Because of the multitude of things that can go wrong — from unexpected interference sources to too much foliage growing in the wrong places — deploying and optimizing wireless communications system can be hard.

With this in mind, Motorola has established a Customer Center for Systems Integration (CCSI) that allows customers such as public-safety and military entities to test-drive their new systems in a staging area at Motorola’s headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill., prior to being shipped.

In the staging area, a customer agency can see its entire network in action — the actual equipment that will be shipped, including cables at the proper length (rolled up, of course). Motorola personnel and customer representatives work together in the staging area to ensure that the network is working as specified in the contract and optimized as the customer desires. It also is an ideal setting to conduct training for the personnel who will be using and maintaining the new system.

During a recent visit to the Motorola facility, I spoke with Ben Holycross, radio systems manager for Polk County, Fla. Holycross was in the staging area to take a look at the new P25 system that will be installed in the county and described the process as “incredibly important.”

“It gives us a chance to verify that all the glossy talk actually works,” Holycross said. “And, if there’s a problem here, they have all the resources available right down the hall to fix it.”

Those Motorola resources also are available to fine-tune the system, which is much easier to do by walking a few feet from “site” to “site” in the air-conditioned staging area than having to drive 20 to 30 minutes between actual sites after the system has been deployed — particularly if the weather is bad.

Another benefit of the staging process is that it improves communications between customers and the vendor by reducing the temptation to point fingers if something goes wrong during deployment, Holycross said.

“It changes the flavor of that relationship completely,” he said. “After all, we were here, we conducted the tests, and we saw it work.”

The staging process not only helps make the deployment process smoother, it also has a produced tangible monetary benefits to both Motorola and its customers, said Len Baumgart, resource manager for Motorola’s central services organization. In fact, the company has plans to expand the staging area in Schaumburg, because the current facility has been at capacity for most of the year.

“We have seen a cost savings, because we don’t have to fly a person to the location, only to find out that a box wasn’t working the way it should have,” he said. “And customers have seen a savings in terms of the schedule.”

Such staging is particularly important for systems that include equipment from manufacturers other than Motorola, because the customer is able to see firsthand that the integration of other vendors’ gear will work on the system, Baumgart said.

Of course, some adjustments will have to be made in the field, because no staging area can replicate the terrain, buildings, and foliage that can impact any wireless deployment — or guarantee that no equipment will be damaged during the shipping or deployment processes. But Motorola’s staging process does greatly reduce the number of variables that must be considered if something goes awry during deployment, Holycross said.

“This is as close to plug and play as you’re going to get on these kinds of systems in our lifetime,” he said.