June 2010 Inbox
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 | Comments
Following are comments we’ve received from readers about recent online and print news and articles. If you’d like to comment on an article, e-mail edit@RRMediaGroup.com.
In response to “Smart Phones Augment Public-Safety Radios” from June 30
For public safety using smart phones, we have a product that works with what they have now; it is called CrosstalX. It bridges the last two pieces of the puzzle for officers in that they can use their smart phones to actually push-to-talk (PTT) over their two-way networks and communicate with PCs.
The computers can be wired or wireless, so they are not tethered either. This raises everyone up to the highest common denominator — the Internet. Talk groups can be set up and taken down at will in the server, and one computer server can manage thousands of conversations or talk groups.
This application runs on an iPhone, Blackberry and Windows mobile devices and is compatible with all types of two-way radios (Project 25 (P25), SmartNet, SmartZone, NXDN, Passport, Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) and others). It is radio, band, format and frequency agnostic. While running, it doesn’t use any minutes; it runs on your data plan and can be minimized on the desktop. As an inexpensive application, it can connect the dots in ways that never could be done before. See it at www.crosstalx.com.
Robert L. “Bob” Burchett
Enterprise Electronics
Torrance, Calif.
I saw your comments on the use of smart phones. I think we have just started to see other uses of smart phones, PDA units and the like. Our company has integrated their use to control a radio interoperability gateway and act as a control point in the operation. It can be part of a network patch. The PDA type phone also has the ability to pass live video through the radio interoperability gateway to another PDA type phone and or to a control point office to process the video. This video can allow two people to pass live video for identifying a person or maybe even looking at a possible bomb package. The ways of using these functions are limited only by the individual using the system.
Just thought you might be interested in the above new uses for a radio gateway. Another use was used this week in Virginia. A Spotsylvania sheriff deputy died in a boating accident. During the funeral, the Virginia State Police came into the county to provide coverage of the patrols that normally would have been done by the sheriff's department. The only problem was that the Virginia State Police radio system is a VHF trunked system. The county radio system is an EDACS trunked system on 800 MHz. The state started an interoperability project several years back called COMLINC. This project is installing radio interoperability gateways in 9-1-1 dispatch centers and connecting to the various radio channels as desired. This then lets the different 9-1-1 centers interconnect their radio channels as needed. In this case, the state police just set up a couple of patches using the gateways and then connected to the needed talk groups on the two different trunked systems. Now the Spotsylvania County dispatch center can talk directly to the state police vehicles in the county.
Jim Szalajeski
Alexandria, Va.

In response to “Gulf Coast Agencies Build Network for Oil Spill” from June 16
I did this on my Nextel 15 years ago from Los Angeles to New York. And the equipment was 95 percent cheaper and still is.
Robbie Parnell
A great advertisement for, whom other than, Motorola! There are other manufacturers (EF Johnson, Harris and Kenwood to name a few) involved in these supposedly open-source networks. Therefore, it should have just read “Project 25 (P25) systems.” Did Motorola pay for the ad anyway?
By the way, because only 1.5 of the eight P25 document categories have been approved by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), exactly how can any manufacturer actually sell anyone a “P25 system,” especially if the bid specifications require a P25-compliant system? For reference, check a recent article in this publication that outlined testimony before Congress on interoperability.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article didn’t come from vendors. It came from the communications managers of the networks. If the local officials had used other vendors’ equipment, that information would have been included.

In response to “Panel Discusses Future of EAS” from June 10
Automobile makers need National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radios in all vehicles. I feel it would provide more warning for emergency activation.
Steve Flory

