Tight budgets and competing projects will continue to put a strain on the public-safety communications industry, but manufacturers say they see still opportunities in the market, vendor representatives said during a recent webinar.

While most of that potential revolves around emerging digital technologies, there also has been a surprise uptick in analog systems.

Several vendor representatives shared their analysis of the current landscape and offered their forecasts for the next year during IWCE’s recent virtual trade show. An on-demand version webinar (“The State of the Industry: What’s on Your Mind?”) is available for free to show registrants (enter the Auditorium to see all webinars from the virtual show). 

This year’s slowdown in the public-safety communications market isn’t all due to inadequate funding, according to panelists.

The length of time it took to adopt and publish a Project 25 console interface standard (CSSI) is partly to blame, said John Suzuki, senior vice president of sales with Avtec. The standard was completed earlier this year, but it will take time for the market to adopt, he said.

“From an industry standpoint, it’s taken us a very long to get us to where we are, and I see that it’s going to take a few more years—at least—before choice is really offered on what should be considered an open standards system but it isn’t today,” Suzuki said.

“It’s not really the end users. It’s the standards committee holding up in getting that work done. But the work is done, and we’re moving into a phase where the manufacturers are completing the work and we’re doing interopability testing between each other. Once that’s completed, then I think the end users will have the confidence to start spec’ing out and demanding choice for mission-critical voice dispatch solutions.”

Another significant challenge vendors face is trying to match the customer’s rising expectations for technology.

“We have a whole new generation of communications users who have cut their teeth on a cell phone, and they’ve seen it grow from a simple talking device into something they conduct their lives from, whether it be GPS or checking the time,” said Mark Jasin, executive vice president and corporate director with Kenwood USA’s communications sector. “Can you imagine what’s going on in the wristwatch industry these days?

“Those expectations have found themselves into our business and government user base. They want their two-way radios to do more, and it’s been a challenge for radio manufacturers—and it’s not really specific to us, it’s everybody—to stay on top of that technology.”