Study Tracks User Requirements for P25, LTE Devices (2/8/12)
Wednesday, February 08, 2012 | Comments

A vendor conducted a study of Project 25 (P25) users to determine challenges and recommendations as the technology moves forward and Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks become more prevalent.

Covia Labs, which won a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contract to study mission-critical voice over LTE last year, performed studies on how much latency was acceptable, the level of interference, text messaging for coordination and how important tracking applications are.

The first phase of study was to collect user requirements. Covia Labs met with police and fire officials in the San Francisco Bay Area, along with Suffolk County, N.Y., Pennsylvania State Police and Pennsylvania Environment Police and other officials during a meeting in Long Island. During the meetings, company executives met with 100 people from various agencies and 9-1-1 centers. The study lasted more than six months.

Based on the results, Covia Labs officials said public-safety officials are interested in a system where officers have two devices (until one integrated device is available), one with capability for P25 and one with LTE capability. The two devices can connect to each other via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and work together. The user can talk into the microphone on the P25 radio, and when the LTE phone has connectivity, everything happens over phone.

“The LTE capability has to be reliable for public safety in terms of being overloaded in disasters,” said David Kahn, CEO of Covia Labs.

Public safety also wanted to have talk groups on the LTE device mapped into the P25 system and know on the P25 radio whether to change channels if they’re talking over P25 and LTE. Both devices are managing communications.

“We were able to make it so the talk groups will map into each other and be accessible through the knob on the P25 radio,” Kahn said.

During an incident, when two people from different agencies arrive on-scene, they could text a link that could be accessed through the broadband system that would allow them to have interoperable communications that are secure and encrypted. The encrypted communications would get transmitted between the LTE device to P25 radios, and the radios would be able to talk to each other.

To meet the requirements, the company this week announced Alert & Respond, a new software platform that offers a cost-effective way for public safety to integrate consumer smartphones and commercially available devices into their operations. The platform merges the data and functionality found on multiple, diverse devices and equipment into one, fully integrated system. A designated administrator or multiple users can manage and use the resources of all devices on the platform.

Capabilities of the system include National Incident Management System (NIMS) administration, push-to-talk (PTT) functionality, message playback, talk-around capabilities when out of range of a cell tower, tracking of the real-time location of personnel, text messaging, image sharing and GPS.

“The product has provided us with the means to better communicate when events are taking place within our jurisdiction,” said Ron Levine, chief of police at Foothill DeAnza Community College in Los Altos Hills, Calif., which has participated in beta testing of the platform. “For example, we had an event on campus with a major international political figure. All of our officers had a comprehensive view of the security operations in real time, while also intercommunicating with other federal and international security details operating at the event.”

Kahn said that when LTE isn’t available, P25 radios would act as modems with 2,400-baud connectivity. “You’d still be able to send a lot of bytes,” he said. “You’d have a very useful system. And you can make any device into a router. If a person is in a building, his P25 radio might get routed to a P25 radio further outside the building and routed to a fire engine. Maybe we don’t need as many towers initially, because you have capabilities without all the infrastructure.”

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