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The Technology of Interoperability

The use of wireless communications technology within the public safety sector continues to play a major role in creating safer communities. Public Safety Communications Offi cials (APCO) and Motorola shows that public safety administrators and fi rst responders recognize the importance of advanced technologies in missioncritical environments.

The majority of agencies currently use some form of wireless communications technology, which includes computer mapping, traffi c light sensors and video surveillance systems. While the main area of concern cited is interoperability, emergency personnel want systems that are reliable, scalable and mobile.


A technology and innovation leader since its founding in 1922, Raytheon provides enhanced interoperability for military and public safety operations with its WAIS and ACU solutions. The Wide Area Interoperability System (WAIS) gives fi rst responders operating on different systems or frequencies the ability to communicate across entire regions and states. WAIS software easily integrates into existing systems and allows users to control interconnected, on-site interoperability systems from any point on a network.

The ACU-1000 solution provides simultaneous cross-connection of different radio networks to telephone or SATCOM systems, as well as RoIP/ VoIP talkpaths. The system connects up to 12 audio devices (and can be expanded to 24) and has the ability to interconnect radios in any band. ACU- 2000 IP interoperability offers additional SIP capabilities that allow disparate communications systems to be connected, monitored and controlled over an IP network. The local Interoperability Gateway provides SIP capability for full radio network interoperability, while the server-based version uses SIP to provide cross-connection capability for radios and other four-wire devices.

Last year, the Yuba City Police Department (YCPD) deployed a multiagency interoperability system designed and built by Sutter Buttes Communications Inc., using Raytheon’s ACU-2000 IP interoperability gateway component. It is placed on the region’s solitary, highlevel mountaintop to ensure optimum coverage and includes low and high band frequencies, as well as 800 MHz repeaters and base stations.

According to Yuba City Police Chief Richard J. Doscher, Raytheon’s sales and technical staff provided outstanding, ongoing support throughout the various stages of the project.


Harris Corporation is a leading global provider of assured communications systems and services for both the private and public sectors. Responding to the need for enhanced communications across disparate radio systems during crisis situations, Harris has developed powerful network and radio solutions that give first responders the necessary tools to effectively respond during critical operations.

To meet the requirements of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, Harris developed VIDA Broadband LTE, a complete 700 MHz private broadband network based on 3GPP LTE (Long Term Evolution) cellular technology. It offers broadband mission-critical communications for fi rst responders by allowing direct connection of Harris VIDA-based LMR and the LTE systems into a single multi-band, multi-node communication network.

The NetworkFirst™ IP solution enables continuous interoperability among agencies operating on different frequencies and systems; it can be deployed as a standalone interoperability solution or as a fully supported application of an existing VIDA network solution. Harris’ P25IP system is an IP-based network that provides reliable and secure interoperability communications at the network level using P25 standards, with Project 25 ISSI and NetworkFirst, or at the subscriber level by incorporating multi-mode radios.

Ontario County, N.Y., replaced its existing analog infrastructure in 2009 with the Harris P25IP system, providing interoperable communications to approximately 2,500 first responders in a 662-square-mile area. Sam Casella, county supervisor and chairman of the Ontario County Public Safety Committee, said that after evaluating all the alternatives, the county decided that Harris offered the best solution to meet both its current and future communication needs.

Frequentis USA Inc. 

Frequentis provides innovative public safety solutions that focus on human-machine interface usability, resulting in userfriendly applications that allow fi rst responders to concentrate on the task at hand. As Frequentis USA President Robert Nitsch points out, “We listen, design, build and deploy equipment and services that provide end-users with solutions that help them cope with their everyday stressful work environment.”

The Frequentis Project™ product line was developed in cooperation with public safety professionals and gives emergency personnel the ability to effectively record and manage all events of an incident. The Frequentis Safety Framework™ is one component of theFrequentis Project™ system, providing a safe and secure data exchange environment and seamlessly connecting all subsystems.

Other components include application solutions for CAD, MDC, RMS, GIS and AVL. Protect™ 9-1-1 provides GIS-based Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) functionality and the ability to accept an incoming emergency call directly from the map. Protect™ CAD/GIS allows dispatchers to effectively manage voice, data and video communications systems, while the Protect™ RMS and MDC/AVL mobile solutions give first responders access to critical information from any mobile site or workstation.

Frequentis USA Inc. partnered with SouthCom Dispatch in September 2008 to design and deploy an NG9-1-1 compliant, fully integrated CAD, RMS and 9-1-1 Telephony system in Matteson, Ill. The solution integrates 9-1-1 Voice, CAD/GIS, mobile data terminals, records management, alarm management, paging and recording. Using a “scrum” development approach, Frequentis was able to introduce new software every few months, giving the dispatch center the flexibility needed to fine-tune its operations.

Incident Communications Solutions (ICS)


ICS offers customized, cost-effective solutions for mobile command vehicles, emergency management centers, tactical video surveillance and rapidly deployable communications systems. According to Chris Boyd, communications architect and vice president of marketing and product development for ICS, the company’s turnkey applications make its solutions the right choice for mission-critical operations.

