Aether snags Nextel as police work partner

Nextel Communications, Inc., Reston, Va., and Aether Systems, Inc., Owings Mills, Md., are offering cell phones that will allow police officers to query national crime databases.

Although the partnership has yet to result in any sales, it represents an important milestone for Aether Systems in its quest of the law enforcement market, said Mike Layman, a senior product marketing manager for the company.

Layman said Nextel is well respected in that marketplace, thanks to its walkie-talkies, two-way radios and other mobile technologies. He would not comment on how much in additional sales the partnership would bring Aether.

The solution uses Aether's Aether PocketBlue software used on Nextel's Java-enabled cellular phones. An officer in the field could use the phones to check the license plates of a car to see if it is a stolen vehicle, or check a name against criminal databases, using Nextel's nationwide wireless network as a conduit and Aether integrated mobile data systems to provide the interface to databases.

While such activities can be completed on a laptop in a police car, a mobile device will allow the officer to check information while on foot, Layman said.

Founded in 1996, Aether focuses on offering wireless and mobile data software solutions. The company's public safety products are installed in over 1,000 public safety agencies.

Aether, which employs 850 people, had $117 million in revenue and losses of $325 million in 2002, according to business intelligence provider Hoover's Inc. of Austin, Texas.

Telecommunications company Nextel, with 17,000 employees, had $8.7 billion in revenue and earnings of $1.7 billion in 2002.

Approximatley 800,000 public sector employees use Nextel handsets, according to Roni Singleton, a public relations spokeswoman for the company.

(Updated March 10, 2003, 12:49 p.m.)

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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