Mutualink this week announced that the functionality of its collaboration suite is now available to users on existing devices—from desktop computers in a command center to mobile devices in the field—through its new Mutualink Edge portfolio.

Previously, Mutualink’s multimedia-sharing functionality only was available when customers purchased a device from Mutualink that included the software, according to Mutualink CEO Mark Hatten. While this model works for smaller enterprises and first-responder entities, it was not practical for large entities, he said.

“They’re just not going to buy a new computer for everybody’s desk,” Hatten said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “We looked at that and said, ‘Let’s solve that problem by allowing them to essentially put in a Mutualink concentrator that maintains all of the benefits of having the appliance—that peer-to-peer architecture that we have—but allows them to install thin-client software on their already-existing desktops.’”

The Mutualink Edge portfolio still requires hardware investment—a single server that can support 5, 25 or 50 users—but individual users need only to have the appropriate software installed on their existing devices, Hatten said.

“We sell a bigger computer with software on it, but now that bigger computer can host 50 other computers—or a combination of computers, tablets or whatever—so you don’t have to buy 50 of them; you only have to buy one,” he said.

The result is “significant” cost savings per user, according to Hatten, who claimed at least 50% savings for entities opting for the 50-user Mutualink Edge model instead of the previous appliance-based offering.

Mutualink Edge comes in two flavors. Edge@Command runs on any desktop or laptop running Windows 7 and is designed primarily for the command-center personnel, while Edge@Hand is designed to support users with mobile devices in the field.

An Edge server can support any combination of Edge@Command and Edge@Hand users, within the contracted limit of the server, Hatten said.

Both Edge products support the multimedia functionality of Mutualink’s collaboration suite. Edge@Hand currently supports only iOS devices, but an Android application is expected soon, according to the company.

“This new product line allows us to … deliver the multimedia functionality of our technology and our network out to the edge—the officer edge, the security guard edge, and we call that Edge@Hand,” Hatten said. “It’s multimedia, and it allows you to watch video, stream video back [to a command center], have push-to-talk audio and look at files—the full multimedia experience of Mutualink now can be in the hands of an officer.”

Edge@Hand currently does not enable mobile users to view video that is being sent from a command center at the same time that they are uploading video back to the command center—but that could change in the future, Hatten said.

“We don’t support it today, but it’s not because our platform couldn’t,” he said. “The problem’s really the bandwidth in the field. We’ve consciously chosen not to support that, because the bandwidth is not substantial enough.

“So, it’s one or the other right now, but it’s just a conscious choice we’ve made in the software. We could easily enable it both ways.”

Edge@Hand can switch between Wi-Fi, 3G and LTE connectivity, Hatten said. With the development of FirstNet’s broadband network for first responders, other broadband networks, and improvements in compression schemes, Hatten is confident that Mutualink’s mobile capabilities will be enhanced in the future.

“It’s here today, but it’s only going to get better in the future, as FirstNet develops its networks, and we end up with different types of data connectivity,” he said.

Already commercially available after being beta tested in a variety of large public-safety and utility deployments, the Edge@Command and Edge@Hand capabilities will be demonstrated next week in booth 406 of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) 2013 show in Philadelphia.