Data networking giant Cisco Systems last month unveiled its IP Interoperability and Collaborations Systems, or IPICS, technology that integrates private land mobile radio systems with each other and with a variety of voice, video and data devices.

Demonstrated in New York on Oct. 24, Cisco's IPICS solution translates radio signals into IP voice packets at the network layer, allowing disparate radio users to speak to each other, said Dean Zanone, customer solutions manager in Cisco's new safety and security systems business unit.

“At the end of the day, in a push-to-talk environment, I don't need to know what kind of device you're on, and you shouldn't need to know what kind of device or channel I'm on,” Zanone said. “All that's important is that we're normalized to a standards-based platform … and that we can communicate, regardless of the particular network that we're on.”

It's a philosophy that makes economic sense, particularly as government officials wrestle with a cost-effective way to establish interoperable communications between first responders nationwide, said Bradley Curran, aerospace and defense industry analyst for Frost & Sullivan.

“The thing I think is neat about it is that you can come to the table with the system that you have — whatever type of hardware or network that you are running now,” he said. “It will take all of those disparate communications systems, convert the signal to IP and work from there.”

Indeed, by allowing the installed base of radio equipment to remain in place, the Cisco interoperability solution is expected to cost at least 85% less to implement than a massive radio-system forklift, said Zanone, a former police sergeant who had “the same radio on my hip for 20 years,” waiting for his department to upgrade to an 800 MHz trunked system.

Other vendors have IP-based systems, but many are designed strictly for public safety. While mission-critical capable, Cisco's IPICS solution is designed to serve all enterprise markets, providing a larger customer base that can create cost-saving economies of scale and letting all sectors of an enterprise — whether on radios, cell phones or another device — communicate under the control of policies set within the IP infrastructure, Zanone said.

Some public-safety officials traditionally have been wary of IP-based technologies, associating them with commercial computer applications that fail too often for mission-critical functions. Upon the advice of this customer base, Cisco eschewed the popular Microsoft Windows environment and opted to build IPICS on a Linux platform, Zanone said.

In addition, IPICS embeds the intelligence to make the IP translations in routers located at the edge of the networks in a mesh architecture, so there is no single point of failure, Zanone said.

“Not only do we break down the silos that exist within operations internally and externally, we do it in a fashion that's highly resilient,” he said.

And investing in Cisco's IPICS will let enterprises easily move into the all-IP environment that most analysts predict will be prevalent during the next decade.

“What we're actually talking about is extending the life of their existing systems … and extending those systems into an IP environment,” Zanone said. “When we do that, we have the ability to put new and advanced features in that IP environment.”

It's an approach that makes technological sense in the long term and, in the short term, is economically more prudent than some interoperability proposals, Curran said.

“I don't think the solution is to buy everybody a new radio and start from the ground up,” Curran said. “First, the expense would be huge. Second, you've still got to have frequency allocations.

“But with this system, instead of putting all that money into fresh equipment, you can come with what you have.”

Vehicle antennas

The Interoperable Mobile Antenna is a broadband antenna that lets first responders connect seamlessly to different agencies operating on the VHF, UHF or 800 MHz bands. The Tri-Band Glass Mount Antenna performs the same function but can be mounted on the vehicle's rear window via a high-strength adhesive. It has a 16-inch closed coil black whip that can be adjusted up to 90° to compensate for variances in window slopes. The TRAX GPS asset-tracking antenna is smaller than a credit card and mounts under the vehicle's bumper via adhesive or a heavy-duty magnet.

Dual-mode mobile radio

Tait Radio Communications introduced the TM8255 dual-mode mobile radio to its TM8200 series. The radio operates in conventional and trunked modes and is available in 25 W, 40 W and 50 W versions. Its digital signal processor and multiple auxiliary connections together let users customize the radio and integrate it into existing systems, the company said.

Other features include: short data messaging, call queuing, automatic number identification, 1500 conventional channels, 300 scanning/voting groups and enhanced Selcall functionality. Optional accessories include: a keypad microphone, locking security cradle, hands-free/remote push-to-talk functionality and a desktop power supply.

Digital trunked radio interface

Dispatch system vendor Avtec Inc. and Trident Micro Systems — a manufacturer of digital trunked radio network infrastructure — announced a jointly developed digital interface that connects Trident's NTS solution and Avtec's DSPatch and DSPatchNET console communications systems.

The interface is based on Trident's PassPort trunked radio protocol and will be targeted to the transportation, military, public-safety and energy sectors. It provides customers with access to all user ANI (automatic number identification) data, selective calling features (such as the ability to set up one-to-one radio calling), emergency call-in information (including one-touch priority calling) and the ability to set up talk groups.

Cisco-certified RFID reader

Intermec Technologies Corp. said that its IF5 radio frequency identification reader has become the first RFID device to be designated as interoperable with Cisco Systems' RFID solution.

