configuration. “We have more bandwidth, maybe twice as much” as in the past, he said.

Nor is success just a question of how much bandwidth, but also a matter of the quality of that signal. “We have a certain amount of consistency that we need, and we couldn’t always rely on our old system to provide that to us, whereas with this system we can,” he said.

As for the actual nuts and bolts of assembling the system, Bolt calls it “a no brainer.” All the sensors and related hardware today have an integrated IP interface, so the actual putting-together part is literally a matter of snapping the bits into place.

On the consumer end, meanwhile, Bolt says, Motorola is working hard to give the customer very little to do.

A radio planning tool allows customers to model a site and to generate a data set showing expected data rate and availability. Such planning "is absolutely essential. It makes it so much easier," he said.

Ultimately, though, it is the radio itself that determines the relative simplicity of the deal.

"We have put a lot of work into making our radios totally transparent. As far as the customers are concerned, our radio is just a piece of cable," Bolt said. The point is to drive the effort forward with a combination of maximum engineering and minimal fuss. “The project is actually very simple because the radio is very complex.”