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DOT Goes Trucking With Qualcomm, SAIC

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a $2 million contract to Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) and Qualcomm to test a wireless system to track untethered truck trailers used in high-value or high-security loads.

The field operational test will quantify the costs and benefits associated with systems designed to track trailers when they are not attached to a tractor. The test is expected to assist companies in their decisions to deploy this type of technology for more effective trailer utilization and improved safety and security in the movement of hazardous materials and high-value cargo.

The system will provide on-board hardware, advanced power management, network services and data integration capabilities using tri-mode (digital cellular, PCS and analog) communications. The McLean, Va.-based SAIC is the prime contractor for the project with Qualcomm, based in San Diego, as the technology integrator.

In the test, Qualcomm will use its TrailerTRACS untethered tracking system, which is currently under development. The company will deploy digital cellular technology for remote asset monitoring, a multimode CDMA digital module with analog back-up capability.

According to Qualcomm, this will allow the untethered trailer tracking product to work on today's third-generation (3G) cellular networks with bandwidth capabilities and ensures that the systems will function for a number of years without the risk of obsolescence.

Qualcomm has provided its tethered tracking system to more than 35,000 trailers within the NAFTA region since 1989. It provides provides trailer ID, drop-and-hook notification, location, status and refrigeration information when connected to a Qualcomm-wired tractor.

The untethered trailer tracking system being developed will offer the same features plus a variety of other options, including door and cargo sensors, over-the-air update capabilities, multiple delivery solutions to Web and AS400 platforms, and visibility of assets and loads whether or not a trailer is connected to a tractor.

Trucking companies currently planning to participate in the test include Super Service of Somerset, Ky.; R&R Trucking of Duenweg, Mo.; and Paschall Truck Lines of Murray, Ky. Operational field testing is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2004.

"This operational field test will demonstrate the benefits of untethered trailer tracking systems, which improve productivity and security for the trucking industry. Such systems enable greater safety and more efficient use of our nation's highways," said Chris Wolfe, president of Qualcomm Wireless Business Solutions.