Law enforcement agencies will need to upgrade their dispatch system for the advent of the nation's first public safety broadband network regulated by the federal FirstNet panel.
Many first-responder agencies face the dichotomy presented by the challenges of working with aging communications equipment while also seeking to take advantage of the capabilities offered by new technologies, such as extending Land Mobile Radio (LMR) communications to smart devices and enabling interoperability with neighboring first responders. The agencies are also eagerly anticipating the power of FirstNet network.
An IP-based dispatch center presents the best solution on the horizon.
Raytheon has developed one of the nation's first strictly IP-based interoperable dispatch systems supporting smartphones and tablets working with Twisted Pair Solutions, a Seattle-based provider of mission-critical solutions for secure, real-time communication. This next-generation system in San Luis Obispo, Calif., provides first-responder critical communications anywhere, on any device, and on any network.
The new cutting-edge system uses Raytheon's industry-leading interoperability gateway to enable communications with the existing analog simulcast radio system and neighboring radio systems. The solution also incorporates Twisted Pair's Wave Dispatch Communicator, which turns a standards-based PC into a richly-featured communications dispatch console. The Wave Mobile Communicator turns any Android, Apple iOS, BlackBerry, or Windows Mobile smartphone into a multi-channel LMR handset for secure, on-demand push-to-talk (PTT) communication.
The new Raytheon dispatch system was quickly put to the test after being installed in the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department's communications center.
The county was part of a wide-area electricity blackout shortly after the system went live. Undersheriff Tim Olivas would usually use the department's radio communications network during this scenario. However, he happened to be in nearby Santa Barbara County when the blackout occurred.
Under normal conditions, he would not have been able to communicate with any of his personnel on the department's radio network while physically outside the county. But because the county had recently installed the dispatch system, he simply pulled out his smartphone and instantly connected into his department's network.
The success of the system during the blackout was a vivid illustration of the fact that communications had just taken a big leap forward for not only the sheriff's department, but for the California Highway Patrol, and seven neighboring police and fire departments.
The system is also ideal for undercover specialized personnel, because many of these individuals don't routinely carry official police radios. Using their own smartphones to keep in touch with headquarters is a giant safety step in affording them on-the-job protection.