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Wireless Broadband Network Deployed on Inland Waterways

Aboard its newly refurbished river fleet vessel, the M/V Safety Pledge, CONSOL Energy Inc. and the Port of Pittsburgh Commission today unveiled the first wireless broadband network deployed on inland waterways in the United States.

Developed exclusively on Pittsburgh's three rivers over the past several months, this new neutral wireless broadband network, called the Wireless Waterways (WW), will connect proprietary, stove-piped, and stand-alone systems into one "system of systems" to improve the safety, security and efficiency of the inland waterways and the thousands of vessels that navigate them every day. The WW is comprised of an interconnected network of physical devices and applications useful in river commerce and security and will integrate real-time navigation information, cargo-tracking, and the operation of waterway sensors.

The Port of Pittsburgh's Wireless Waterways Project, which includes the nation's first ever maritime-focused Interoperability Test Bed (ITB) as well as a pilot for a proposed national broadband network system, was launched in 2012 through grants from Allegheny County, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Port of Pittsburgh Commission. The Wireless Waterways will enable the development and use of specialized applications to improve navigation and information exchange, increase security and productivity, realize functional interoperability between public safety systems and organizations by enhancing real-time situational awareness, and improve the collection of data by environmental agencies. The WW network will provide the platform to improve the efficiency of waterway transportation, allowing regions like Pittsburgh to stay competitive in the global marketplace. The ITB will attract maritime R&D investments and is expected to provide a research edge for water-related companies in the region. The Port of Pittsburgh Commission is working with Carnegie Mellon University and the Pittsburgh-based Water Economy Network to advance the economic development potential of the project.

CONXX Pennsylvania, Inc., a developer of network architecture and infrastructure in Johnstown, constructed the network, which will be available on cellphones, iPads and other wireless devices.

To date, the technology has been installed on CONSOL Energy's M/V Safety Pledge, vessels owned by Campbell Transportation, and the Gateway Clipper. The M/V Safety Pledge is also testing the Wireless Waterways Broadband Network for Quality of Life initiatives to support a follow on application submitted earlier this month for a US Department of Transportation TIGER grant to extend the WW project nationwide.

"More than 200,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs in the Pittsburgh region depend upon a healthy and vibrant waterways system," commented James McCarville, executive director, the Port of Pittsburgh Commission. "We have a very real economic and human interest in improving the safety, security and efficiency of our inland communications system and Pittsburgh serves as a unique laboratory for this technology. I am encouraged that WW will enable us to lay a strong foundation for the future."

"The M/V Safety Pledge is a fitting name for our newly refurbished vessel as it represents an innovative use of this new wireless network that serves as a test bed and model for inland waterway communications nationwide," commented Al Aloia, director of CONSOL Energy river operations. "It also reinforces CONSOL Energy's commitment to improving standards and safety, and is an important advancement in employee retention as it improves quality of life by providing our rivers crews the opportunity to stay in contact with family and friends while working on board the boat."

Carnegie Science Center, another partner in the initiative, applauded the educational potential for the project. "We are excited about this advance for our region and what we can learn from it," said Ron Baillie, Co-Director, Carnegie Science Center. "This project will gather and transport data from sensors monitoring issues such as river conditions, river traffic, lock information, environmental conditions, public safety issues, and structural issues with dams and bridges."

"As a participating organization, we will have access to the sensor data to use in our exhibits, camps, and classes, buttressing our strong offerings in science, technology, engineering, and math," said Ann Metzger, Co-Director, Carnegie Science Center.

The Safety Pledge will be used as a testbed for river bed sounding technology, a 3-D camera/software technology and GPS tracking technology. Christened in May, the vessel was also upgraded with a larger galley and living quarters. CONSOL Energy is considering deploying the technology across its entire future.

With more than 230 employees, 23 boats and 600 barges, CONSOL Energy's River Division prides itself on being a leader in the industry by utilizing the most up-to-date safety equipment and providing its employees with effective and productive training. Year to date, CONSOL Energy River division employees have worked 253,628 hours without lost time injury.


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