As first responders from throughout the United States—and some from international jurisdictions—prepare to participate in the Urban Shield exercises in the San Francisco Bay Area this weekend, officials for three vendors anticipate learning more about their solutions’ market readiness  through their performance in the annual event.

Each year, the Urban Shield initiative provides first responders with an opportunity to put their training in action under several different scenarios enacted throughout the Bay Area. This year, there are more than 30 scenarios that will play out from early Saturday morning to early Monday morning, according to Buck Verbrugge, West Coast business development director for Mutualink.

“I was a cop for 28 years, and I was commander of a SWAT team for five years as a captain, and I can tell you that there is nothing better than live exercises,” Verbrugge said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “You can table-top [plan] something, you can see a video about something, and you can read about it. But, until you actually experience something that’s as close to real as possible, there’s nothing like it.”

One of the scenarios that will be enacted is one in which terrorists hijack a bus and hold the passengers as hostages. For this scenario, a mobile emergency-communication vehicle equipped with LTE functionality using 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum—frequencies licensed to FirstNet, which is building a nationwide broadband network for public safety—will support voice and video communications, including sharing video from cameras on the bus.

To make this happen, Oceus Networks will provide the “enhanced system on wheels” communications vehicle with Band 14 connectivity, Mutualink will provide the software collaboration platform, and Sonim Technologies will supply the LTE user devices (see a UC video showing Sonim devices). The three companies showed their ability to work together during a booth demonstration last month at APCO 2014, but doing it during the Urban Shield exercises represents “taking it up a notch,” according to Mike Wengrovitz, Mutualink’s vice president of innovation.

“We wrote about it, we’ve done some proof of principles in the lab and so forth,” Wengrovitz said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “But, with a new technology like this, the lessons learned that you get from deploying it and trying it in a controlled exercise leads to better performance in the event that it’s used in a real emergency. That’s why Mutualink likes to participate in this kind of thing.”

Wayne Eveland, senior director of public safety for Oceus,Networks, echoed this sentiment.

 “We hope to show the art of possible—things that haven’t been done and have the guys that are doing the operations aspects a chance to really dig into this, give us some good feedback and test some new types of operational tools,” Eveland said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

Robert Escalle, Sonim Technologies’ senior director for public safety and defense market segment, said his company hopes to learn a great deal about its devices and how first responders use it.

“We’re looking at the user-experience level, not only of the application that will be running on the device but also the user experience of outdoor readability of the display of the [Sonim device] and the ability to survive the elements that are out there,” Escalle said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We hope that they put it through its gamut of exercises out there, including potentially dropping the device on concrete—which we survive very nicely—and any of those different elements we’re looking for. We just want user-experience feedback.”