Wireless Network Set for Pittsburgh Rivers
17 June 2012
By Adam Wagner
Several local agencies are teaming up to create a wireless network
on Allegheny County's rivers, the first of its kind.
The Port of Pittsburgh Commission is taking the lead on the
project, which also will involve the Army Corps of Engineers and
Carnegie Mellon University.
The network will cost $1.3 million, funded in part by a $975,000
federal Port Security grant. The Port of Pittsburgh will match
CONXX Pennsylvania Inc., a Johnstown company chosen by a
five-member board after bidding, will construct the network, which
will be available on cellphones, iPads and other wireless
"What this is going to be is a communication system along the
waterways, particularly at locks and dams," said James McCarville,
executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission. "It will
also link together port security cameras."
Initially, the network's coverage area will extend from the
Emsworth Dam on the Ohio River to the Braddock Dam on the
Monongahela River to Lock No. 2, by Sharpsburg, on the Allegheny
McCarville added that the infrastructure will allow innovation,
with private companies and universities developing technology for
use on the network. The regional district of the Army Corps of
Engineers, for instance, has begun digitizing its system in
anticipation of the network.
Private companies, such as towing firms, would pay for access to
the network just as a private consumer would pay for access to
broadband. Profits from subscriptions would be used to fund the
expansion of the original coverage area.
"It's being established so that the network can grow out from the
original area that we have it in," said Rex Woodward, commissioner
with the Port of Pittsburgh.
McCarville said that other cities and private companies have been
in touch about using Pittsburgh's networks as a model, but he
declined to say which.
A Carnegie Mellon team has developed technology that will take
advantage of the network: a small, remote control boat that will
measure electrical conductivity and temperature in the water.
"I see information management as a pretty critical item these
days, and first and foremost that's what this is: a means of
gathering data, collecting it, housing it and allowing people to
have access to it," said David Nakles, a CMU civil and
environmental engineering professor who has worked with the port
Another possible use for the network is via applications such as
one developed by the port commission that allows boaters to
navigate dams in a manner similar to pilots landing with
"The types of apps that are going to change navigation and other
industries haven't been written yet," McCarville said. "It's like
imagining what you could do with an iPad before an iPad was built.
You could probably imagine a number of things, but you couldn't
imagine a million applications that people write, many of them
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