Custom-configured on a Chevrolet Avalanche platform and equipped with ICS’ patented Onboard VehiclePower architecture, TCOMM™ is a tactical communications vehicle that delivers reliable connectivity in both urban settings and rugged, isolated areas. Quick and easy and to set up, TCOMM gives fi rst responders access to phones, data systems and video teleconference via Tactical-IP™ satellite connectivity.

The ICS pCom™ 355 is a mobile communications infrastructure solution that provides essential on-scene communications and site resources in a portable platform. This self-suffi cient system can stay powered without refueling for up to seven days, is towable by any half-ton truck, and comes equipped with an integrated 41-foot tower that provides site lighting, radio and repeater antennas, and wireless mesh endpoints.

In 2009, the Salt Lake City UASI COML Group and the Charlotte Fire Department FIELDCOM unit participated in a four-day cross-training exercise that simulated a multi-agency regional incident response, allowing the two agencies to share best practices and standard operating guidelines. The following year, North Carolina’s Urban Search and Rescue Taskforce 8 (NCTF-8) deployed the ICS pCom 355 for enhanced communications during natural or manmade disasters. The system included an ACU-2000 interoperability switch that connects to Motorola’s XTL-5000 LMR radios, allowing operators to patch UHF, VHF and other radio networks.


As a global leader in unifi ed communications (UC) systems, Polycom delivers industry-leading, standards-based telepresence, video, voice and infrastructure solutions for both the private and public sectors. With the company’s immersive telepresence solutions, police, fi re and emergency personnel can attend critical, ongoing training sessions directly from their workstations, without interrupting daily operations.


HDX® technology delivers high quality voice, video and content for unsurpassed performance and provides cutting-edge options for data and information-sharing during conferencing. The company’s patent-pending Lost Packet Recovery (LPR) feature protects IP video calls from the damaging impact of packet loss, making the system more forgiving of bad network connections. Polycom public safety solutions can be used for daily briefi ngs across multiple stations, command and control coordination, administrative meetings, and crossagency emergency fi eld communication.

When the Springfield-Green County Offi ce of Emergency Management decided to enhance its disaster preparedness program, it chose Polycom’s HDX telepresence solutions and Converged Management Application (CMA). Deployment of the Polycom Video Border Proxy solution allowed the county to connect via video with critical outside private and government agencies, such as FEMA, the Red Cross and the National Weather Service.

OEM Director Ryan Nicholls said they “were impressed with Polycom’s ability to deliver a complete end-to-end, cost-effective solution for the entire 18-county roll-out.”

According to Matt Jackson, Polycom’s director of government markets, videobased training saves time and money, allows uninterrupted response time for emergency personnel, and delivers optimum ROI. Faster response time can result in lower insurance rates but, most importantly, benefits the community and its citizens.


For more than 32 years, Inmarsat has been at the forefront of mobile satellite services and continues to introduce new technologies for improved interoperability and situational awareness. The company’s latest generation of satellites is the Inmarsat 4 (1-4), providing worldwide coverage on land, sea and air via its Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN).

As the only mobile satellite service to offer broadband data with simultaneous voice through a single portable device, BGAN is accessible via compact, lightweight satellite terminals that can be set up in minutes. With standard user interface across all terminals, BGAN is easy to use and provides communications operability even when terrestrial networks are disrupted.

The broadband mobile command post supports e-mail, Internet, VPN and telephony systems, keeping critical personnel connected via standard HF radios and cell phones. Available as a fixed or mobile application, it supports multiple users from a single device via a WLAN. BGAN allows the same device to be used nationwide, resulting in a cost-effective solution that enables real-time communications from more locations.

When the Philippines was hit with a typhoon in July 2010, a BGAN-powered emergency telecoms kit was donated to the Philippines National Disaster Council (NDCC) to assist in the rescue efforts. Each kit contained satellite terminals, data transmitters for Internet connectivity, IT equipment and a solar-based power box, providing seamless connectivity throughout the region. According to the NDCC’s Information and Communications Technology Offi cer Frederic Bragas, more than 200 e-mails of alerts, situation reports and weather bulletins were sent via BGAN in a single day.


Developed to ensure enhanced communications among first responders operating on divergent systems, Motorola’s MOTOBRIDGE solutions are offered in both fixed and mobile applications. Motobridge is a highly scalable, IP-based system that builds upon traditional gateway components to create a fl exible, dynamic interoperability solution for the public safety sector. Its distributed architecture design allows each component to function independently in case of damage or loss of power.

Among the networks that can be supported for interoperability are two-way radio systems, Project 25 systems, telephone (IP, cellular and landline), Sprint PTT networks and radio systems from any manufacturer. Motobridge is also interoperable with MOTOTRBO™ radio systems and SMARTNET™, SmartZone™ and ASTRO® 25 systems.

