Developed exclusively for Pittsburgh’s three rivers, this neutral network, Wireless Waterways (WW), links proprietary, stove-piped and stand-alone systems into a “system of systems” improving waterway safety and efficiency with the thousands of vessels navigating them daily, according to officials. The WW is a physical device and application network for river commerce integrating real-time navigation information, cargo-tracking and waterway sensor operation.

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 broadband network for Quality of Life initiatives for the U.S Department of Transportation and will test for river bed sounding technology, a 3-D camera/software technology, and GPS tracking technology. The ship was launched in Q2 2013.

Al Aloia, director of CONSOL Energy river operations, noted the project reflected a myriad of benefits. “CONSOL Energy’s commitment to standards and safety, and an advancement in employee retention by providing our river crews the opportunity to stay in contact with family and friends while working on the boat,” he said.

The project, which includes the nation’s first 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 development will improve information exchange, increase security and productivity, while realizing functional interoperability between public safety systems and organizations, enhancing real-time situational awareness. The network, in addition, will enhance data collection by environmental agencies.

ITB will also attract maritime R&D investments, while increasing Pittsburgh’s global competitiveness. The Port of Pittsburgh Commission, meanwhile, is working with Carnegie Mellon University and the Pittsburgh-based Water Economy Network to advance economic potentials of the project.

CONSOL Energy’s River Division has more than 230 employees, 23 boats and 600 barges.