Cisco and HP wrap Magnetic Hill in mesh

When the Eagles headline an August festival near Moncton, N.B., gate-crashers with phony tickets won’t be able to hide their lyin’ eyes. Wireless scanners connected by a mesh network will verify which print-at-home tickets are legit and which aren’t.

The network, a partnership among the City of Moncton, Cisco and Hewlett-Packard, extends the city’s free Wi-Fi service from the downtown core to blanket the site of the nearby Magnetic Hill Music Festival on Aug. 2. The city was anticipating 50,000 concert-goers with tickets to be verified.

WiFi Moncton has been serving the City Hall area, Assomption Plaza and Riverfront Park for about a year, according to Dan Babineau, director of information services for the city, and “this is a progression of that network,” he said.

Magnetic Hill – named for a nearby optical illusion that makes cars appear to coast uphill – has to date played host to infrequent concerts and events, but the city is planning to turn the site into a permanent attraction, with a more permanent infrastructure.

Like the downtown network, Magnetic Hill’s is a mesh network built on Cisco product. Cisco contributed about $250,000 in equipment to the project, while HP provided the implementation and event-day support.

Ten Cisco 1522 mesh access points provide redundant coverage of the five entrances to the site, which is about half a kilometre by half a kilometre. While they support 802.11b and g client devices, the APs themselves interconnect through 802.11a – every AP doesn’t have to be directly attached to the network, said Rod Murphy, Cisco commercial account manager for Atlantic Canada.

“(802.11a) is not popular for general deployment,” Murphy said – it’s used for short haul, high-bandwidth applications. Since it doesn’t compete with the 802.11b and g traffic, it’s ideal for pulling the mesh together.

Four 3750g switches on the backend local area network complete the connection.

Murphy said Cisco was looking for an opportunity to showcase the technology and the application.

“We have a print-at-home functionality (for ticket sales) and that can be easily copied,” said Babineau of the need for verification scanners.

The wireless scanners connect through the mesh network to a ticketing application hosted on the city’s servers, Babineau said.

But with the network in place, there’s been demand for more applications – from emergency services personnel, bands and promoters, and merchants for point-of-sale – than the original ticketing application.

“What we’re providing is the Internet gateway for all that,” Babineau said.

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