LAS VEGAS — When asked to describe the ideal mission-critical voice for their community, most public-safety communications officials are more than willing to describe their needs and desires quickly. Of course, what typically takes a lot longer is figuring how to reach that point.

For some, the issue is money — there's not enough. For others, spectral constraints are a problem. And still others wrestle with the benefits of moving forward to new technology versus hampering hard-earned interoperability with a neighboring entity that isn’t in a position to make the same upgrade.

Regardless of the specific circumstances, migration is a huge issue for mission-critical communications, which can never be off the air. At the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) conference this week, three of the key systems vendors — Motorola, Harris RF Communications and EF Johnson Technologies — are demonstrating products designed to make the technology migration/interoperability paths easier for their customers.

Each company is unveiling a solution targeted to address a different piece of the puzzle. Motorola’s SmartX is designed for customers making the move from analog to digital. EF Johnson’s Hybrid IP25 focuses on customers with plans to upgrade from conventional to trunked systems. Meanwhile, the Harris RF solution is designed to make it easier for users and administrators to handle migrations between systems on different spectral bands.

Such flexible options are critical for public-safety entities, particularly those struggling to make technology upgrades in difficult economic times. In some cases, lack of funds can prevent an entity from making an upgrade to a new network; in other cases, the realities of radio propagation and economics mean that it may never be necessary or practical to deploy high-capacity coverage in a less populated area. After all, there is no single technological "silver bullet" that works best in every situation.

The products offered by these vendors and others have the potential to greatly ease the stress levels of communications officials trying to map out a migration path for their systems. Admittedly, the fact that some of the solutions require the entity to remain with the same vendor may be a point of criticism by some, but the development of such products is a step in the right direction for communications officials that may have feared that the migration path to a new system platform would be so difficult that the destination point might not be worth pursuing.