View from the Top

Modern portable radios can meet first responders' needs today and into the future

First-responder technology is changing, and the tools used by police, fire, EMS, public works and others must keep pace. Right now, users need a rock-solid radio that works on today's systems and can be upgraded in the future as public-safety communications continue to evolve.

By Mark Tesh

Improvements in today’s communications technology are fast and steady. Consumers have what seems like unlimited choices when it comes to high-tech devices, as manufacturers are launching newer and better smartphones, tablets and wearables on a near-monthly basis. At the same time, U.S. wireless carriers reportedly are spending billions annually to add density and capacity to their networks. Unfortunately, many of today’s greatest advancements in communications have yet to reach public-safety users, many of whom are still carrying push-to-talk radios—a valuable technology, though sometimes hindered by its use on outdated infrastructure.

The truth is, some county officials and administrators are hesitant to upgrade their technology without clear direction and some assurance that they are using their budget dollars wisely. Their concerns may indeed be warranted. After all, replacing legacy equipment requires a significant investment, and making the “wrong” choice can lead to negative reactions from important audiences—elected and appointed officials, not to mention taxpayers. Smart planning, purchasing and management have to be top priorities for these officials.

The only constant in this market is change, which not only points to a need for newer, better, tougher equipment, it also creates an urgency to bring these advances in communications technology to law enforcement and other first responders as quickly as possible.

Designing for Tomorrow

When considering upgrades to city, county or even statewide radio infrastructure, some officials or administrators may question whether today’s technology is ready for tomorrow’s communications challenges. Unlike with consumer devices, where manufactures work out the kinks as they go and release multiple generations along the way, public-safety users do not anticipate “upgrading” every two years. Instead, they demand solutions that work the right way right now and can be upgraded in tandem with future communications needs and public-safety requirements.

The solution is surprisingly simple: select a solution that provides a clear path for upgrading and enhancements as technology evolves, thereby maximizing a long-term investment.

Enter the next-generation of public-safety technologies. Emerging radio technology is more capable, more flexible, and tougher than legacy solutions. The next generation of radios, although similar in many ways to existing equipment, introduces a number of innovations that make it uniquely well-suited to the changing role of first responders. How?

It’s durable. In coming years, first responders will likely face harsher situations, environments and threats. Considering that the technology in everything from smartphones to refrigerators is rapidly advancing, portable radios—quite literally a lifeline for public-safety user—should be no exception. Keep in mind that, while most radio manufacturers today are investing in more reliable and durable designs, many are still missing the mark in some areas.

For instance, even some newer radios, though they excel in certain aspects, have not eliminated pockets or cavities around the controls that can fill with dirt or water and unexpectedly prevent an important control from working. This is not good design today and certainly won’t meet the high-immersion standards of tomorrow—especially considering that future standards will likely be designed to address biological and radiological threats, wherein even a single failure point can lead to serious liability.

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

GBH (not verified)
on Jan 14, 2016

I like the comment about "Talk Around". Though the term Interoperability has been thrown around with wreckless abandon for decades now, the ultimate interoperability is being able to talk from one radio to another, at the scene of an incident, on FM analog "Talk Around" That is the most ubiquitous, compatible, interoperable, survivable. reliable, inexpensive....pick your own adjective..solution there is in an emergency situation. Though whiz bang features sell products, simple and reliable trumps whiz bang in an emergency!

JMayer (not verified)
on Jan 14, 2016

Amen to that, brother ;)

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