Airport Arms With iPaqs

 
 
By Shelley Solheim  |  Posted 2005-04-04 Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Police at high-risk Logan Airport get total data access.

In the years following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist hijackings of American Airlines Inc.s Flight 11 and United Air Lines Inc.s Flight 175, departing from Logan International Airport in Boston for Los Angeles, the Massachusetts Port Authority has beefed up the airports security, including new baggage-screening systems, a door access-control system for employees and new surveillance cameras.

Now, state troopers guarding the airport have an extra tool on their belts to secure the facilitys perimeter. The officers carry Hewlett-Packard Co.s iPaq Pocket PC handhelds running Bio-key International Inc.s PocketCop software over Cingular Wireless LLCs high-speed EDGE (Enhanced Data for Global Evolution) network.

"Since 9/11 weve looked at every technology out there," said Massachusetts Port Authority Aviation Security Director Major Scott Pare in East Boston. "Obviously we want to be on top of anything we can use as far as new technologies are concerned. This is just one more tool our officers can use, one more piece of equipment we have on our belts."

The software gives the iPaqs real-time access to driver-license data and photographs; vehicle registrations; stolen-vehicle information; arrest warrants; weapon registrations; and local, county, state and federal criminal databases.

Logan Airports law enforcement officers protect the facilitys nearly 2,400 acres in East Boston, a neighborhood across Boston Harbor from Boston itself. The airport comprises five passenger terminals, 102 gate positions, five runways, 14 miles of taxiways, and 237 acres of concrete and asphalt apron. Given the airports dimensions, requiring the troopers to constantly return to desktop computers in their barracks to obtain information or radio in requests and tie up operators slowed their ability to get their jobs done.

"The main focus for our officers out in the field is being able to run checks ... instantly, instead of having to call in to the desk or return to the office to punch the information into a computer," said Pare.

"What I really like is that when you bring up certain data, a picture pops up on the screen. So if someone gives you a false name with data memorized, you can actually see if thats the person," said Pare. "Ive been through it a few times where someone gives you what you think is legitimate information, and they dont have the picture on their ID, and everything seems to match up. This is really important for us, especially with identity theft now so huge."

Massport officials wanted to make sure the batteries in the iPaqs would last for the duration of each officers shift, so Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB wrote a driver to extend the devices battery life.

"If you have a charger in the cruiser, then thats not a big deal, but a lot of our guys are on foot here," said Pare. "It now lasts through an entire shift; we havent had too many complaints."

Cingular Wireless also worked with Massport to improve some coverage areas in the airport. "We used a variety of things to enhance the coverage, [including] bidirectional amplifiers [and] microcells," said Chris Hill, vice president of government solutions for Cingular, in Atlanta. "We didnt do a full in-building system, which we do if the coverage is really poor, but we put an amplifier or repeater in certain areas, like the baggage claim."

The implementation took approximately a year and included extensive training to get the officers up to speed on the new devices.

Massport now wants to employ the iPaqs for other tasks. For example, it would like officers to use them to control door access for restricted areas instead of having to call a command center to remotely open a door. Another task being explored is using the iPaqs to scan fingerprints, which would require adding biometric readers to the devices.

Cingular has been working with the Massachusetts State Police since 2003, when the force equipped about 20 officers using iPaqs with GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) cards. The auto-theft-division officers used the enhanced iPaqs to run ID cards, license plate numbers and criminal information.

Last year, Massport moved to expand its use of wireless technologies at the airport. "We took a look at what Massport wanted—the Bio-key solution was key to the partnership—and they liked the form factor of the iPaq," said Cingulars Hill.

Cingular and Bio-key are also working with the state police to equip EDGE-enabled laptops in police cruisers with GPS and AVL (automatic vehicle location) functionality. There are currently 600 units deployed statewide, and approximately 1,400 more are planned.

More than 2,500 police, fire and emergency services departments in North America are using Bio-key tools, according to officials with the company, based in Wall, N.J.

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