Every day there seems to be a new invention or upgrade in the area of wireless communications for law enforcement. New and better ways to talk to other officers, talk to dispatch, or get information without talking to dispatch. There's lots of equipment and software out there. How do you make sense of it all?

Well, here are a few of the wireless ways to keep everyone communicating. When you're out on patrol, you don't want to get your wires crossed, so to speak. So hey, what better answer than wireless communications?

Now you can go beyond simple person-to-person communication and make sure everyone in the agency and beyond is aware of what's going on where and who's involved.

Two-Way Radios

These oldies but goodies are still around for a reason: they work. The newer versions are even more user friendly and have lots of cool features to make them even better.

Global2-Way offers the professional portable series of durable and flexible two-way radios in separate versions to cover different frequency ranges. They're also available with or without a keypad.

This series of radios is military-standard rugged, yet compact and lightweight. A large LCD pad and large backlit keypad make operation easy, even when you're in the dark and only have one hand free.

With 256 memory channels and programmable keys, the radio can be customized to fit your needs on the job or even your particular tactical situation. It's a lot more than a walkie-talkie. But when you want to use it that way, it can be encrypted for private conversations. It also has a Man Down feature.

When you want to use more than just voice to communicate, you can send messages with Motorola's Premier 2Way pager software. In fact, you can send messages to other 2Way and Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) users as well as Premier MDC mobile data software laptop users. You can also use the Premier 2Way as a pager when you want someone to respond right now.

And of course, the Premier 2Way gives you access to local, state, and federal databases so you don't have to bug dispatch for information.

With all these features allowing you to communicate with databases and others, security to keep people out is important. The radio requires you to enter your logon ID, a password, and unit ID before it will communicate with the Premier MDC message switch, giving you access to confidential information. In addition, an automatic logoff feature disconnects users from the message switch after a set period of inactivity, so you can't inadvertently let anyone else in after you've logged on.

Television Equipment Associates' Davies/Marconi PRR headset and radio is made to eliminate media monitoring. This can be a particular problem for SWAT team communications.

This ruggedized mil-spec radio operates spread spectrum at 2.4GHz and has 256 channels and an operating range of 500 meters. It can even transmit through up to three floors in urban terrain.

The included boom arm headset with full peripheral hearing has a noise canceling mic with whisper speech. It fits under helmets and will even interface to gas masks. The product includes a wireless press to talk (PTT) switch at 418 MHz, which means easy operation in tough situations.

Radio Extras

If you already have a radio, you still need a microphone. It can be important to keep your hands free for other things. Like maybe a gun.

CeoTronics' BoomMike Earhanger System is comfortable and secure. Its flat compact design helps it fit under tight helmets or headgear. It's lightweight, flexible, and even comes in two sizes. Your ear remains free while using the device so you can hear ambient sounds and the flexible boom mike cancels background noise. The system works with just about any two-way radio as well as cell phones.

Getting the most out of your radios is important to everyone. Citizens need those radios to work as well as possible and not cut out as you're on the way to help them. You want to keep in contact with dispatch and other officers at all times for your safety and the safety of others.

JPS Communications' Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) system enables expansion of radio links across IP networks. In plain English, it connects radios across the room or across the world.

The NXU-2 uses existing network infrastructure to enable flexible radio communications networks. It uses high-speed digital signal processing and network processors to multiplex audio, control, and RS-232 connections over a single Ethernet connection. With the right connections, you can link the unit to virtually any type of LAN, WAN, or the Internet.

The product is completely operational within five seconds of "power on" and it has no moving parts and requires no periodic shutdown or maintenance, so it's not likely to break.[PAGEBREAK]

Lifesaving Software / Hardware

It might seem a bit of an overstatement, but think about it. You need more than a radio these days. Dispatch is great for giving you all the details you need when you're out on patrol. But they have other things to do, like answering 911 calls and directing you and other officers to crime scenes.
Running a license plate number, while important, is probably not the most pressing item on a dispatcher's list of things to do.

So to keep those ever-important phone lines to dispatch clear for the really important stuff, there's a vast array of solutions to choose from to get that DMV information and more by going straight to the source; and to do it securely and effectively.

