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High-Tech Voice Data Advancing Public Safety

Written by Susan Geoghegan

During mission-critical events, public safety agencies rely on state-of-the-art, end-to-end network solutions that merge voice, video, and data reliably and securely.  IP convergence technology allows first responders to share all types of data, regardless of which platform they are using. 

 

Operating on a unified infrastructure, a converged IP network provides real-time data at faster rates, enhanced mobility, and improved connectivity.  The following companies offer a broad spectrum of flexible, cost-effective solutions that address today’s public safety communications challenges.

Incident Communications Solutions

Incident Communications Solutions, LLC (ICS) offers customized solutions using an integrated approach that provides full connectivity in the field.  Their management team has over thirty years of combined experience, and their staff is trained and certified at the highest levels in the industry.  ICS solutions include mobile command vehicles, emergency management centers, tactical video surveillance, and rapidly deployable communications systems.    

           

The ICS pCom™ 355 is a mobile communications infrastructure solution that enables first responders to share high-quality voice, video, and data in a rugged, portable platform.  With 100 gallons of diesel on board, this self-sufficient system can stay powered without refueling for up to seven days.  Towable by any half-ton truck, the unit comes equipped with an integrated 41’ tower that provides site lighting, radio and repeater antennas, and wireless mesh endpoints. 

 

The system also includes the ICS Outrigger™ Network Extension Module and 1000 feet of tactical-grade fiber optics to provide extended system capabilities into fixed facilities or shelters.  With an environmentally-controlled electronics enclosure that meets extreme environment NEMA4X standards, it can be quickly deployed by one person in under 15 minutes, and is ideal for tighter, hard-to-reach areas.  The ICS pComm 355 is powered by the ICS Tactical Incident Communications System (TICS) that provides a communications backbone to the system. 

 

In September of 2010, North Carolina’s Urban Search and Rescue Taskforce 8 (NCTF-8) took delivery of an ICS pCom 355, providing the team with an effective portable solution when natural or man-made disasters occur.  The system includes an ACU-2000 interoperability switch that connects to Motorola’s XTL-5000 LMR radios, allowing operators to patch UHF, VHF, and other radio networks. 

 

Also included in the ICS pCom 355 system is a SkyTerra MSAT G2 radio that can be integrated into the ACU-2000 or used standalone, providing L-Band satellite PTT and two-way voice capability.

 

NCTF-8 Program Manager/TFL Battalion Chief Frank McLaurin explained that the ICS pCom 355 complements their existing equipment and will encourage future interoperability efforts through the state.  “Having ICS as a partner on this program ensured that NCTF-8 is a leader in communications capability and can directly interface and be system-level compatible with the other state teams should the need arise,” said McLaurin.

 

Mutualink

Mutualink’s interoperability network solutions provide public safety agencies with the capability to share voice, text, video, and data communications over a wide area network (WAN).  When the events of 9/11 produced a heightened awareness of the need for interoperability across disparate networks and agencies, Mutualink created a unique invitation-based system that allows users to maintain control of their respective resources.  

           

As Mutualink’s President and CFO pointed out, previous interoperability architecture was based on the classic “hub and spoke” technology in which those that represented the spokes often felt they were ceding control of the communication assets to the “smart thing in the middle.”  Addressing Homeland Security’s mandates for effective nationwide interoperability, Mutualink’s chief architect, Joe Boucher, eliminated the “smart thing in the middle,” and pushed intelligence to the edge where people can control their own assets. 

 

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.  The auto-discovery feature allows existing participants to instantly view new subscribers joining the network and minimizes configuration changes when new entities are brought into the network. 

 

The Interoperability Workstation is the point of communication between entities on the network for voice, text, and data-sharing.  It can be used as a stand-alone system, a mini-console, or can be integrated into an existing console position.  As the primary operational user interface for the Mutualink system, the IWS is easy to use and manage.  The Network Interface Controller enables ad hoc integration of communication devices for radio, intercom, telephone, and video resources.  The Radio NIC integrates with radios at all frequency ranges and broadcast protocols, whether trunked, analog, or digital. 

