Transit Helps Drive the Wireless Agenda

My diary is beginning to look pretty full with conference events over the next few months; the 2011 season is getting well underway. As I begin to pack my bags, I thought I’d take a moment to review what’s coming up at the intersection of the mass transit and wireless sectors during March, in an attempt to better understand how public transport is perceived and represented as a market opportunity in the wireless community. IWCE 2011 – March 7-11, Las Vegas, Nev. March kicks off with the annual International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE) in sunny Las Vegas. Originally a two-way radio conference with its roots in public safety, IWCE has grown organically to include a wide range of topics, including WAN infrastructure, M2M, 4G technologies, Wi-Fi, and hot issues such as narrowbanding and 700MHz interoperability. Much of the event’s content is directly pertinent to mass transit, and several conference sessions are geared to this with speakers from agencies, including Portland’s TriMet and Santa Clara’s VTA: 3/9/11        3:00 p.m. - 4:15 p.m. Wireless Communications Networks for Transportation Systems in the 21st Century 3/9/11        4:30 p.m. - 5:45 p.m. Railroad and Public Transport Roundtable 3/10/11    10:00 a.m. - 11:10 a.m. Regional Radio Systems: Collaborating Transit and Public Safety 3/11/11    11:10 a.m. - 12:10 a.m. Next Steps in Effective Wireless Backhaul Network Transformation for Cities, Public Safety, Energy and Transportation IWCE have created what could prove to be the most diverse and interesting wireless conference schedule for mass transit and public safety professionals this year. There are a number of sessions focusing on 700MHz, including a presentation on Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC) and how its work will impact public safety and transportation markets. I wrote about ERIC and its lack of representation of transit agencies in a previous “Unwired” column. While this ruffled a few feather or two in Washington, it remains to be seen whether this session will address the issue. Fear not, “Unwired” will be there to ask probing questions. If you’re attending IWCE, please do stop by the Joint Council on Transit Wireless Communications booth #4121 and say “Hi.” The Joint Council is also holding its quarterly meeting on Thursday March 10 between noon and 4 p.m.; if you’d like to attend and contribute, please sign up and become a member at no cost. In addition to presenting on one of the IWCE panels, I’ll be covering the event for “Mass Transit” magazine, so if you can’t make it you can read about it in a future “Unwired” column. CTIA Wireless 2011 – March 22-24, Orlando, Fla. The Wireless Association represents the international wireless telecommunications industry and holds its annual spring convention in Florida this month, with more than a thousand exhibitors and 40,000 attendees. In recent years, CTIA has moved swiftly to embrace emerging trends, including social media, mobile commerce and the driving force of smartphone applications. At the same time, it recognizes the importance of vertical markets such as M2M, smart energy and wireless health. At the recent San Francisco CTIA event last fall, I chaired a panel on intelligent transportation that looked at a wide range of transport-oriented topics, including passenger Wi-Fi, telematics, DSRC, and “social” navigation using apps like Waze . Sadly, at the time of writing, ITS as a session topic is missing from the Orlando program, and as a technology section of the exhibition floor. So while real-world case studies will not be discussed in a panel environment, several exhibitors in the M2M Pavillion, such as Eurotech and Sierra Wireless will be showing mobile technologies suitable for in-vehicle use. Mass transit as a sector could do better by working with CTIA to explain its technical objectives, and encourage vendors to address these needs with viable wireless solutions. While there are events more geared to the transport industry, CTIA is the largest gathering of wireless professionals in the U.S., so it’s worth pursuing. APTA or AASHTO might want to consider outreach to CTIA to encourage specific ITS seminars or panels at future events. APTA TransITech – March 29-31, Miami, Fla. Hot on the heels of CTIA and not too distant, APTA holds its annual technology shindig in balmy downtown Miami at the end of the month. As you might expect, the conference sessions are all about transit, with several sessions focused on wireless: 3/29/11    1:15 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. US DOT Connected Vehicles 3/30/11    100 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. Wireless, Broadband and Narrowbanding 3/31/11    9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. Information Technology ITS applications 3/31/11    10:15 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. Transitioning from Legacy CAD/AVL Transit agencies are well represented on almost every session, including Jim Allison of the Capitol Corridors Joint Powers Authority (and vice chair, Technology Committee of the Joint Council on Transit Wireless Communications) speaking on broadband in transit on March 30. “Unwired” will be attending and writing up the event for our early April column. With three large events in one month alone, 2011 is shaping up to be an active year for wireless in mass transit. -- Jim Baker is CEO at Xentrans Inc., a wireless project management consultancy based in San Francisco and London. A C-level wireless industry veteran, Baker has been involved in many deployments of wireless technologies on passenger transportation worldwide and is a recognized industry expert on Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G convergence. He is chair of the Technology Committee at the Joint Council on Transit Wireless Communications that is developing a strategic plan for implementation of wireless technologies in mass transit. Contact Baker via LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.