Aether Systems and FieldSoft, Inc., now have an agreement that allows Aether PacketCluster mobile data applications to work with FieldSoft's PDonScene incident command and emergency responder accountability software. Now you'll know right away, no matter where you are, the location of other officers.

And it works no matter what dispatch system is installed. The integration of these two products allows computer-aided dispatch (CAD) information-such as incident location, type, assigned units, and crew members-to be passed through Aether PacketCluster Patrol to PDonScene on the mobile computer. This can tell you not only who is on the scene but the last known locations of all responders so you can react immediately and effectively to an "officer down" radio transmission. This can definitely save lives.

To make sure your time is optimized, you need all the newest applications and upgrades as quickly and easily as possible. Aether Systems' Mobile Automation can reduce the cost of deploying software to mobile government workers and allow immediate access to critical applications and time-sensitive information. This improves systems management, giving you more time to devote to the job at hand. Systemwide software updates and file exchanges can be done remotely, updating the system in every car in the agency without interrupting use of the systems in the field.

Sharing is great, but it's probably best kept within the agency or among the need-to-know crowd. Security is an important issue, especially for SWAT and special ops. Never fear. There's wireless equipment out there to keep department information safe.

Ecutel, Inc.'s Viatores offers an alternative to VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). Both were created to provide information security by preventing hackers from decoding encrypted information. Viatores is not only secure, but allows mobility.

While VPNs only work if a user stays within 100 feet of a single WLAN port, Viatores technology allows roaming from WLAN connection to LANs to wireless phone networks.

In addition, the SafeXcel-241 PCI card is an optional feature that provides cryptography throughput for operations such as Triple-DES encryption, the highest level of encryption the government uses for unclassified documents. It's never been broken.

Open Software Solutions, Inc., (OSSI) offers a Visual Mobile application that, when combined with OSSI's Mobile Computing Terminal (MCT), allows officers to make local, state, and national warrant checks and DMV inquiries from the car, and gives them access to mugshots and records management information. In addition, mapping capabilities and the ability to view the status and locations of other units keeps officers on top of everything. Talk about a mobile office.

OSSI's Mobile Field Reporting software even allows officers to complete their reports and submit them for supervisory review while still on the beat. No more typing up reports after hours at the station. OSSI's wireless capabilities make many mundane but important tasks faster and simpler by putting it all at your fingertips.

Sierra Wireless' MP200 wireless modems can be installed in cars to work in conjunction with laptops and software to give each police vehicle its own, direct wireless connection to the central data system. The modem can solve the problem of overloaded voice dispatch systems, acting as the link between officers and direct access to DMV, personal and property information, and much more.

Sierra's industrial strength wireless modems are rugged enough to withstand hostile environments and offer such features as voice capability, integrated GPS, analog and digital I/O port, onboard UPD PAD, Slip and AT command interfaces, and Windows 95 and NT support.

Wireless technology is something cops use every day. It gets you the information you need when you need it. And you don't even need a modem cable linking your car to the station. Ain't technology grand?

Set Off a FLARE

Dominion's FLARE and FLASH alarm systems for corrections officers use a lightweight device about the size of a cell phone to transmit an RF distress signal when the wearer presses its easy-to-find alarm button. Almost immediately, sensors placed throughout the facility relay signal information to a centrally located computer, and security personnel have the alarm and location information they need to direct quick, accurate responses.

Because both products are specially designed to operate in a concrete and metal environment, building materials, smoke, heavy clothing, or human interference never interrupt their signals. Also, they operate on a licensed frequency in the Public Safety band and are protected from other radio signal interference-now and in the future.

Handheld Data Access

With so much focus on wireless technology created to improve officers' efficiency in the car with radios and mobile data terminals, let's not forget the usefulness of handhelds in accessingimportant data. You can use a handheld for mounted patrol, bike patrol, and walking the beat.

With TriTech's Voyager Query, officers can run in-state or out-of-state plates, check vehicle identification numbers, drivers' licenses, and get alerts within seconds, as well as other pertinent registration information, all on a handheld. With Voyager Query you'll have a better idea of what you're getting into before stepping out of the car or away from your bike.

Investigators can also use Voyager Query to run firearm serial numbers through state and federal databases and quickly receive data on make and model, plus any important alerts.

Voyager Query is protected by individual device security that is controlled by the host server. For added protection, the software is also password-protected by a required user login.

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