Tempe, Ariz.'s police department has relied on a legacy analog radio network for many years for dispatching and emergency communications. The system works well for voice communications, but not as well for mobile data communication. Although officers could communicate with each other using a basic analog function on their laptops, doing so tied up network capacity and cluttered their screens.

Last year, Dave Heck, Tempe's deputy CIO, began searching for technology that would give officers greater access to information in the field through their laptops. The technology would need to work with the department's commercial cellular network (Verizon) and the city's municipal wireless network, which is accessible in garages and around stations.

Last March, Tempe began testing technology from New Westminster, British Columbia-based In Motion Technology, connecting a variety of wired and wireless devices in and around each vehicle to the Internet. As the vehicles move around the city, the system automatically switches between networks to create a continuous pipeline of information to and from the vehicle. Officers can file reports, send emails, download mug shots, and access other resources from the car laptops.

After testing the technology on four cars for several months, Tempe deployed it throughout the department's 200-car fleet. Now, the department is exploring using the technology to deploy streaming surveillance video, electronic ticketing, automated license plate recognition and other applications. Other departments also have begun testing the technology to access information, upload photographs and file reports in the field. "When we deployed this technology in the police department, we saw immediate improvements in communications and operations," says Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman. "Now we have the opportunity to improve other city services with a communications platform that enables mobile workers anywhere to be connected to city IT resources."

Project: Mobile wireless hotspots
Jurisdiction: Tempe, Ariz.
Agencies involved: Police department, IT department
Vendor: New Westminster, British Columbia-based In Motion Technology
Date began: March 2009
Cost: About $500,000