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The IEEE 802.22 wireless regional area network (WRAN) is the first worldwide commercial application of cognitive radio (CR) networks refarming the TV broadcast bands. According to US FCC's recent public notice, WRAN products are scheduled to be available for the market by February, 2009. This paper first presents a brief review of the IEEE 802.22 WRAN standardization, and then introduces the radio environment map (REM) as an innovative cost-efficient approach to developing and managing WRAN systems. REMs can provide powerful infrastructure support to the functionality of the WRAN cognitive engine (CE). The data model of the REM is presented together with an extensive discussion on how to exploit the REM for a variety of applications in WRAN systems, focusing on the REM-enabled case- and knowledge-based learning algorithms (REM-CKL) for WRAN CEs. Furthermore, REM-based radio scenario-driven testing (REM-SDT) is also presented as a viable approach to evaluating the performance of CEs. Future research topics are discussed in the final section.