Raytheon launched a six-month pilot program in the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa that is designed to enhance interoperability and provide remote broadband access to first responders in the area.

“What we're delivering is voice, video and data interoperability to the areas, and we're also setting up a lot of remote and mobile broadband access points [that] various fire, police and government officials can access, depending on their needs,” said Bill Iannacci, Raytheon's director of civil communications solutions, during a media briefing.

While the pilot utilizes ACU-1000 and ACU-M voice-interoperability products from Raytheon's JPS subsidiary, the company's primary role in the project is as an integrator of various solutions provided by partners DropFire, Eagle Project, New Era Wireless, NexPort Solutions Group and Nortel Government Solutions, Iannacci said.

When put together, the integrated system provides IP-based wireless voice, video and data services throughout the Quad Cities region, which includes two states, two counties and the Iowa cities of Davenport and Bettendorf, as well as the Illinois cities of Moline, East Moline, Rock Island and Milan. At the project's core, all the voice-network towers are interconnected via microwave links.

New capabilities enabled by the system include interoperable voice communications over disparate systems, data interoperability over disparate CAD systems, an integrated emergency patient tracking system for medical facilities in the area and a regionwide emergency alert system.

Another feature of the system is video-surveillance capability with a proactive twist, Iannacci said.

“Let's say you're sitting at the control station and zooming the camera focus in and out, when you see people leaving a bar and getting a little rowdy,” he said. “You have voice tied into [the camera], so you could dispatch police and — at the same time — alert the people that police have been dispatched to this area, and they need to go home or disband right now. So you can see where you could go with that in terms of trying to prevent crime.”

While the new Quad Cities gear will attract a great deal of attention, all commercial partners in the project made leveraging and integrating the participating cities' existing systems a priority, Iannacci said.

“Our definition of interoperability as a team is not, ‘Throw everything you have away and start over with what we've got,’” he said. “We come in and look at what you have for infrastructure, applications and services, and we leverage it and maximize the use of it.”

It's an approach that has been appreciated by the participating cities, which have discovered benefits from the cooperative effort that extend well beyond their respective first-responder responsibilities in large emergencies, said Rob Henry, chief information officer for the city of Davenport.

“I think this type of network is obviously key for first responders and public safety, but you've got to leverage the day-to-day operations, so you're getting value daily out of it in order to support this kind of infrastructure,” Henry said.

Each of the commercial partners supplied the solutions and support for the pilot free of charge to the cities, Iannacci said. The cities were required to let the partners bring observers into the area to demonstrate the system's capabilities. Ultimately, the participating cities will have an option to buy the new system, he said.

“But the promise up front is that we agreed that there would never be any talk from our end or pressure to buy,” Iannacci said. “We told them that, if [the cities] ever wanted to discuss anything or saw a near-term need, they'd have to come to us.”