The compatibility enables companies to place the IF5 reader into their Cisco infrastructure without any manual configuration. The network recognizes the IF5 as an RFID device and then configures it based on its location, allowing it to begin operating immediately, Intermec said. The IF5 is factory-configurable for use within a range of frequencies, reads and filters information from RFID tags, monitors external sensors and controls audible and visual indicators without a separate server, which reduces costs and eliminates a potential failure point, according to Intermec. It also writes to RFID tags.

AC to DC power supply

DuraComm introduced the RLP-5048 heavy-duty AC-to-DC power supply that offers 50 A and 48 VDC output from a unit that weighs just 30 pounds and measures 19 inches wide-by-13 inches deep-by-5 1/4 inches high. The unit was designed for use by commercial wireless carriers but also could be used by public-safety agencies in their network operations centers, according to J.C. Sanders, DuraComm's vice president of marketing. “It was designed for routing applications where they generally required large transformer suppliers to generate that much juice,” Sanders said. “The RLP-5048 provides the same type of output in a much smaller cabinet.” The device is designed for 220 VAC only, offers a floating DC output and can be used in positive or negative ground applications without any changes, the company said.

P2T platform

Clarity Communications Systems announced that its inTouch push-to-talk platform is ready for evaluation by wireless carriers and application service providers. The session initiation protocol-based solution delivers P2T capability over standard wireless packet data infrastructures and lets users place private and group half-duplex calls across one or more networks, the company said. In addition, the solution exhibits low latency over CDMA systems and offers spectrum efficiency that is 30% better than that exhibited by cellular voice calls. The evaluation version is available now, with the commercial version expected to be available in the fourth quarter of this year, the company said.

RFID application

Skaneateles Falls, N.Y.-based Hand Held Products has added a radio frequency identification application developed by U.K.-headquartered UnIQue ID to its line of mobile computers. Low- and high-frequency readers have been added to the Dolphin 7900 and 9500 mobile computers, which also offer Bluetooth, WLAN and GPRS capabilities. The units can read all common RFID tag standards, said Tony Rainbow, UnIQue ID managing director, in a statement.

P2T handset

Sprint Nextel subsidiary Boost Mobile said it has added the Motorola i835 to its portfolio of handsets marketed to the youth market. The small, sleek, all-black clamshell-design handset offers push-to-talk functionality via the carrier's Boost Walkie-Talkie pay-as-you-go service that it markets for $1.50 per day for unlimited national connectivity. The i835 handset also provides multimedia and text messaging and the ability to store and forward digital photos. In addition, the handset lets users play a variety of pre-loaded and downloadable Java games.

Expanded incident command radio interface

Communications-Applied Technology launched an expanded version of its Incident Commanders' Radio Interface. The ICRI/EOC is designed for use in fixed or mobile emergency operations centers and lets users connect radios from 10 different agencies to achieve interoperable communications. In addition, the radios can be divided via the interface into four independent talk groups. The ICRI/EOC supports all commercial conventional and trunked radios, military radios, satellite phones, cellular phones and wireline phones, and can be deployed in less than five minutes without technical assistance, special training or computer interfaces, the company said. The unit can be installed in an EOC in console or rack-mounted configurations, and in SUV-type mobile command centers.

Aeroflex launches multi-band translator

Test and measurement firm Aeroflex launched the TX501 RF Multi-band Translator, which is designed to be a cost-effective, 3G frequency translator. With the TX501, developers can test infrastructure operating in frequency Bands I through VI using existing 3G band test mobiles, the company said.

Tone remote controller

Midians Electronics introduced the TRC-1 tone remote controller, which lets dispatchers control a remote base station or repeater using the standard EIA tone format over a dedicated phone line, microwave path or telemetry link. It also lets dispatchers talk to other parallel tone remotes on the same system via an intercom feature, the company said. The product, which is targeted to the public-safety, fleet management, industrial and commercial sectors, offers optional gooseneck, desktop or handset microphones to go with the standard internal microphone. A built-in keypad lets dispatchers select up to 15 functions or frequencies and perform DTMF dialing.

*spotlight: Base stations


The Paragon3 700 base station controller lets users determine speed and coverage based on their unique operating environments. For dense urban areas, the controller delivers speeds of 128 kb/s in a 50 kHz, 700 MHz wideband channel; however, users also can select 96 kb/s speeds for less dense suburban areas and as low as 64 kb/s for rural areas. The controller can be reprogrammed via the user's LAN and backhaul lines, and it uses AES 128-bit encryption to ensure network security. When also used in the same network, GeminiG3 mobiles will automatically adapt to the base station controller, letting users deploy the Paragon3 throughout a footprint that ranges from high-density to low-density environments.

Daniels Electronics

A digital Ethernet interface lets users connect Project 25-compliant digital base stations to IP-based dispatch consoles. The all-digital connectivity provides improved encryption and the ability to connect to a dispatch console via a TCP/IP network offers several advantages, said a company spokesman. “It would be useful if an agency wanted to centralize dispatch or seize control of the radios in an emergency,” he said.