The Project 25 (P25) standard is an interesting "thing." Having the opportunity to participate in the P25 User Needs Subcommittee (UNS) during the past few years, I have learned some important points that all users and buyers need to be aware of when talking about P25.
First, one has to understand that P25 is voluntary. Manufacturers have no obligation to participate or follow the P25 standard. There's no mandate to be P25, and P25 should not be confused with the FCC mandate to be narrowband. Two different animals.
Second, within the P25 standard is a document called the statement of requirements (SOR). The SOR is basically the expressed needs or "requirements" of users. However, there is no authority within P25 UNS to require/mandate anything of the manufacturer. The SOR might be better defined as a "statement of recommendations?”
Third, there's no control over the use of the term P25, logo or the advertisement that I'm aware of. A product marked P25 can mean many things; it is P25, it's capable of P25? I don't know of a checklist that has to be completed before a manufacturer can use the P25 logo/advertisement. I guess it's P25 because they say it's P25?
Fourth, these standards appear to be dynamic. As a new participant I'm trying to understand what version industry builds to when there are no versions.
Fifth, cost! Everyone knows how costly these new radios are. Unfortunately, that's not part of P25. I'm not saying it's not important. It is, but I've learned it's not for P25.
If you find yourself in the market for P25 equipment get familiar with the P25 standard, the SOR and the Compliance Assessment Program (CAP), www.pscr.gov/projects/lmr/p25_cap/p25_cap.php. Write your specifications around those documents and create "the requirement." Watch out for those proprietary "features" or traps! They're cheap in the beginning (by design possibly) but then bite you later. Proprietary features fly in the face of interoperability and often hold you to a single, costly manufacturer.
Buyer beware and read the fine print. The last time I was on an incident and things didn't go as planned, the manufacturer wasn't there to explain. You are the one who will be held accountable in the end. Do the homework; it's complicated we know; and get help! A great resource is Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR), www.pscr.gov. They are very knowledgeable in the topic and would be happy to assist. Tell them I sent you!
These are this user’s observations.
Capt. Paul Roberts
Boise (Idaho) Fire Department

In response to “One Technology Doesn’t Fit All” from June 2
While efforts have been made to urge/push public-safety agencies across our nation to migrate to Project 25 (P25) digital technology, the cost is too expensive for most cities, counties and states throughout our country to upgrade to this technology. Agencies that are used to paying $250 – $900 per radio now find they have to pay more than $2,000 per radio, and this makes the conversion unattractive especially when one considers the audio quality issues associated with P25. Even with assistance through federal grant programs, agencies just can’t seem to muster the funding to pay initial costs to switch to P25 technology, and even if they can come up with the initial funding to make the switch, they are finding P25 systems are more expensive to maintain than analog systems.
We have been told by vendors and other government agencies, committees and groups that P25 is “the answer,” and in some cases, the only true solution to “interoperability” among various local, state and federal agencies when the reality is that P25 is way overpriced, even with multiple vendors manufacturing and selling the equipment. Combine the cost of P25 with the audio quality (vocoder) issues being experienced by agencies already on P25 systems across our nation, and it’s no wonder most agencies would prefer to remain on analog systems.
The makers of P25 equipment need to do something to bring the cost down, otherwise interoperability is only going to get worse. We already have public-safety agencies across our state purchasing digital radio communications technology — Kenwood NEXEDGE, Motorola MOTOTRBO, etc. — instead of P25 as an effort to upgrade their old, analog legacy systems and improve radio communications, specifically coverage, within their respective jurisdictions. While this type of move is best financially for any given agency and will improve internal communications within their jurisdictions, it may not necessarily be the best solution, especially in situations where a multijurisdictional response is required.
We must remember that two-way radio interoperability is only as good as the cooperation between agencies, and in most cases, the radio systems used in a particular area will reflect how well the multiple agencies in that specific area cooperate and get along. I have been working in public-safety communications for 30 years, and I can honestly say we had more two-way radio interoperability among agencies throughout the metropolitan Atlanta area, and even throughout our entire state, in 1980 than we do today. It is a crying shame that millions of dollars have spent in the name of homeland security and interoperability, and we are no better off today than we were 30 years ago.
We have got to stop trying to fix people problems with technology. If the people working in different agencies do not communicate with each other and cooperate with one another then all of the technology in the world is not going to make interoperability happen.
Robert “Bob” L. Williams Jr.
Radio Systems Analyst
City of Marietta, Ga.

The thing in our area of Tennessee that hampers interoperability among Project 25 (P25) users is the manufacturers’ proprietary encryption options. Particular manufacturers convince their customers to use their proprietary encryption, which doesn’t allow for other manufacturers’ equipment to interoperate, thus eliminating the powers of competition, and in my opinion, the interoperability benefits of P25.
Ann Rita Ditmore
Central Communications and Electronics
Knoxville, Tenn.

In response to “DSS Prepares for NG 9-1-1 Recording Tests” from June 1
Regarding the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) second Industry Collaboration Event (ICE) 8, an event focused on recording and logging interfaces, who are the eight recording vendors that have agreed to participate in the planning and testing? Why weren't the names given in the article?
Bob Baltes

Editor’s Note: The eight vendors participating in ICE 8 include the following companies. Our apologies for not including the companies in the original news.
Verint Systems
NICE Systems
Voice Print International

Click here for the May 2010 Inbox.
Click here for the April 2010 Inbox.

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