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Cabin Clutter, Katrina Relief JPS & Upgrades

Written by James Careless

Today’s patrol cars are crammed with radios, cell phones, laptop computers, video cameras, digital video recorders, and a host of other devices meant to make law enforcement safer as well as more effective. However, all this technology cluttering the car’s interior can create serious injury risks for officers, especially if the devices have been attached to hard-edged metal brackets, or loosely mounted using velcro or even suction cups. That’s right, suction cups!

Imagine how much safer and simpler an officer’s life would be if this equipment could be stowed in the trunk, then controlled in the passenger compartment using an integrated interface. Well, that’s exactly what TACNET does. Made by Visteon, TACNET takes all the devices currently inside the passenger compartment, moves them to the trunk, then integrates their controls up to a dash-mounted touch screen panel, backed up by a hand-activated “pod” mounted between the driver and passenger seats.

“The LCD touch screen acts as the car’s centralized command-and-control center for lights, sirens, radios, radar, video, mobile data functionality and other systems,” Phil Cushman, director of Visteon’s public safety solutions, said. “Meanwhile, TACNET’s voice-activated software allows the officer to deliver 39 device commands and 76 application commands, including license plate lookup.” To prevent unauthorized personnel, such as suspects, from talking their way into controlling the car, TACNET uses specialized commands, and allows the system to be shut off via the voice activation button on the “control pod.”

To increase officer safety, TACNET also uses a heads-up display to show radar readings, license lookup text and other critical data. “We simply mount a small clear plastic screen to the driver’s side windshield, upon which we project that data,” Cushman said. “To the officer, the text appears to be floating in space. They don’t have to look away while driving, nor do they have to re-focus their eyes.” TACNET also comes with a stowable standard QWERTY keyboard, so officers can enter data.

To date, TACNET has been adopted or is under long-term test by the California Highway Patrol, Michigan State Police, Ohio Highway Patrol and Ontario Provincial Police just to name a few. The CHP worked with Visteon to develop and field-test TACNET. Fifty TACNET-equipped CHP cruisers have been on the road for more than a year, and many more are going into service soon. In addition, both CHP and the Michigan State Police are using TACNET as part of their strategic plan to address their state’s communications interoperability needs. One last important note: TACNET is capable of creating interoperability connections between up to five disparate radio systems.

Maryland Mobile Unit Provides Communications Links After Katrina

The fast, selfless aid offered by U.S. public safety agencies to areas stricken by Hurricane Katrina is still making the headlines. Among those who helped out was the County of Anne Arundel, MD, who sent down their 45-foot mobile Command and Control Unit (MCCU-1) to provide communications in Jefferson Parish, LA.

Outfitted by ARINC, MCCU-1 used the company’s ARINC Wireless Interoperable Network Solution (AWINS) technology not just to provide on-site radio interoperability, but also radio communications for six medical relief clinics spread out around the parish, within sight of New Orleans.

“The MCCU-1 crew deployed at Meadowcrest Hospital, which had been evacuated just before Katrina struck, and brought the communications unit to full operational capability in about half an hour,” Marvin Ingram, ARINC’s senior director for public and enterprise solutions, said.

Once they realized that most of the area’s public safety radio systems had been crippled by Katrina, “the crew set out to link together dozens of separate radio systems being used by all of the local police, fire and rescue workers in the New Orleans area.”

“By their second day, the MCCU-1 crew integrated and programmed many different mobile and portable radios supplied from volunteers,” he noted. “With the addition of these units, MCCU-1 served as a dispatch and monitoring station for the entire EMS personnel in the field, as well as for the six clinics.”

Thanks to their ability to link all the major players in Jefferson Parish with each other and the outside world (via satellite), the MCCU-1 crew took charge of reorganizing bandwidth allocations to eliminate interference problems. They also boosted local radio coverage by installing a VHF repeater atop the empty hospital, and integrated the MCCU-1 800 MHz radio system with the Jefferson Parish 800 MHz repeater system, which survived the hurricane.

“An Internet café was set up outside the MCCU for use by out-of-state workers,” Ingram said. “The MCCU-1’s satellite link let them send e-mails, place phone calls to loved ones, and stay in contact with their private practices and regular employers in other states.” The MCCU-1 was on site for a week in total, helping local and state officials hold things together until regular communications could be restored.

Raytheon JPS Communications Offers Ethernet Upgrades for ACU-1000

Raytheon JPS Communcations’ ACU-1000 interoperable audio bridge has become a bit of a legend in its own time, thanks to the widespread adoption of this unit by first responders to establish interoperable radio, telephone and satellite communications.

Now the company has added an extra degree of flexibility to the ACU-1000 and the portable ACU-T by upgrading the units’ DSP and CPM modules to provide Ethernet capability. Specifically, the new DSP-2 radio and network interface module (which replaces the DSP-1) now has an RJ-45 Ethernet port built into the front, which supports Radio-over-IP connectivity. (The typical ACU-1000 contains 12 DSP modules, one for each device to be connected.) Meanwhile, the CPM-4 module (which replaces the CPM-2) makes it possible to control the ACU-1000 remotely over an Ethernet network (LAN, WAN or Internet), thanks to the CPM-4’s Ethernet port.

“We [initially] provided the same degree of connectivity for the ACU-1000 and ACU-T by adding an external ‘bolt-on’ Ethernet component,” Roman Kaluta, Raytheon JPS Communications’ director of interoperability solutions, said. “By building this into the upgrade DSP and CPM modules, we can save our clients about $3,000 per unit. As well, having this capability built into the ACU-1000 and ACU-T means that they’re Ethernet-ready right off the shelf.”

Mindful that many departments are equipped with the older DSP and CPM modules, Raytheon JPS Communications is offering a 30% price discount on new DSP-2 and CPM-4 modules to those departments who trade in their old DSP-1 and CPM-2 components. “We want to see our first responder partners who need network connectivity equipped with these upgrades,” Kaluta said. “That’s why we’re offering the trade-in program.”

James Careless is a freelance writer who specializes in first responder communications issues. He may be reached at info@tjtdesign.com.

Published in Law and Order, Apr 2006

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