Communications-Applied Technology (C-AT) recently announced that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded the company 13 patents related to its Incident Commanders’ Radio Interface (ICRI), a portable device that provides radio interoperability to first responders.

The ICRI links commercial and military, VoIP equipment, satellite phones, cell phones, landline phone and hybrid cellular/walkie-talkie devices such as Nextel Communications’ Direct Connect handsets, allowing users of the disparate technologies to speak to each other at an incident scene.

What separates the ICRI from other interoperability solutions is its compact size (measuring 1" x 7" x 10" and weighing just 2.5 pounds), its efficient power consumption and its simplicity of use, according to C-AT President and CEO Seth Leyman said. The ICRI’s user-friendly interface enables rapid deployment without the need for a trained radio specialist on site.

“We’ve run tests where a first responder who has never seen the ICRI before is able to get it running by being talked through the steps via radio--most of the time, in less than five minutes,” Leyman said.

Each ICRI has five radio ports, one telephone input/output port, and a handset port that allows a user at the ICRI to communicate without using a handset device that might be better deployed in the field, Leyman said. To activate the link, users simply need to plug their device into the ICRI while their volume control is at a medium level, he said. Each user’s range does not change from their normal coverage area, although an ICRI can be deployed as a repeater to increase range, Leyman said.

Another key feature of the ICRI is that its patented design lets it operate for 30 hours on eight AA batteries, instead of depending on AC power that might be unreliable or unavailable in a large emergency incident.

“There are some very nice and sophisticated solutions on the market today, but most require AC power and a radio-communications specialist,” said Gary Stanfill, C-AT’s engineering manager. “We wanted to design something that a first responder with no training could take out of the trunk of a car, flip a few switches, and it works.”

In addition to its portability and power advantages, the $10,000 top-end ICRI package--supporting multiple talk groups--costs 50% less than the cheapest member of the JPS ACU interoperability solutions, Leyman said. C-AT also offers a $6000 version of the ICRI, he said.