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BLOG: Digitising the humble ‘walkie-talkie’

Andy Chan | July 19, 2012
What are the challenges of moving from analog to digital two-way radios?

Two-way radios are also perfect for high-risk industries and environments. Features such as emergency man-down alarms, GPS tracking and remote communication tools provide a reliable line of communication between the lone worker and administrators at all times, including when they are in danger, under attack or incapacitated.

Making the switch

The benefits of digital two-way radios are significant, and this is driving the migration to digital radios by analog users. However, there still remain several challenges. 

Firstly, the cost of upgrading from analog to digital is a deterrent for many enterprises. Additionally, since two-way radios are often used by task workers, enterprises might not see value in providing their employees with digital radios.

Secondly, there is the question of who is in charge of purchasing, supporting and maintaining the two-way radios in an enterprise. In the past, two-way radios were mainly managed by the security department since they were the main users. This is changing, with many more functions within businesses using two-way radios as productivity and efficiency enablers for mobile task workers.

Today, the cost of maintaining two-way radios is increasingly a part of the IT department's budget. However, some IT teams may not deem two-way radios as an IT resource. Deeper discussions need to take place prior to the shift to a digital platform to ensure all roles and responsibilities are fairly distributed and aligned with the company's objectives.

Despite the challenges, digital promises high returns on investment. The switch to one digital device with integrated voice and data means that there is no need to deploy supporting infrastructure for data transmission. Enterprises enjoy savings with lesser devices to purchase, install and maintain. Unlike mobile phones, there is no recurring monthly fee and no per-call charge, reducing overall operational costs and improving return on investments.

Some digital radios provide the option of analog and digital interoperability, giving users the option to move to digital radios at their own pace and budget. This enables the organisation to maximise the return on investment of legacy systems, control the budget and ease the IT burden associated with transitioning end-users.

Driving the future of radios through applications

The advent of digital has opened up a world of applications for two-way radios. These include productivity and workflow enhancement tools such as dispatch management and GPS tracking as well as solutions to improve safety and security such as pipeline and gateway monitoring. These capabilities were previously unthinkable with the analog radio. 

For example, the Taipei City Fire Department relies on a specific dispatch application on their digital radio to allow the operators at the command centre to dispatch, track via GPS and manage manpower and resources more effectively. The dispatch application also provides multiple windows that can perform several events at the same time. This means that the operators in the command centre can coordinate the efforts of the emergency service teams in multiple disaster scenarios and locations.


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