US security forces turn to instant messaging

IM is going to the scene of the crime...

IM is going to the scene of the crime...

By Michael Kanellos

IBM and a consortium of US government agencies in the Washington DC area are creating a wireless emergency network that will allow approximately 40 police, fire and safety agencies to communicate in real time via instant messaging and access one another's databases.

The Capital Wireless Integrated Network (CapWIN) will be the first of its kind in the US and is designed to eliminate many of the communications bottlenecks that now hamper coordinating responses to an emergency such as the 11 September disaster, supporters say.

"All these places have different systems from different vendors that are wonderful, but they can't talk to one another," said George Ake, the project manager for CapWIN.

Just as important, CapWIN will fit on top of existing communications and computer systems, which will make it easier to implement and expand into other jurisdictions. Baltimore is already considering joining the network, according to Kent Blossom, director of safety and security systems for IBM.

The instant message application will come from Jabber, while Informant Software will provide the database access system, Blossom added.

"They did not want to be hooked into any proprietary system," Blossom said. "The purpose of CapWIN is to enable these functions by leveraging existing networks and systems ...The hard part is going to be to make sure that we get the user requirements defined correctly the first time."

Congress has authorised a $20m budget for the project.

Michael Kanellos writes for News.com

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