The Lake-Sumter (Fla.) Emergency Medical Services announced today that it has deployed Novatel Wireless’ Merlin PC720 modems and Junxion Box routers to bolster the effectiveness of its wireless, in-vehicle emergency response systems that connect ambulances to the county’s EMS communications center via Sprint’s network.

Jim Root, chief information officer of Lake-Sumter EMS, said the company provides emergency-medical-service and advanced-life-support response in two counties, covering more than 1700 square miles. Root said he was looking for a wireless system that could send and receive data from mobile units, such as ambulances. More important, the solution had to offer the needed coverage as well as bandwidth and flexibility, he said.

During the early stages of researching wireless networks, Root said his team was not tied to a cellular network and considered options such as LMR data and mesh networks. However, data throughput through radio wasn’t going to meet the needs, and mesh was too expensive, he said. After testing several vendors, the company chose Sprint’s cellular network to support the transmission of data between EMS and receiving facilities, such as hospitals.

“Sprint offers the best coverage, throughput … and it seemed that the company was pretty dedicated to the central Florida area as a whole in providing a solid infrastructure for wireless data,” he said.

He started looking for a system that was more robust and included mobile-data cards that met military specifications for dust, water, humidity, heat and vibration.

“The back of an advanced life-support unit is an interesting place,” Root said. “It can vary in temperature, up to 150 degrees, and the humidity can be in the high 90s. The vibration also is high.”

After validating the effectiveness of using high-speed cellular networks for emergency-response scenarios, Lake-Sumter deployed rugged Junxion Box routers, coupled with the company’s CAD-based Field Commander remote management service in 40 Lake-Sumter vehicles. Its technology team chose to activate the Junxion Box routers with Merlin PC720 modems to support high-speed EV-DO Rev. A cellular networks.

The Junxion Box router is built with a metal enclosure and is used with the Novatel data card, which runs on Sprint’s network. It has been tested to military standards for vibration and temperature, said Peter Polson, the company’s president and co-founder. The router supports an in-vehicle VPN for secure data transfer, which ensures patient data is protected. In addition, any device that can support Ethernet or Wi-Fi can connect into the router.

The Novatel Wireless modems provide the range necessary for connectivity in most rural areas of the two counties, Root said. “The Novatel card provided consistent results, and that’s what we absolutely had to have,” he said.

The primary data transmitted is electronic patient-data reporting, which is sent to hospital and company administrators, as well as emergency-room personnel. In the past, the process was paper-and-pen centric. Electronic distribution ensures accuracy, timeliness and prepares ER doctors for incoming patients, Root said.

“The temptation is to skimp and buy a cheaper router or less-reliable data card… but you can’t do that, because the data transmission is so critical,” he said.

Roots said the per-unit cost for the mobile data technologies is $800 in parts and $50 per month service charge for electronic data transfer.