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Something old is new again...
At the 2010 International Wireless Communication Expo (IWCE) in Las Vegas, many new wireless technologies were on display, including those for first responders. However, some devices were enhancements made to technologies that have been around for a while.
Communication is vital to firefighters’ safety because they go where nobody else goes. If firefighters can’t talk to their man-post, they must get out of the building or risk losing their lives. When that happens, these heroes can’t save other people’s lives either.
Although microphones have been around for firefighters for years, many were not conducive to the unique conditions in which firefighters often find themselves. Crawling on the floor with the ceiling caving in while a fire alarm is going off adds not only to the noise level, but increases the chance of the firefighter losing his mic amidst the chaos.
In 2008, through Project 25, manufacturers developed after-market lapel microphones with noise-cancelling features. EF Johnson’s third-generation vocoder, the AMBE+2 Version 1.6, on display at IWCE, was adopted by the P25 steering committee in 2009 as the new standard P25 vocoder.
According to Mike Petersen, engineering director for Motorola, the signal to noise ratio is critical to portable and mobile users. Today’s radios can be customized for a secure fit and allow the inclusion of throat mics. Motorola’s APX 7000 uses “adaptive beam forming” technology, which is directional selectivity that hones in on the speaker’s voice.
Barry Morris of Kenwood said “now is later” when it comes to digital radio technology. The more voice power you have, the less background noise that comes through. Best practices are defined by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). A mic brought up to the mouth area is more intelligible than one on the ground or console-based. Companies like PRYME Radio Products have waterproof microphones with Bluetooth capability and “finger” push-to-talk, which includes a wireless transmitter that can be worn on your finger like a ring.
Another technology featured at the recent IWCE was paging. A common misconception is that pagers are out of date or a thing of the past. However, the basic technology found in paging is used today in hospitals, ambulances and patrol vehicles. According to Jim Nelson of Prism Systems International, pagers are the most likely device to work during and after disasters such as 9/11 and Katrina because they use simulcast technology. Paging technology does not just come in the typical small device; it is used in large LED displays such as ticker boards for Amber alerts or to warn drivers of road closures ahead, etc.
The future of paging includes two-way applications used in CritiCall, fire alarm and patient monitoring. Hybrid systems may also include video. Look for more of these technologies in future issues of Public Safety IT. In this issue, our Buyer’s Guide listing is a comprehensive directory of companies and manufacturers for all your public safety IT needs, from wireless mics and pagers to radios, software, surveillance, dispatch and more. Don’t forget the latest in mobile wireless technology for your officers is coming up at POLICE FLEET EXPO – WEST, May 12–14, 2010 in Long Beach, CA, www.policefleetexpo.com.
Published in Public Safety IT, Mar/Apr 2010
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