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Radio IP mobile VPN solutions enhance ADCOM 911

Adams County Communication Center Inc. (ADCOM 911) is the Public Safety Answering Point for unincorporated Adams County, and the Cities of Brighton, Commerce City and Northglenn.

The center utilizes a Positron Viper phone system, in combination with a Cisco VoIP infrastructure. ADCOM utilizes a CAD, RMS and Interface suite provided by Intergraph Public Safety. The integrated system is interfaced to the E9-1-1 controller and the State CCIC/NCIC system. It also provides for alpha paging to first responders, Web-based access to real-time call data, and Mobile Data Terminals for first responders in their vehicles.

ADCOM is a Colorado non-profit corporation governed by 10 governmental agencies in Adams County, CO. These agencies, known as member agencies, are comprised of four law enforcement and six fire agencies. ADCOM also contracts with two additional fire agencies.

ADCOM supplies 9-1-1 and non-emergency phone service and emergency radio communication to each of the 12 agencies. ADCOM serves approximately 405,000 citizens of the northeast metropolitan area of Denver. During 2008, more than 467,000 calls for service were dispatched for police, fire and ambulance. ADCOM currently operates on a Motorola Trunked Statewide Digital Radio System in 700 MHz and 800 MHz bands. ADCOM independently operates a 13-channel, three-site 700 MHz simulcast radio system as its primary voice network, which is part of the larger statewide system.

The mobile data system currently supports more than 300 field units, and was first implemented in January 2004. Due to the large size of the county and the required data coverage, a private data radio system over the full geographical area would have been cost-prohibitive. Like many public safety service providers, reliance on existing commercial cellular networks often provides the best balance between cost and coverage. The commercial cellular networks typically build out to ensure robust coverage for the retail voice/data customer while providing a secure, fast and robust wireless connection without breaking the bank.

After cellular coverage testing on various networks, the AT&T 3G HSPA wireless network was chosen to provide generalized coverage to field units across the County. The City of Brighton also incorporates technology provided by Microwave Data Systems to further augment their coverage.

As is common in many public safety applications, ADCOM wanted a higher level of control over critical system functionality like network traffic priority, policy management, user access rights, security with 256-bit AES encryption and overall system coverage and stability. Something as simple as the NCIC security requirements mandating static IP address is assigned to each and every computer with access to the NCIC system for auditing purposes. This requires middleware to be installed on each computer and a server operating independently of the CAD or mobile application. This is yet another expense, with more support challenges and possible failure in the system. ADCOM 911 wanted all these features resolved in a single application to reduce costs and support.

Radio IP Software

Along came Radio IP Software. Its portfolio of mobile data connectivity software helps overcome the performance, security and connectivity challenges associated with wireless networks. The result is secure mobile access and faster mission response time. The technology enables mobile users to seamlessly roam in a diverse range of networking environments—professional mobile radio (PMR), cellular data (3G), satellite and mobile broadband—under a single interoperable TCP/IP standard.

Ideally suited for organizations with mobile workforces that depend on mission-critical data, Radio IP Software’s customers are primarily in the public safety, utility, mobile government, military, private security and transportation sectors. The company partners with industry leaders in wireless network infrastructure, cellular networks, global satellite networks and mobile device vendors, application vendors and solution integrators.

Commenting on the selection of Radio IP MTG, Scott Newman, IT Director at ADCOM 911, said, “We were looking for an affordable solution that meets the FIPS/CJIS security policy 4.5. Should the Mobile VPN ever be down, the whole system is down due to the encryption requirements we are mandated to follow.” Radio IP Software’s customer service and highly qualified technical support is available 24/7, which should be a requirement for anyone dealing with public safety.

Now the ADCOM 911 member agencies have their officers utilizing Radio IP MTG to securely roam across its HSDPA (cellular) wireless networks and with potentially GE MDS (PMR IP) or Wi-Fi networks to transmit data with absolutely no compromise on cellular network performance.

So what is this software? Why do you need it? It’s simple: Public safety needs to ensure it can optimize their communications. Radio IP MTG is client-server based and provides wireless network communications solutions for public and private wireless data networks, alone or in combination. Radio IP MTG is a software solution that requires no change in your existing network architecture. It provides seamless remote connectivity to all your network applications as if you were at a desk.

Radio IP MTG is easy to install and seamless to the mobile officers. It simply gets them the critical data they need, when they need it, without concern for incompatible technologies. This is key to a successful public-safety mobile computing application. Don’t ever let a software vendor tell you their product requires very simple officer intervention in the software operation. That’s simply not good enough. Public safety front line users have way too much on their minds and way too much to deal with. Asking them to configure software or initiate application protocols is not only inappropriate but sometimes dangerous.

Radio IP MTG is designed to deal with this specifically while ensuring the reliability, speed and security of an agency’s wireless data transmissions. It does this by increasing officer productivity in several key ways: first, through secure transmission of citizen data; second, through reliable availability regardless of patrol location or individual network coverage; and third, by increasing performance speed of existing networks whenever possible. This allows agencies to maximize the number of mobiles in the field regardless of network, which in turn allows mobile officers to have access to critical data regardless of their location.

Radio IP MTG supports satellite, private PMR networks (IP and non-IP), public networks, broadband (Wi-Fi/WiMAX) and satellite.

