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- Property Management
Find out more about the Motorola CP110.
Union gets new wireless system
JESSICA L De VAULT, Staff Writer
Published September 23, 2006
Union Mayor E. Bruce Morgan and the City Council had visions of wireless Internet connections in the downtown business district, laptops in Public Safety patrol cars and a Wi-Fi communications system for city departments.
Now those dreams are becoming reality.
The small city, which has relied heavily on its older Wi-Fi system, has recruited Morris Communications, Inc. to begin the installation of the FireTide Mesh Network on Oct. 9, making Union one of the first cities in the state to utilize the wireless system.
A mesh network is a system that relies on data transmitters called nodes that send signals to other nodes to maintain a consistent connection in a large-scale area.
This network, the wireless company promises, will take Union to the next level in technology.
Trace Morris, the CEO and president of the Greenville-based communications company, said he's convinced that Union is the first in South Carolina to actually move forward with a Mesh installation.
"We do a fair amount of business and all of the cities are having discussions, but no one has actually put in a Mesh network (in this state)," Morris said.
Todd Wright, a corporate sales manager for Morris Communications, Inc., said the company has worked with the city for the past 25 years.
"Mesh is the total solution since they wanted to use their Wi-Fi for doing multiple things," Wright said.
Currently, there are several antennas and towers throughout the city for a basic level of Wi-Fi accessibility, the mayor said.
"The system we're doing now is an upgrade of a previous system; the newest, latest technology in the existing location with existing servers," Morgan said.
Wright said the old system was a form of "indoor Wi-Fi."
"It had some connectivity issues, like with the Internet and phones," Wright said.
In July, the council allocated $65,000 to build more towers and antennas to prepare for the new network and officially approved a three-phase Mesh integration in August.
Phases of implementation
The first phase would focus on city departments such its utility groups: water, sewer, gas and electricity. Getting those departments on a better Internet system could save utility workers a lot of time, Morgan said.
"One thing that makes it cost effective for Union is that we have a large utility system," Morgan said. "There are 21,000 meters in the field. Any work orders we have from a meter read can be checked online through electronic work orders."
Getting Public Safety online was part of the second phase, Morgan said.
"Public Safety needs Internet access in the performance of their jobs," the mayor said. "We'd like laptops in every patrol car so the traffic records and police records can be available from the police cars to the police dispatch."
Departmental communication is essential nowadays, Morris said.
"Interoperability between departments is a huge issue since 9/11. They'll be able to communicate with each other at will," Morris said.
Patrol car cameras with live video stream are also on the city's wish list.
"We will be able to monitor areas considered by Public Safety to be necessary, whether it's a tough crime spot or an intersection downtown," Morgan said.
The final phase will give Union residents access to the wireless connection -- at least in the downtown area.
That phase is tentative on a unanimous decision by the City Council, Morgan said.
"We'd have to make sure the system had security in it before we'd offer it to the general public," the mayor said.
Yancey Johnson, the southern region sales manager for FireTide, said Union is taking advantage of the recent evolution of wireless Internet.
Gone are the days of hotspot wireless locales like Starbucks, Johnson said. Now there are wireless network "clouds" that not only can encompass one location but an entire county.
The Mesh Network "is a scaleable product and is very cutting edge," Johnson said. "Many large cities have this technology."
But Union's size only betters its compatibility with the Mesh Network, Morris said.
"Union is not that large of a city. So it won't cost millions of dollars to install," Morris said. "Union City officials are very forward-thinking to implement this."
Morris said that his company is excited to get Union on the technological fast track.
"I remember building their first paging system back in 1988," Morris said. "We're tickled to death to bring any new technology to Union. It's going to be something to see. It's going to be huge."