MOTOBRIDGE offers an IP Dispatch application that allows network administrators to quickly set up communication with radio users via a simple graphical user interface. Pre-configured emergency communication plans are stored and easily activated with the click of a mouse. Effective joint response planning is achieved with the Virtual Control Head feature which connects various dispatch control points and telephone users via full-duplex telephone conferencing.

In February of 2007, a series of violent tornadoes devastated several counties in central Florida and left more than 20,000 residents without power. With a downed communications tower in Lake County, coverage was nonexistent, potentially jeopardizing emergency operations.

Fortunately, through the Florida Interoperability Network (which uses Motorola’s Motobridge IP hardware and software), communications among emergency personnel operating in the affected areas continued uninterrupted and allowed the surrounding counties to assist in patching mutual aid radio channels from their system to fi rst responders.


Solectek is a leading manufacturer of long-range broadband wireless products used to transmit voice, data and video. Its broad product portfolio includes high-capacity backhaul, multipoint/ access networks and management systems. Solectek’s SkyWay Series includes licensed and unlicensed point-topoint backhaul, unlicensed multipoint access, WiMax multipoint access and mobile broadband access.

The SkyWay 5000 Series delivers data rates up to 72Mbps, allowing users to download large data fi les, high-resolution images and video clips in a matter of seconds. Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) provides increased spectral frequency for higher data rates and multiple, non-overlapping channels. With the fully integrated SkyWay 5000 Series, digital baseband, radio and antenna are all combined into a single weatherized outdoor chassis, complete with Power over Ethernet support.

When the 4.9 GHz licensed spectrum band was created exclusively for public safety use, Nevada’s Douglas County Communications/9-1-1 center decided to deploy a video-monitoring system within the region. Initially, Solectek 5.8 radios were installed at specifi ed intersections in South Lake Tahoe to monitor casino crowds, but since then the surveillance system has evolved into a traffic watch program for the sheriff’s department. Solectek radios can also aggregate and transport multiple camera signals gathered from pre-existing Wi-Fi networks.

In addition to providing high-value broadband products, Solectek’s services and support team is on hand to ensure a seamless migration throughout all phases of a project. President and CEO Eric Lee states, “We provide high performance products at reasonable costs and extensive technical support to ensure the customer’s networks are implemented as quickly as possible.”


Mutualink’s unique interoperability network solutions provide emergency personnel with the capability to share voice, text, video and data communications over a wide area network (WAN). According to Mutualink President and CFO Colin McWay, the company developed an N-scale, ad hoc invitation-based solution in which people can make decisions to come together and share resources on the same preparedness network. Unlike traditional “hub and spoke” technology, there are no centralized switches or servers, allowing users to communicate directly with one another as desired.

Mutualink’s network architecture consists of three primary components: the Mutualink Interop Network, the Interoperability Workstation (IWS) and the Network Interface Controller (NIC). The Interop Network operates in a peer-to-peer environment that can be accessed via dedicated or virtual connections and allows existing participants to instantly view new subscribers joining the network. 

The Interoperability Workstation is the point of communication among entities on the network for voice, text and data sharing, and can be used as a standalone system, a miniconsole, or integrated into an existing console position. The Network Interface Controller enables ad hoc integration of communication devices for radio, intercom, telephone and video resources.

Huntington’s (N.Y.) new state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center opened in March 2009 and serves as the hub of operations for the effective coordination of resources during crisis situations. Mutualink provided an interoperable emergency communications system that allows police, fire and emergency medical personnel to communicate across disparate networks.



With extensive experience in wireless technology and end-user devices, Televate is an information technology consulting company that provides interoperable voice and data solutions to public safety and government agencies. Televate delivers solutions that support an extensive list of systems and networks that include trunked and conventional LMR systems, narrowband through broadband data, and IP networks. It also offers security and system assessment, technical planning, and management services for budgeting and finance, procurement, risk and spectrum.

Televate’s Mobile Data Systems Turnkey Services provide enhanced MDT/AVL applications that are easily integrated into public safety environments. Their innovative solutions include multi-band public safety radio system deployment, regional LMR voice interoperability, CAD systems, and multi-functional mobile public safety interoperability applications.

In 2005, Televate personnel managed the launch of the Wireless Accelerated Responder Network (WARN), a District of Columbia broadband pilot network operating at 700 MHz. WARN allows local, state and federal government to exchange data at broadband speeds and supports demanding streaming media applications. The process consisted of spectrum and technology evaluation, acquisition of products and services, negotiation with existing broadcasters and FCC filings, and network implementation.

Deputy CTO for the District of Columbia Robert LeGrande gives most of the credit to Televate for providing the technical expertise and professional leadership needed to successfully launch the system. Televate’s Managing Partner Rick Burke said, “These achievements and the lessons learned from the pilot have positioned the National Capital Region to build the nation’s fi rst dedicated public safety regional broadband network.

Susan Geoghegan is a freelance writer living in Naples, Fla. She can be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Jul 2011

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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