As a result, mobile units will avoid downtime due to coverage lapses. Fast, reliable communications are essential to a public safety department’s mission. Whether an officer is issuing citations, supporting victims or pursuing criminals—speed and quality of critical information is key.

Policy Management

ADCOM was particularly interested in having greater control over the end users’ access to applications regardless of what wireless network they were currently using. If the end user was accessing a large file, ADCOM wanted the application to ensure the mobile was connected to the fastest, most efficient technology available to that particular mobile device. ADCOM, like many public safety organizations, takes advantage of existing high-speed public communications networks or 802.11 hotspots, either to leverage the faster speeds of these systems or to serve as backup to their primary network.

Public safety end users may at times venture out of their primary network’s coverage area, but Radio IP MTG lets them automatically roam, seamlessly and efficiently, between an unlimited number of disparate wireless networks without ever losing their connection to dispatch. IT managers can configure which networks are primary and which are secondary based on factors such as cost or time of day.

Packet Forward & Filtering, Radio IP MTG’s policy management technique, is designed to help further control the type of data that will be allowed to pass on specific wireless networks resulting in better use of network resources.

A set of rules can be defined to determine how the data is transferred, over which networks, and under which conditions. Radio IP MTG provides a default set of predefined rules and conditions to be used. The IT manager can also modify and add new rules and conditions, permitting even more control over the organization’s data and network performance. The IT manager is able to filter network traffic on the basis of destination IP addresses and destination ports. For example, an agency on a pay-per-use cellular data plan could configure non-urgent software updates to transmit only over a Wi-Fi signal for cost-savings.

End-to-End Security

No matter what the network, or combination of networks, security is always of paramount concern in public safety. Meeting and exceeding state and federal (FBI/CJIS) security and encryption mandates for public safety agencies, Radio IP MTG ensures the robust security of a mobile virtual private network (VPN) through device and user authentication as well as data encryption.

The first step is accomplished using digital certificates for device authentication. By checking if the device’s digital certificate is legitimate or not, the organization can protect against foreign devices attempting to break into the network. User authentication only commences once the Mobile VPN is established. The methodology employed by Radio IP MTG ensures that any username, domain and password information is never sent over the network in clear text.

Moreover, the single sign-on authentication process, made possible through the use of 802.1x protocols, permits mobile workers to sign on once and authenticate to the device and the Mobile VPN concurrently, making the end-users’ lives easier, but remaining secure from the IT manager’s perspective.

For some public safety agencies, standard device and user authentication is just not enough. In addition to standard username-password authentication, Radio IP MTG provides optional secure, two-factor authentication via token keys or biometrics for an additional validation of user identity.

Since public safety wireless network signals are broadcast, leaving them susceptible to possible interception, Radio IP MTG offers the highest encryption standards, assuring all data is transferred securely between the first responder and dispatch. The IT manager is able to choose to encrypt data with either AES (up to 256-bit) or Triple DES (up to 168-bit) methodologies, using FIPS 142 validated technology. In ADCOM’s case, full AES 256-bit encryption was necessary.

Using the Security Audit function in Radio IP MTG, IT managers are able to log and store all security events in files on a server. Those include device authentication attempts, user authentication attempts and ghost detection. Radio IP MTG sends critical event information in real time to the syslog, allowing immediate action to be taken. Public safety agencies can be confident that private citizen data, criminal record history or medical records are safe and secure.

System Coverage and Stability

First responders don’t get to choose where or when they are required. This is a concern for IT support staff as vast response areas can open the door for connectivity interruption caused by geography of physical obstacles like tunnels and buildings, and the distance of the mobile to the network sites.

The reality is staying connected on a wireless network can be extremely challenging. The situation may demand police, fire or ambulance response anywhere and the wireless coverage must follow. Gaps or interruptions simply can’t be tolerated, as the information being delivered is mission-critical. As is the case with ADCOM’s large response area, signal interruptions and dropped connections can result in lost productivity and frustration if officers must reconnect to the network manually instead of being focused on their job.

Radio IP MTG ensures continuous connectivity by automatically and seamlessly reconnecting the mobile devices to your network when signal interruptions occur. Some public safety applications will shut down if they lose the network connectivity. But Radio IP MTG maintains an open socket connection to the network giving users session persistence and keeping their application running smoothly and continuously. If a first responder enters into an area of poor network coverage, the application data will be accumulated or buffered until the vehicle returns to an authorized viable network connection where data transmission can seamlessly resume. Moreover with data buffering, mobile patrols traveling through fringe areas benefit from expanded network coverage.

Broad Device Support

Mobile handheld devices in public safety are now commonplace and more agencies are finding efficiencies with these devices that can be clipped onto the belt of a first responder. Radio IP MTG has a reduced-size client interface designed specifically for Windows Mobile, giving first responders access to all wireless networks, alone or in combination. This ultra-portability allows for immediate remote access to databases from virtually any location, without having to go back to the vehicle.

Seamless, transparent and background mobile functionality gives officers the flexibility to be where they need to be, when they need to be, with their tools right at their fingertips. Handheld devices are an inexpensive alternative to equip officers with the necessary tools to perform their job.

Brad Brewer is a sergeant with the Vancouver Police Department. He can be reached at

Published in Public Safety IT, Sep/Oct 2009

Rating : 8.8

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