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Tracking technology helps WTC cleanup

PowerLOC Technologies, a small company that makes tracking technology, is one of the unsung heroes of the recovery efforts at Ground Zero.

NEW YORK--A small company that makes tracking technology is one of the unsung heroes of the recovery and cleanup efforts at Ground Zero that concluded on Thursday amid bagpipes and the ceremonial removal of the last steel column from the World Trade Center ruins.

PowerLOC Technologies, a Toronto-based company that makes "L-Biz" tracking technology, has been credited with dramatically improving the recovery process by organizing the flow of cleanup operations.

Using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and wireless devices, PowerLOC was able to coordinate and track the scores of dump trucks used in the recovery, track the dump loads for billing purposes, and prevent traffic jams. At one point, over 120 trucks were fitted with tracking devices that communicated with 24 satellites circling the earth, sending the vehicle's exact location to a central dispatcher.

The efficiencies allowed the city to go from using over 120 trucks at a time to less than 50, according to Yoram Shalmon, the company's director of product management. The trucks also went from hauling four loads a day to hauling 10 loads a day, he said. The scope of the destruction was still amazing, Shalmon said.

"I've been in a war, but it was nothing like this, visually," said Shalmon, who fought in the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

Initially it was estimated that it would take $7 billion and a year's worth of work to remove the 1.8 million tons of debris. The work was completed in just eight-and-a-half months and cost just $750 million, according to state and federal officials.

PowerLOC worked with Mobile Installation Technologies, an Atlanta-based company, and International Dispatch Center, a Minneapolis-based company that provided the call center for the operations.

"The city used PowerLOC's GPS technology successfully," said Brian Kavanagh, chief of staff and general counsel for Gale Brewer, a city-council member and the chairman of the city's Select Committee on Technology in Government. "We're interested in exploring other uses of their technology for city services," he said.

PowerLoc's customers include a bakery that ensures fresh delivery of its bread by monitoring trucks, but Shalmon said the World Trade Center job showed it could be used by government agencies to track anything from city meter readers and garbage trucks to vehicles hauling hazardous material.

"We can make sure a truck headed for the border isn't taken over or filled with contraband," he said, citing the system's ability to monitor minute details like the opening and closing of doors, the state of an engine, and even turn off an engine remotely.