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State-of-Art Interoperability and Data Sharing

Minutes after a violent tornado, an inmate escape, or a woodland search following an officer-involved shooting are all the wrong times to wonder how your department is going to communicate and share information with brothers and sisters from neighboring jurisdictions. By then, it is too late. However, the communication goal remains for complete, seamless information sharing.

Departments that have this capability can talk to each other even though they have different radio brands. They can share digital files and videos, even though they use different software. They can even link up easily to another department’s surveillance cameras despite not having the capability in-house. What these departments have are interoperable systems.

When a civilian listens to chatter on a scanner for the first time, they are likely to be confused by 10-codes, Signal-codes and abbreviated speech. One answer for why they are confused is the civilian and law enforcement languages are not interoperable. They are similar, borrowing words from the same English language, but the untrained person doesn’t understand.

The same is true for cell phones, digital radios, and data management systems law enforcement agencies use today. Though all depend on electricity and transmitting in computerized “1’s” and “0’s,” the pieces, components, and systems often operate differently. Humans have the advantage of being able to learn a new language, or language application, but in the case of technology, humans have to iron out differences.

For law enforcement, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officers cooperating with other associations, maintains Project 25, a nationwide and worldwide effort to get equipment makers and manufacturers to adopt standardized computer languages and devices that can easily work together. More often than not, the equipment that Project 25, or P25, gear replaces, is decades old.

“We went live because the subscribers—the wardens, the state police and the first responders—as they got on to test the system, pretty much refused to go back [to the legacy radio network],” the State of Maine’s Chief Technology Officer Greg McNeal told

Urgent Communications

magazine in March.

“We had a 40-year-old system that we were using, and each agency had their own radio communication system that they were maintaining. If you went to a mountaintop, you would see three or four antennas, each serving different agencies. I think what we

re doing here is what we have always tried to do in the state of Maine, which is consolidate and create enterprise systems, where appropriate.”

The good news for departments is that while an endless stream of familiar and start-up companies offer equipment that is both rugged enough for police use and meets interoperability standards, the equipment can be expensive. Though not as expensive, necessarily, as brand-new analog, or non-digital equipment.

Dozens of companies are active in providing new interoperability solutions for law enforcement, but a few of the biggest dominate the market with the products they offer. Harris Corp. is a global supplier of secured communications systems law enforcement and civilian organizations. To meet the requirements of the FCC

s National Broadband Plan, Harris developed its Voice, Interoperability, Data, Access or “VIDA” Broadband LTE, a 700 MHz private broadband network based on Third Generation Partnership Project cellular technology.

This network offers broadband mission-critical communications for first responders by allowing direct connection of Harris VIDA-based land mobile radio and the long-term evolution systems into a single multi-band communication network with multiple transmitting points.

The NetworkFirst™ Internet-based solution enables continuous interoperability among agencies operating on different frequencies and systems; it can be deployed as a standalone interoperability solution or as a fully supported application of an existing VIDA network solution. Harris

P25 Internet protocol system is an Internet-based network that provides secure interoperability communications at the network level using P25 standards, with Project 25 ISSI and NetworkFirst, or at the subscriber level by incorporating multi-mode radios.

Raytheon offers enhanced interoperability for military and public safety operations with its Wide Area Interoperability System and ACU products. These enable first responders operating on different systems or frequencies the ability to communicate across entire regions and states. WAIS software easily integrates into existing systems and allows users to control interconnected, on-site interoperability systems from any point on a network.

The ACU-1000 solution provides simultaneous cross-connection of different radio networks to telephone or SATCOM systems, as well as radio-over-Internet and voice-over-Internet talkpaths. The system connects up to 12 audio devices (and can be expanded to 24) and has the ability to interconnect radios in any band.

ACU-2000 IP interoperability offers additional SIP capabilities that allow disparate communications systems to be connected, monitored and controlled over an Internet-based network. The local Interoperability Gateway provides SIP capability for full radio network interoperability, while the server-based version uses SIP to provide cross-connection capability for radios and other four-wire devices.

Motorola Solutions has also developed a system to ensure enhanced communications among first responders operating on divergent systems. Motorola Solutions Motobridge capabilities are offered in both fixed and mobile applications. Motobridge is a scalable, Internet-based system that builds on traditional components to create a flexible, dynamic interoperability solution for the public safety sector. Its distributed architecture design allows each component to function independently in case of damage or loss of power.

Among the networks that can be supported for interoperability are two-way radio systems, Project 25 systems, telephone (IP, cellular and landline), Sprint push-to-talk networks, and radio systems from any manufacturer. Motobridge is also interoperable with MOTOTRBO™ radio systems and SMARTNET™, SmartZone™ and ASTRO® 25 systems.

Motobridge offers an IP Dispatch application that allows network administrators to quickly set up communication with radio users via a simple graphical user interface. Pre-configured emergency communication plans are stored and easily activated with the click of a mouse. Effective joint response planning is achieved with the Virtual Control Head feature, which connects various dispatch control points and telephone users via full-duplex telephone conferencing.


Steve Sweeney is the technology editor for a heavy-industry magazine in Milwaukee, Wisc. He has 12 years of journalism experience including covering crime and courts in Erie, Penn. And Jamestown, N.Y.

Published in Law and Order, Jul 2015

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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