01/25/2002

Mass. Troopers Enlist Wireless E-Mail Devices in War on Terrorism

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The BlackBerry, a pricey handheld wireless Internet device favored by Wall Street investment bankers and Hollywood producers, may soon be one of the most effective weapons in the arsenal of U.S. homeland defense.

BlackBerries have been issued to 10 Massachusetts State Police troopers who patrol the terminals and parking lots of Boston’s Logan International Airport. The troopers, who are tasked with randomly interviewing passengers, use the devices to send encrypted queries to federal and state databases about suspicious persons and suspicious vehicles.

The BlackBerry, manufactured by Research in Motion can transmit law enforcement queries and receive a response in less than a minute using PocketBlue Software from Aether Systems Inc. If the trooper’s query uncovers a bad guy, the PocketBlue software not only alerts that officer, it also sends an alarm to other BlackBerry-equipped troopers in the terminal.

Aether Systems provided the BlackBerries to Logan officials, and the company says similar programs are under way at other U.S. airports. However, it would not disclose the locations.

So far, the BlackBerry patrol hasn’t snagged any terrorists, at least not publicly. But the troopers have put the $89 per month devices to good use, identifying stolen cars in the Logan parking lots.


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