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January 16, 2007 8:00 AM, EST

Technology Briefs — Jan. 9 - Jan. 16

This briefing can be e-mailed to you every week. Just click here to register.The Latest Headlines:

DHL to Use Wi-Fi in U.S. Network

Package delivery firm DHL said it would use the latest “new generation” scanning technology, deploying a single system across its U.S. network to provide enhanced shipment visibility.The new scanning devices, used to capture shipment information by couriers and other operations personnel, will use Wi-Fi — wireless local area network connectivity — communications system, to be deployed nationwide by the third quarter.The technology will provide visibility and real-time tracking for customers, and increase the speed in which personnel can process shipments at both customer locations and DHL facilities, DHL said.“The adoption of this new technology will allow us to provide enhanced service, and yield greater efficiencies,” said Jose Eiras, chief information officer for DHL Express USA.DHL Americas is ranked No. 4 on the Transport Topics 100 list of U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers. Transport Topics

Grasses Touted as Potential Ethanol Source

With demand for both food and fuel projected to double in the next 50 years, researchers at the University of Minnesota are looking for ways to use grasses rather than corn as a source of fuel in ethanol, the Associated Press reported.Grasses can produce more net energy per acre than corn, and researchers say the grasses also act as a sponge for greenhouse gases before they are harvested by soaking them out of the air and into their roots and surrounding soil, AP reported.The study also found that the prairie grasses absorb about 14 times more greenhouse gases than is released in producing grass-based fuel.Corn growers are eyeing the research skeptically, as nearly 100 ethanol plants that use corn are operating in the United States, and a director of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association warned that supplanting corn with grasses would be a complex, costly task that could take years, AP said. Transport Topics

Port of Tacoma Develops Container Yard Software

The Port of Tacoma, Wash., and a German research institute have developed a software package that can determine the capacity of an intermodal container yard.Tacoma officials developed the software — the Intermodal Yard Capacity Planning System — as part of a joint effort with the Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics. The software can predict the effect that changeable factors, such as seasonal demand, will have on a yard’s operations.Port officials said they will sell the software to ports, terminal operators and others who need to monitor intermodal capacity.Carsten Boll, director of planning and simulation systems at ISL, said the Tacoma port was an ideal partner for developing the software. Boll pointed to the port’s lack of congestion, which “makes it comparatively easy to move cargo in and out.”Officials at the port’s Pierce County Terminal have used the software to plan a doubling of capacity, the statement said. Transport Topics

Louisiana Adds 511 Road-Info Service

Louisiana road travelers can now access real-time traffic and road condition updates by dialing 511 or visiting a Web site, http://www.511la.org, the Associated Press reported.The 511 Traveler Information Service — available to most wireless and landline users — offers information on construction work, road conditions and critical incidents.Louisiana is the 27th state to launch the 511 service, which is a nationwide effort to provide consistent and reliable traveler information.The Federal Communications Commission designated 511 as the national traveler information phone number in 2000. Transport Topics

Iowa City’s Traffic-Camera Law Struck Down

An Iowa judge ruled that Davenport’s speed and red-light cameras violate state law, a decision the city will likely appeal, the Associated Press reported.The ruling was issued by District Court Judge Gary McKenrick, who agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that the city lacks authority to adopt an ordinance that conflicts with the state motor vehicle code, AP said.According to state law, people who speed or run a red light must be issued criminal citations, while the city treats citations issued by the cameras as civil matters. Plaintiffs’ attorneys argued the city was breaking state law by issuing the citations to the vehicles’ owners instead of the drivers.Richard Davidson, one of the attorneys representing two drivers ticketed by the system, said he will file a motion to make the case a class-action lawsuit. If approved by a judge, the city may have to give refunds to an estimated 14,000 people, AP reported. Transport TopicsPrevious Technology Briefs