The San Luis Obispo County (Calif.) sheriff’s office this week celebrated the deployment of its new dispatch technology, which features technology from Raytheon and Twisted Pair Solutions that makes it one of the first in the nation to be purely IP-based and capable of supporting the use of smartphones and tablets for first-responder communications.

Accepted by the county on May 30, the IP-based technology in the six-position dispatch center replaces a system that “probably should have been replaced at least five years ago—we were kind of holding it together with Band-Aids and bailing wire,” said San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson during an interview with Urgent Communications.

Key benefits of the new system include greater interoperability between first-responder entities, as well as the ability to maintain the system remotely.

“The maintenance aspect was a huge thing for us, as far as being able to access the system remotely and provide maintenance, rather than having to be on site,” San Luis Obispo County Undersheriff Tony Olivas said during an interview. “The cost savings from that was a big benefit to us.”

In addition, the new system enables users to access the county’s analog radio system via smart devices connected to an IP network, which effectively extends the footprint of the system while enabling valuable flexibility by giving users “an instant radio on their hip,” Parkinson said.

“It actually functions as good, if not better than, as your regular portable radio within the county,” he said. “It sounds like there’s no difference.”

Raytheon used its ACU interoperability portfolio in combination with the Wave platform from partner Twisted Pair for this project, in order to provide secure communications, according to Janet Holt, Raytheon’s vice president of products and services.

“We did the IP interface to the analog radio system through Raytheon JPS’s interoperability gateways,” Holt said during an interview. “So, we take the IP communications out of the Twisted Pair Wave dispatch system to the comms room and then leverage Raytheon JPS gateways to convert that to the traditional LMR communications, and then send that over the RF. It’s vice versa when people on their radios in the field talk back to dispatch.

“In a nutshell, we replaced their dispatch-console system with what we believe to be one of the first IP-based dispatch systems implemented by public safety, and then also provided them with an extension to traditional LMR through the Wave mobile application.”

In addition to providing secure communications, the new dispatch system is “fully redundant,” Holt said. That resiliency already has been tested during a recent power outage, Parkinson said.

“We had a major blackout that covered at least three counties on the coast, and we were the center point of the whole thing,” Parkinson said. “My immediate concern was that our communications power went down, we went to generator power, and were there [going to be] problems with the radio. I turned on my radio from my cell phone, and it seemed to be functioning fine. … It didn’t miss a beat.”

Olivas said the positive experience in migrating to an IP-based dispatch center has provided the county with a foundation to pursue other new functionality associated with next-generation 911.

“I had a little bit of cold feet going into it at first—I like cutting edge, but I’m not too keen on being bleeding edge and being the beta test site,” Olivas said. “But, as we evolved through this process, Raytheon really came forward with all of the answers and really built our confidence level that they were going to be true partners with us  on this project and would see it through to the end—and they definitely met that goal.

“We’re very pleased with the results, very pleased with the partnership and hope to carry that on to other IP-based systems, such as next-gen [911].”