Companies team on responder networks

Two Virginia-based technology companies recently announced a partnership to provide law enforcement agencies and other first responders with high-speed wireless networks bundled with mobile and wearable computers.

Fairfax, Va.-based Xybernaut Corp., a maker of wearable computers, will work with Visual Link Internet LLC, headquartered in Winchester, Va., where the police department is testing the combined broadband service and computers in cruisers.

Mark Bayliss, president and founder of Visual Link, said the company would deploy a broadband wireless network in a municipality and resell rugged Xybernaut computers. The bundled service will be aimed at municipalities with populations of less than 250,000

Company officials say the system can help first responders. For example, at a traffic stop, police with the system can simultaneously retrieve information and watch motorists because officers can access the police network through a wearable or mobile computer, rather than going back to the police cruiser.

Xybernaut — whose products are being tested by Charleston, S.C., first responders in a separate project for the Justice Department — would outfit cruisers with its Mobile Assistant V and Atigo computers, which are also portable and similar to tablet PCs, company spokesman Mike Binko said. A subsidiary also will help law enforcement departments with training, site and architectural analyses, and establishing priorities and goals, among other things.

Computers from Xybernaut can support Microsoft Corp. Windows or Linux operating systems, and the screen can be viewed in direct sunlight. The devices can provide database access and remote data gathering, report generation, e-mail, messaging and other features.

Bayliss said Visual Link company is looking to link up a Tivo Inc. Tivo-like video recorder into the system, allowing police departments to conduct live video monitoring from a cruiser.

Federal grants, especially for rural areas, are available for municipalities to deploy broadband wireless systems, Bayliss said, adding that the company would assist municipal officials with the grant writing process.

Visual Link would market the service to the public as a broadband Internet service, charging subscribers 50 percent less than what they would pay for a Digital Subscriber Line. But he said 10 percent of wireless transport fees charged to Internet service providers would help subsidize emergency services for the community, so municipalities won't have to pay for the system's upgrade and maintenance. Basically, Visual Link would cover those costs, Bayliss said.

Many cities and counties have expressed interest in the service, but Bayliss said he's not sure when they will start deploying the systems. Municipalities in the mid-Atlantic, Midwestern and Southeastern regions will be targeted.


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