IBM Global Services and partners last week began building one of the first wireless data communications networks to allow regional government agencies from various jurisdictions to communicate.
The Capital Wireless Integrated Network, or CapWIN, is intended to allow public safety and transportation personnel from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia to communicate and share data when responding to emergencies.
Officials said they believe the network could serve as a model for other regions of the country.
"CapWIN will be a national model," said Fred Davis, deputy program director for CapWIN in the Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies, in College Park, Md. "It will set standards for interoperable communications. It can be expanded to other regions."
IGS won the $20 million contract over Motorola Inc., TRW Inc. and DynCorp on the strength of the technology it brought to the table, Davis said. IBM proposed a system built on a cluster of IBM eServer PSeries Unix servers running its WebSphere application server for message routing and browser communications.
The architecture also calls for MQSeries messaging software and a global directory IBM created to bridge the different address systems used by the various government agencies.
IGS partner Templar Corp., of Alexandria, Va., is contributing its Informant software for access to a wide range of databases, while PelicanMobile Computers Inc., of Glen Burnie, Md., will provide and maintain mobile systems in the network, as well as support mobile systems already in use by some of the departments.
"This is unique because of its breadth and the cross-collaboration it will allow," said Carol Kelly, an analyst at Meta Group Inc., in Stamford Conn.
The network, which will support 10,000 users from local, state and federal agencies, will support a mix of functions, including interagency instant messaging for first responders to an incident.
The network will facilitate inquiries into interagency databases on a secure, need-to-know basis, according to Kent Blossom, director for safety and security service for IBMs Public Sector unit, in Wilmington, N.C. Initial database access will be provided to the Washington Area Law Enforcement System as well as the Maryland and Virginia law enforcement databases.
The project was initiated two years ago, after police from different jurisdictions were forced to hand-deliver messages across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge during a suicide attempt that snarled traffic in the area for 5 hours. But the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 brought a new sense of urgency to the effort, according to Davis.
The system also will support an incident management function that combines instant messaging and database access functions with the ability to form an incident response group.