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Guest View: Adding digital crime fighting strength

Bharat Bhatia | May 27, 2013
Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) has grown into a very sophisticated, scalable, digital mission critical communication backbone for public safety users, government agencies and large enterprise users.

Mission Critical Design

The first radio in a police car made its debut in 1930. This radio was a Motorola radio and this seemingly small step heralded what was to become a norm in public safety world. Today, it is difficult to imagine a police car or a police motorcycle or even an officer on foot, without a mobile radio. 

The design journey has been remarkable, but it has seldom received the attention it deserves, especially the distinctive intuitive design elements that have perhaps saved many lives over the years.  Designers use investigative studies in High Velocity Human Factors, an area of cognitive research, to develop products for first responders by using immersive techniques and working with the users in crisis situations to study their body movements, usage patterns, reaction times and intuitive communication needs. The resulting innovations are truly distinctive; the innocuous Red button placed at the end of the antenna in a radio has perhaps saved many a police officer's lives by alerting the command and control centre by pushing this button. 

Delivering optimum efficiency and robustness

Private/Public Safety radio networks are built with high redundancies to ensure they are available during emergencies. TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) technology makes the radios spectrally efficient and gives up to 40 percent extra talk time, very critical for those working in remote areas where public cellular networks are not accessible and radio is the only lifeline available. Very often, the safety of communities depends on calls getting through to the public safety agency, command and control centre and field officers. Therefore, certainty of communication is essential.

When disasters or large accidents occur, it is usually the cellular networks that are the first to suffer disruption due to high call traffic. Many of us have experienced connectivity problems using our cellular phones, especially during high demand periods. This is because the network is experiencing very high call traffic and users are imposing varying demands on it, from making a simple call to downloading, sharing videos and other multimedia rich content.

Private radio networks standalone and function within a dedicated spectrum and on a private infrastructure that is purpose-built with high redundancies to ensure robust functioning. This makes them crucial for government and public safety agencies for instantaneous, one-to-many communication. Their scalability lends itself to building city-wide or even country-wide government radio networks, which are now common in several parts of the world. The other advantage vital for government users would be security of information relay, which is enforced through encryption.

The evolution from analogue to digital has accelerated the pace of innovation and exponentially increased capabilities such as integrated voice & data, advanced signaling, improved voice quality, stronger security, voice privacy and spectrum efficiency. TETRA and APCO P25 mission-critical digital trunked radio networks are built to be scalable, resilient and available, support intensive data applications and offer features unique to mission-critical use.


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