Kymeta’s mobile hotspot of a car, a satellite-connected Toyota RAV4, is being used to keep the police force in Greenville, South Carolina, connected before, during and after the big solar eclipse.
Equipped with the KyWay mobile satellite terminal, the car will provide mobile communications to the Greenville Police Department during the event, which is expected to draw thousands of additional visitors to the area.
Even though cellular operators have beefed up their networks with COWs and COLTs, expectations are high that there will be problems as people try to capture the moment on their smartphones and upload photos and video to social networks. Greenville County could see as many as 400,000 to 500,000 people descend on its doorstep.
Thanks to Kymeta, the police in the city of Greenville will be able to use Kymeta’s Wi-Fi hotspot to record video via dash cameras on vehicles and report back to the command center on what’s going on, use voice over Wi-Fi to communicate where streets are clogged and basically have the knowledge that there’s another communications system in the area, according to Tom Freeman, senior vice president of Land Mobile Kymeta Corporation.
While everybody’s watching the eclipse outside, the event is sort of like an event at a stadium where everybody is using their cell phones at the same time. It just so happens in this case, the “stadium” is the size of the northernmost part of South Carolina. Greenville is just south of the border with North Carolina.
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How it got to Greenville is a bit of a story in itself. Kymeta has two cars equipped with its antenna technology, one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast. Since Kymeta is based in Redmond, Washington, it could have chosen an area in the path of totality in Oregon, but that car was commandeered by the engineering department, and the one on the East Coast is designated for government users.
Plus, while all the cities on the list of the totality path nationwide are going to see an impact on cellular networks, Greenville is expected to have one of the larger number of visitors, and its police chief was highly receptive to the idea. The company offered to either put up a pico cell to connect or use the car as a Wi-Fi hotspot, according to Freeman, and the chief picked the latter because this way, they can move the car around to where they need it since, like most everywhere, no one is exactly sure what’s going to happen on Monday.
“The significant increase in visitors will have an impact on cellular networks, which are likely to face decreased capacity, and that’s a problem,” said Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller in a press release. “Communication is critical to ensuring timely response to incidents and in keeping the public safe. Having the extra test-bed support Kymeta is offering will provide us with an additional means of communication.”
The Kymeta Government Solutions team has been conducting performance trials over the past few months with military and law enforcement organizations, validating Kymeta technology for them, and the city of Greenville IT team and police department authorized Kymeta to use the eclipse as an opportunity to put its technology to the test.
Kymeta has an arrangement with Intelsat to use its satellites. It’s also in talks with automobile manufacturers to get its antenna technology into more cars. Toyota especially has been providing vehicles and assisting on technology issues and public events.