NYC Marathon Highlights Shared Security Networks

Collaborative effort among more than 40 local agencies
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Monitor wall in the marathon's temporary Race Command Center

For the 50,000 runners pushing the limits of their physical endurance, the finish line at the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon represents the achievement of a lifetime. For those responsible for safety, however, the very same finish line is fraught with risk and danger.

There are thousands of onlookers swarming the race’s path hoping to witness a loved one’s achievement. In Central Park, tall trees line the curvy roads and pathways, further obstructing runners from the view of medical and safety personnel who are responsible for responding to emergencies in an informed, concise manner.

To manage security concerns, the New York Road Runners hired a team of leading industry partners. Security technology provider Virsig configured and deployed a high-availability resilient temporary network (RTN) in and around Central Park, where the marathon’s finish line is located.

The network consisted of Sony’s latest Ipela ultra-wide, dynamic-range network surveillance cameras, and TBus Ethernet transmitters provided by Network Video Technologies. These components were linked with Firetide dual-radio, tri-ban spectrum wireless mesh nodes that securely transmitted concurrent video and voice data to the Race Command Center, where the marathon’s XProtect Smart Wall installed by Virsig displayed up to 36 simultaneous camera views. Milestone XProtect video management software (VMS) served as the platform for live or recorded playback. Centennial Security Integration assisted with installation to transform the multiple-node architecture into a seamless unified system.


With 50,530 finishers and an estimated 1 million onlookers, the TCS 2014 New York City Marathon was the world’s largest. With the exception of 2012, when Hurricane Sandy interfered, the race has been organized every year since 1970 by the New York Road Runners. Tata Consultancy Services, an India-based company, began its 8-year term as title sponsor in 2014.

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A technician installs a Sony camera on Central Park West.

The open platform architecture of the Milestone VMS was central to configuring and deploying a flexible network. The Ipela engine of Sony’s latest wide dynamic-range network surveillance cameras provided the signals, including fixed models with on-board video analytics, pan-tilt-zoom and 360-degree capabilities. These were coordinated and viewed through Milestone XProtect Corporate, an IP VMS developed for large-scale, high-security deployments. Personnel in the Command Center had a consolidated operational view in a 55-screen XProtect Smart Wall, while roving staff could view video on the move using the Milestone Mobile client.

“What we brought to the system is a platform that allows us to create an ad-hoc environment, so any place we need to drop a camera, we have a wireless mesh that extends the network out into areas where you typically could not put one,” said Glenn Taylor, executive director, Virsig. “Milestone enabled us to provide a high-availability resilient temporary network along with a high-availability, high-performance video management system.”


Dr. Stuart Weiss is medical director for the New York Road Runners. On race day, his job was to manage the tent near the finish line that was fully staffed as an emergency room. The goal, he said, was to treat onsite as many as possible of the runners requiring medical attention who could then be sent home.

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Wireless links were used to connect the IP cameras to the Race Control Center.

Weiss said that the video capabilities proved to be a critical part of his team’s situational awareness, supporting decision making by offering views of the finish line, walk-off areas, various parts of Central Park and feeds from various points along the marathon’s course. Being able to see runners as they finished the race helped his team identify those who needed to be sent to emergency rooms for treatment and, at the same time, begin to determine what type of care needed to be provided for those whose injuries could be treated in the tent.

With tens of thousands of runners crossing the finish line, keeping track of what was going on as the runners cooled down on their way to the area where they reunited with congratulating family and friends was a complicated undertaking. In addition to sheer volume, the cool-down period is one in which trauma is most likely to occur.

“The [system] helped us integrate all the camera feeds into one screen area we could easily look at to see what was happening across the area,” Weiss said. “We used it to make critical decisions throughout the day.”

One of those critical decisions was made by the race commander, who used his view of each of the five very large medical tents to make numerous decisions, including which tents were at capacity and needed more medical personnel and which tents were able to receive additional people. Even when the electricity went out on one of the poles on which a camera had been mounted, a tech was able to use the Milestone Mobile client on a mobile device to send images from that location back to the command center.

Taylor said the depth of situational awareness the race commander had would have been especially valuable had there been a more widespread power outage or any other type of emergency in or near any one of the tents.


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A camera's view of the race route on Central Park West.

Taylor reported that the advantages an IP-networked camera system has over analog was abundantly clear almost immediately. The biggest advantage is that it enabled a much higher level of situational awareness, which is of critical importance for a crowded sporting event where there is a greater likelihood of injuries. The fact that the network was IP-based also enabled it to accommodate analytics capabilities.

“Thanks to the intelligence built into every camera and into the network as a whole, we were able to monitor and know exactly what was going on at all times,” Taylor said. “We were also able to add analytics to the system, which let us pinpoint the exact location of a problem. That’s important when you’re dealing with a lot of cameras. Analytics help push you in the right direction.”

Taylor said that the system enabled the creation of an ad hoc environment in which cameras could be placed exactly where they were needed. The open platform’s ability to accept a wide range of wireless devices, according to Taylor, gave the deployment far greater reach.

“As long as we had access to power, I could put up a wireless radio [node] and a camera and have eyes and ears where you’d never have had a network otherwise,” he said.

One location where a network would have been difficult to deploy if it weren’t for wireless capabilities, Taylor said, was Central Park West. Most wireless equipment requires a clear line of sight, a rare luxury in a setting more known for winding roads and dense vegetation.

Virsig overcame that challenge by installing wireless nodes in some locations that received video signal from below grade that was directed upward to the top of utility poles on Central Park West, an ascent of approximately 140 feet (~43m). The wireless devices received signals from the IP cameras and carried the data to the servers, where the images dramatically increased the marathon’s overall situational awareness.

“The wireless mesh extended the network out into areas where you typically would not be able to put a network,” Taylor said. “We created a platform that everyone was able to share in order to make the marathon a safer, more secure event.”