 

In March of 2009, the town of Huntington, New York opened their new state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center to serve as the hub of operations for the effective coordination of resources during crisis situations.  Mutualink provided an interoperable emergency communications system that would allow police, fire, and emergency medical personnel to communicate across disparate network.  In addition, the center is equipped with fire band radios, county-issued satellite phones, trunk scanners to monitor all frequencies used by emergency agencies, and work stations with Internet access.

 

Polycom

Founded in 1990, Polycom is a global provider of unified communications (UC) solutions with industry-leading standards-based telepresence, video, voice and infrastructure solutions for both private industry and government agencies.  The Polycom Open Collaboration Network is an open and interoperable solution that gives agencies enhanced flexibility and investment protection for their UC environment. 

 

As the company’s co-founder and CTO, Jeff Rodman points out that agencies should look for applications and services that make the best use of their existing infrastructure to ensure improved performance and reduced costs. 

 

First responders undergo continuous training to build and improve upon the critical skills needed to perform their jobs more effectively.  Polycom’s immersive telepresence solutions allow police, fire, and emergency personnel to attend training sessions directly from their work stations, without interrupting daily operations.  The Polycom® HDX® series telepresence solutions include Polycom Ultimate HD technology that delivers high quality voice, video, and content for unsurpassed performance. 

 

Polycom Public Safety solutions can also be used for daily briefings across multiple stations, command and control coordination, administrative meetings, and cross-agency emergency field communication.   In 2009, a U.S. Homeland Security approved a grant to Springfield-Greene County, Missouri.

 

This grant allowed their Office of Emergency Management to enhance their disaster preparedness program with Polycom HDX telepresence solutions and the Polycom Converged Management Application (CMA).  The Polycom Video Border Proxy solution was deployed to enable connections with outside organizations, while the RSS® 2000 server provides on-demand recording and streaming. 

 

Springfield-Greene County OEM director, Ryan Nicholls, states, “We were impressed with Polycom’s ability to deliver a complete end-to-end, cost-effective solution for the entire 18-county roll-out.”  The Polycom video network has also 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.   

 

According to Matt Jackson, Director of Government Markets, public safety agencies experience optimum ROI with Polycom’s telepresence solutions.  Video-based training saves time and money, and allows uninterrupted response time for emergency personnel.  Faster response time can result in lower insurance rates but, most importantly, benefits the community and its citizens.

Televate

Televate is an information technology consulting company that provides interoperable voice and data solutions to public safety and government agencies.  With extensive experience in wireless technology and end-user devices in police, fire, and emergency services, their program management team understands the importance of operational interdependence.  Project managers and engineers work with the customer to assess their current systems infrastructure, determine future needs, and assist in network design implementation and operational management.

 

Televate’s Wireless Network Services deliver solutions that support an extensive list of systems and networks that include trunked and conventional LMR systems, narrowband through broadband data, and IP networks.  Their Mobile Data Systems Services provide enhanced MDT/AVL applications that are easily integrated into public safety environments.  Innovative solutions include multi-band public safety radio system deployment, regional LMR voice interoperability, CAD systems, and multi-functional mobile public safety interoperability applications. 

 

Televate has been an integral part of several major wireless networking projects, including management of the 2005 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. 

 

In 2010, Televate played a key role in the development of a grant that was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act when Los Angeles County and 80 cities within its jurisdiction received $154.6 million as part of the Broadband Technical Opportunities Program (BTOP).  The BTOP grant funded the deployment of an interoperable public safety broadband network that serves over 80 public safety agencies and up to 34,000 first responders.  The Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications Systems Authority (LA-RICS) put together a comprehensive plan to develop a robust LTE network that provides voice and data sharing for all agencies with the greater LA region. 

 

The LA-Safety-Net is a scalable wireless network that supports a host of applications, such as CAD, law enforcement queries, and real-time streaming video.  “Televate designed the budgetary network and crafted most of the BTOP supporting sections and the overall financial analysis and justification. LA-RICS is an excellent example of unifying a region's communications,” said Burke. 

 

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


Published in Law and Order, Feb 2012

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