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Transportation Dept. Gets $100 Million For Wireless Apps

The White House wants DOT to develop wireless applications to deliver emergency services, Internet access in remote locations, and other innovative services.

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The White House plans to invest $100 million to help the Department of Transportation (DOT) develop wireless applications to deliver emergency services, Internet access in remote locations, and other innovative services to its employees and users, according to the DOT.

Wireless applications for safety, mobility, and emergency response are among those being considered through a new plan called the Wireless Innovation for Transportation (WIN for Transportation) initiative, according to a White House blog post by U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra and two DOT officials, Peter Appel and David Strickland.

The initiative would support the existing DOT research program called Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), which focuses on intelligent vehicles and infrastructure and the creation of an intelligent transportation system by integrating these two components, according to the ITS program office website.

"The WIN for Transportation Initiative would provide the USDOT's ITS Program and its stakeholders the ability to seek new and innovative opportunities to pursue ground-breaking research and development toward deployment of wireless technology applications," officials wrote in the blog post.

The DOT recently put out a request for information (RFI) about WIN for Transportation that describes in detail some of the types of wireless applications and services it hopes to develop through the initiative.

Among the ideas for the plan are a so-called broadband wireless "fast lane" to provide wireless access, especially in rural areas that lack coverage and at border crossings, according to the RFI. The fast lane also would handle specific transportation apps, such as real-time safety inspections and reporting.

Providing wireless access points to provide emergency communications in rural areas "of critical need" also is an idea the agency is pondering, according to the RFI.

To develop the applications, the DOT hopes to use what it is calling "living laboratories" where it can develop and safely evaluate new wireless communications methods and applications. The labs will use both public and private investments to operate, according to the RFI.

Governments at the federal, state, and local level are seizing upon the opportunity of wireless and the ubiquity of smartphones to create new services for constituents, work that is an intersection between the public and private sectors.

For instance, emergency communications is one area in which various governments and the private sector already have collaborated. At an event at the World Trade Center site in New York earlier in May, government officials and wireless carriers unveiled the Personal Localized Alerting Network, a free, geographically specific service to provide to wireless customers emergency alerts that won't be affected by network-traffic congestion.

Meanwhile, federal agencies also are creating smartphone apps for the iPhone and Android platforms to reach more users with their services. The FBI, IRS, and the White House are among federal offices that have released their own wireless apps.

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