Those first wireless devices were cumbersome, at best. But the promise was there that wireless communications would soon be better. And progress has been swift at improving communications. In fact, smaller, lighter, and more efficient are the buzzwords for wireless communications.
Eliminating cords and wires—those things that tend to get caught or tangled usually at the most inopportune times—is important not only for easier communication, but also because a tangle of cords just does not look all that professional against the backdrop of an officer’s uniform! FreeLinc
FreeLinc of Orem, Utah, began its wireless communications with the FreeMotion 200, which looked very much like the Jabra Bluetooth device of cell phone fame. Although a good concept, the device itself might have been included in that “cumbersome” category. So, in October 2009 FreeLinc released a smaller, lighter, single-ear headset dubbed the FreeMotion 100.
A good match for situations involving executive protection, surveillance, court security and other times when discretion is needed, the FreeMotion 100 maintains critical communication capability while lending itself to undercover or discrete use.
Because proper fit is an important part of the comfortable use of wireless communications, FreeLinc also provides ear gels, ear hooks and a tactical headband for a range of options in the use of the FreeMotion 100, while still maintaining clear audio transmissions.
All of FreeLinc’s devices can interface with a portable radio by means of the FreeLinc Adapter, which gives the user another push-to-talk option that would allow an officer to transmit while maintaining a defensive posture and focusing attention on the subject, not on the communication device. The FreeMic 100 speaker microphone and the FreeMotion headset both have a push-to-talk button.
Conventional Bluetooth wireless or radio frequencies will extend the range of communication, as will increased power. But the security risk must be considered so that the possibility of interception is minimized. FreeLinc’s Near Field Magnetic Induction (NFMI) technology is a short-range, wireless, physical layer.
This system communicates by coupling a tight, lower power, non propagating magnetic field between the FreeMic or FreeMotion and the FreeLinc Adapter, which interfaces with portable radio. The distance suggested is 3 to 5 feet. Once communication goes beyond that distance, the signal quickly begins to attenuate below ambient noise floor levels.
FreeLinc’s Dual Muff 300 is a wireless communication system oriented for noisy environments such as inside an armored vehicle or helicopter or when surrounded by moving objects, loud engines or crowds. Again, eliminating the wires improves mobility and increases safety.
The combination of smaller and lighter equipment with better security for communications gives officers a safer, yet more useable communication system for use with their portable radios.
Earphone Connection of Valencia, Calif., is a manufacturer and distributor of tactical communication equipment. But the company’s expertise also extends to a wide range of audio accessories including lapel, throat, bone conduction, surveillance, speaker, noise cancellation microphones, wireless pushto- talk (PTT) systems and listen-only earphones.
The Wireless Stingray X1 Microphone and PTT Kit combine the company’s bestseller—the Hawk Lapel microphone—with wireless PTT technology. In effect, the Stingray X1 is designed with the large Scorpion W1 PTT button for ease of use in tactical operations. A similar unit— the Stingray X2—is specifically designed with a slimmer PTT, the Scorpion W2, for undercover operations, executive protection and surveillance.
Both the X1 and X2 allow the user to attach the transmitter to a finger so that the microphone can be opened with a simple press rather than having to reach for a radio or lapel. One challenge of wireless technology is that many wireless sets have a low talk life, which means that the battery has to be charged again. The Stingray kits need no such charges.
The company’s BLUWIRE 23 is a Bluetooth wireless adapter for two-way radios to allow use of the same Bluetooth headset for two-way radio and cell phone.
Its Chameleon Tactical Kit is a 3-in-1 system that can fulfill just about all of the possible communications needs that may be required during a tactical mission. The central unit is a transformable microphone, and the kit includes a throat microphone, anti-noise boom microphone, finger push-to-talk button, clear acoustic tube, left- and right-fitted rubber ear molds and a radio adapter, all housed in a durable hard shell Tactical Ear Gadgets case for easy transport.
Almost as versatile is the Crane Extreme Headset, made up of the noise canceling boom microphone, Cobra throat microphone and bone conduction speakers.
One very interesting option from Earphone Connection is its wireless PTT with a Picatinny rail mount. The company also offers an option of “quick release,” which may easily make up for the additional cost of this option. The release allows the user to disconnect the microphone from the radio without removing the radio adapter. That can reduce wear and tear on the radio and allow for convenient switching between different accessories.
Technology is moving forward quickly, but manufacturers are keeping stride, promising easier and better communications equipment as new features emerge.
Stephenie Slahor, Ph.D., J.D., writes in the fields of law enforcement and security. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.