Have you ever wondered who came
up with the idea of those hockey puck antennas that are on public safety
vehicles? In 1988, Kevin Thill and Bill Liimatainen came up with the concept.
These two engineers at Northrop Grumman were designing antennas for the
military aerospace industry.
The two were travelling on their
way home when they saw a CHP patrol car with huge whip antennas on the trunk.
Thill commented to Liimatainen, “Just look at those antennas. They must break
all the time in a car wash, hitting obstructions and vandalism.” With that, the
idea to invent something better was born and so too was Antenna Plus.
Thill, an RF engineer came up
with the idea of how to design a low-profile antenna and Liimatainen built up
the manufacturing line. “Early on, we realized to have control over quality, we
had to make this ourselves in the USA. We looked into contract
manufacturing in Asia, but the results were very poor and inconsistent,” Liimatainen
said. “We set out to create a new standard for antenna performance, simplicity
and product life—and I believe we did that. First responders have everything at
stake. If critical data is not communicated, people’s lives are at stake.”
In a public safety wireless data
solution there are a lot of different components to the equation, and a lot of
places where problems can arise like the computer, docking station, modem,
wireless network, application software, OS configurations and plenty more. The
last thing anyone needs is a troublesome antenna. Nowadays some agencies have
multiple wireless networks with the acceptance of WiFi and repurposed private
spectrum for public safety.
Of course, the inside of a police
vehicle is not the best location for an antenna. Vehicles are enclosed steel
and laminated glass boxes allowing very poor RF penetration. Getting the
wireless signal outside the vehicle on the roof as a ground plane provides the
best possible antenna placement. Agencies that rely on the little stubby
internal antenna inside the laptop or on the wireless card are seriously
compromising their signal strength, to the point that having an external
mounted antenna can add up to 10db gain. Not to mention the safety issues of
radio frequency flying around inside the police vehicle.
When asked about lower priced
antennas on the market, Thill responded, “It is a shame to see an agency spend
all of that money on rugged computers, docking stations and modems, and then
try to save a few dollars on the antenna. The whole solution is brought down to
the lowest common denominator. In that case, it is the antenna.”
Today, Antenna Plus makes a wide
range of antennas. Their most sophisticated product incorporates nine different
frequencies in a single housing. Antenna Plus’ antennas provide a better
quality of connection no matter what the network. Having better reception means
faster speeds. This means your data gets through on the first attempt. This is
a big deal for officers on the side of the road waiting for fingerprint or
mugshot data to download.
Plus also has a solution for GPS.
There’s no need to purchase a standalone GPS module. With the AP
Navigator, this will provide the entire GPS solution as well as the cellular
and even WiFi antennas in one housing. It will provide all of the GPS
information necessary for mapping and automatic vehicle locating (AVL) technologies
all by itself with a 12-channel Trimble GPS receiver that is built inside the
With the AP-Navigator family of
antennas, you have a complete AVL hardware solution that works with all mapping
solutions regardless of vendor. If an agency has a large area of responsibility
that takes officers far and wide to outlying areas of wireless coverage, then
Antenna Plus has the right antenna for you.
Brad Brewer is a 22-year member of the Vancouver Police Department. He sits on
the Ford Police Advisory Board and regularly gives presentations at law
enforcement conferences on mobile computing, wireless technology and police
vehicle ergonomics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.