Reporter’s notebook: IWCE 2010 wrap-up, part 2
Motorola showcased a solution developed by Annapolis, Md.–based Zephyr Technology — in which Motorola made a capital investment last year — that monitors and wirelessly transmits data on body functions such as heart rate, breathing rate and skin temperature. The data is transmitted via Bluetooth to a radio connected to a laptop that displays the data. As many as 64 personnel can be monitored by a single application, and the solution can support multiple applications, said David Klein, a Motorola marketing manager.
The capabilities are ideal for monitoring the health conditions of participants in sports, combat or first-response situations, particularly firefighters, who especially are prone to heat- and stress-related health issues when at an incident. However, Motorola also is seeing a lot of interest in using the solution for training purposes, Klein said. “A significant number of heart issues do occur during training, and firefighters actually spend more time training than they do fighting fires,” he said.
Using the solution in a training scenario provides two very big benefits, Klein said. The obvious one is that the data would indicate when the firefighter has entered a health danger zone, and the training exercise could be curtailed before the firefighter is stricken. Less obvious is that the collected data could indicate that a firefighter has an underlying health issue of which he and his department are unaware. “Education and knowledge of the person’s health always is going to be the best way to help them over the long run,” Klein said.
The Zephyr biometric monitor is available as a chest strap or integrated in a pullover shirt. For a firefighter, the advantage of the pullover shirt is that it is more comfortable than the chest strap, a key consideration because the monitor is worn for the entire shift. Also, it’s faster and easier to get turnover gear on over the monitor when it’s integrated into the pullover shirt compared to the chest-strap version, Klein said.
Those who might be worried about the shirt’s durability shouldn’t fret, according to Klein. “Zephyr knows that the shirt is going to take a beating and be subjected to a lot of rough environments, so they invested a lot into its durability and comfort. For instance, in a military situation you might be wearing it under a flak jacket and other items … so they’ve tried to make it as comfortable as possible. If it’s comfortable, it’s more likely that it will be used.”
When firefighters change their stationwear after fighting a blaze, the module that collects, stores and transmits the biometric data can be removed from the shirt that needs to be laundered and placed into another shirt, Klein said.
Midian Electronics unveiled the VAE-1 voice encoder for portable radios, which lets a firefighter, with the push of a button, record his location, which is then programmed into the encoder’s circuit board, which is installed in the radio. Should the firefighter become unconscious, the radio would key up and then transmit the pre-recorded message to fellow firefighters.
“Let’s say a firefighter gets hit in the head and gets knocked unconscious. If the radio has an accelerometer or a tilt switch, it can key the radio and send an emergency ID. But that’s all you know. You know the firefighter is in trouble, but you don’t know where in the 10-story building he is,” said Michael Soulliard, vice president of sales and marketing. “So rather than splitting up your efforts to find the firefighter over 10 floors, you can concentrate the search.”
Midian also introduced the SVR-1 vehicular repeater, which records and retransmits voice calls when coverage is lost, Soulliard said. For example, a police who has left his vehicle to enter a building or to walk down a ravine likely would lose contact with the tower at some point. All the officer has to do is hit a button before leaving the vehicle, and the repeater will record the transmission and then retransmit the call to the tower — so dispatch can hear it — should the office’s portable radio lose contact.
The vehicular repeater also is designed to extend coverage, which will become more important as the narrowbanding migration ensues, Soulliard said. The FCC has mandated that radios be capable of operating in 12.5 kHz-wide channels by Jan. 1, 2013 — from the current 25 kHz-wide channels — and has made it clear that the end game is 6.25 kHz-wide channels. Though the FCC has yet to set a deadline for the second phase, 6.25 kHz radios already are on the market.
“You don’t get as good range with the 6.25 kHz radios,” he said. “So, if you walk into a building, you’re not talking to anyone with your portable. But you can, most likely, talk to your vehicle.”
While other vehicular repeaters on the market perform similar functions, they cost in the neighborhood of $1,000, while the SVR-1 costs about $150, Soulliard said.
Finally, Midian showcased the IS-1, which Soulliard described as an “extremely simple-to-use” interoperability switch. “It’s a two-port device, and we have pre-made cables for many different radios. It’s just a simple matter of plugging in the pre-made cables, and you’re done.”
The device also can be used as a vehicular repeater in certain circumstances. “It has a 9V battery compartment. So the switch is self-sufficient with its own power and the portables are self-sufficient with their own power. All you have to do then is connect the switch to the side ports on the portables, and now you’ve got a temporary repeater for search and rescue,” Soulliard said.
The interoperability switch — which can be enabled and disabled remotely — costs $320, a fraction of what other interoperability switches on the market cost, Soulliard said.
Freelinc showcased its Freemotion 100, a lightweight — only 15.8 grams— wireless headset, that communicates using near-field magnetic induction, which is less prone to dropped signals and audio quality degradation compared with Bluetooth, and which also is more secure because it creates a personal area network around the user that makes it virtually impossible for the device’s signals to be intercepted, according to the company. It comes with a variety of comfortable ear buds and ear hooks — ideal for extended-duty assignments — and provides easy-access volume and push-to-talk buttons on the headset itself. The device has its own on-off switch, so it can be charged and then stored on a shelf for up to a year in the “off” position and still retain its full charge — which provides 20 hours of continuous use, the company said. It is targeted to the surveillance sector, e.g., plain-clothes detectives, border-patrol agents, vice squads and U.S. marshals.
PowerTrunk announced that it has received FCC and Industry Canada type acceptance for its TETRA 0.2 mobile and portable digital radios. The radio uses an emissions mask that is different than what is used for TETRA radios in other parts of the world, which is important, said Steve Smith, the company’s sales director.
“TETRA uses an emissions mask of 0.35, which takes you just a hair outside the channel guard for the FCC’s Part 90 rules,” Smith said. “By reducing the emissions mask to 0.2, it is the equivalent of reducing the volume on your stereo from 10 to 9 — almost transparent to the end user — but it makes this radio complaint with the commission’s rules. If you’re an audio file, you might be able to tell the difference, but the standard user won’t.”
PowerTrunk believes the utility sector is a prime candidate for its TETRA radios, because that platform has better data transmission capability compared to Project 25 radios, which means it will better integrate with the remote monitoring and control systems used that sector, particularly SCADA.