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2/16/2005
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Subway System Uses Wi-Fi To Distribute Personalized Information

The Paris transportation authority has deployed a context-aware Wi-Fi network that customizes data feeds by the employee and even the time of day.

Subway workers in Paris' busy La Defense station are unholstering PDAs to give commuters real-time travel information. The setup, which uses Cisco Systems hardware and Appear Networks software, pushes to employees information that's unique to their roles, their locations, and the time of day.

RATP, the Paris transportation authority, has gone live with what it calls a context-aware Wi-Fi service. As workers move about the station, the system recognizes them and transmits appropriate information. Timetables, traffic knots, service disruptions, itinerary planning, and even directions for the area can be accessed on PDAs. The idea is to have the information immediately at hand when someone asks for assistance.

The employee network is separate from a Wi-Fi network available to commuters. RATP says it wants the network to increase worker productivity and make commuters' experiences more satisfying.

La Defense would appear to be a challenging environment for such a system. About 480,000 passengers pass through it every day on the subway, taxis, buses, trams, and the suburban commuter train, making it one of the 10 largest hubs in Europe.

Appear Networks uses filters to get targeted information to specific recipients. Although it's not part of the RATP system, the company can create systems that transmit voice and video over standard wireless networks.

Earlier this month, communications-technology vendor Alcatel said it's building a WiMax pilot project for RATP.

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