This article describes the features and implementation status of CapWIN (Capital Wireless Integrated Network), whose goal when it was launched in 1999 was to create the first integrated multi-State (Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia) transportation and public safety information wireless network in the United States.
Once completed, CapWIN will allow police officers, firefighters, transportation officials, and other emergency personnel to communicate directly with each other during a critical incident by using standard laptops. With a standard laptop mounted in a police cruiser or a firetruck, users will be able to log on to the CapWIN system with a Web browser. Once logged on to the network, users can see the other agencies logged on by using a global directory and then instant-message the other users or enter chat rooms established for a specific incident. In 2001, project staff conducted a pilot test in which 22 laptops were mounted in police, transportation, and fire vehicles in the 3 jurisdictions to determine whether messaging between the vehicles was possible. The vehicles were able to interface and transfer information from one agency to another. The next step is to conduct beta testing to learn which aspects of the network are working well and which require modification. CapWIN plans to put 56 laptops in vehicles in target areas for about 3 months of testing before the project will be ready for full production. CapWIN was started with initial funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Institute of Justice's AGILE Program, which helps local and State public safety agencies address interoperability issues.