A Texas police department plans to implement a digital video system and combine it with wireless hotspot technology to allow police officers to broadcast video in real time from their patrol cars to headquarters.

The digital video system, which is manufactured by Coban Research and Technologies, is expected to significantly enhance the law enforcement activities of its officers, said Gary Swindle, police chief of the city of Tyler, which has a population of about 90,000 and is about 90 miles east of Dallas. The Coban system will replace a three-year-old analogue video system, he said.

"As this technology keeps changing, we wanted to be at the forefront. Our current analogue video cameras and computer systems are outdated," he said.

The implementation of the cutting edge system, by IBM's Global Services unit, will begin next month with the outfitting of the police department's 60 cruisers with digital video cameras and hard drives, and the installation of the backend system at headquarters, Swindle said. The system to transmit video back to headquarters in real time would be part of a second phase expected to be completed later this year, he said.

In addition to the potential for broadcasting "live" from a cruiser to headquarters, the Coban/IBM system offers features that the old system lacks, including: always-on cameras that, when in idle mode, store on the cruiser's hard disk the last four minutes worth of images they are recording; a back-end video management system that tags videos with metadata, allowing for fast searching and retrieval via a variety of keywords; and the ability to aggregate video images with related data, such as radar gun information.

The hard drives in the cruisers would have capacity of between 40GB to 60GB for storing the video, while the repository back at headquarters would have a 4.35TB capacity, according to an IBM statement.

In addition to doing the implementation, IBM Global Services will also train officers and administrative staff on how to use the system, said Gary Crowell, principal at IBM's public safety and security services. This is the fifth digital video system IBM has sold to a law-enforcement client in the USA, he said. "We've seen a significant increase in demand for this type of system in the past 10 to 12 months," Crowell said. "They offer huge efficiency gains for police departments, better quality video and now they're affordable."

The department has been testing the Coban system for the past six to eight months, Swindle said.