Vendors Work to Innovate Beyond Traditional PTT
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 | Comments
With the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and other public-safety broadband networks rolling out in the U.S., push to talk (PTT) over Long Term Evolution (LTE) and its future potential have become a key focus of public safety.

As organizations begin to adopt LTE services both on large and small scales, PTT providers are working to not only assist that transition to LTE but also innovate beyond traditional PTT services.

PTT providers such as Orion Labs Inc. are working to extend PTT beyond traditional person-to-person voice communications. To do this, Orion developed bots that provide what the company calls “superpowers” to its PTT platform, said Desmond Crisis, a technologist for Orion. The bots within the PTT platform are intended to help automate certain processes within operations, making first responder workflows more efficient and safer.

For example, a panic bot can be programmed to listen for keywords such as “help” that indicate a user might be in trouble and automatically alert command to send help to a worker in danger, Crisis said. Another bot can allow a user to vocally ask for a geotag of a key location and send that location along to other users in a talkgroup.

The bots are flexible, and the company has worked with users to develop custom bots to help address organizational-specific needs, Crisis said.

Orion has also worked to integrate its PTT communications with apps such as If This Then That (IFTTT). IFTTT allows a user to set a command, called an applet in the app, which triggers when something happens within an app or program on a user’s phone, Crisis said.

For example, a user could set up an applet that sends them a text message when some user says a particular word or phrase in a PTT talkgroup, allowing them to highlight and isolate important information, Crisis said.

In his dealings with customers, Dave George, chief engineer and president of Pryme Radio Products, has found that the decision to supplement existing services with PTT over cellular (PoC) or move to PoC is generally app based. As organizations find apps that address needs or niches that traditional PTT can’t, they have an incentive to move to LTE.

There is PoC adoption, but the full transition from LMR to LTE will be a slow process, and George estimates that it will take 10 – 15 years for the majority of organizations to fully adopt the technology.

The availability of mission-critical PTT (MCPTT) comparable to that offered by LMR radios is one important factor for the transition to LTE. MCPTT standards were finalized in Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) release 13, and carriers are working toward launching those services. AT&T plans to launch MCPTT-compliant service on the FirstNet network in the second half of this year, and Verizon plans to launch those services in the fourth quarter.

Another important factor for accelerating the transition from LMR to LTE will be the development of a “killer app” for LTE that becomes essential to public-safety operations. “There will eventually be an application that users can’t live without and that will cause the migration to the LTE smartphone,” George said. Learn more about specific LTE applications in our FirstNet App Catalog webinar series sponsored by FirstNet, built with AT&T. The first webinar, which covered apps for teamwork, can be watched on demand here. The next webinar in the series will take place April 18 and cover apps for situational awareness. Find more information and register here.

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