The Interoperability "SWEET" Spot

Interoperability and technology solutions in general have inundated the public safety market. With so many solutions available, there must be some easy method to help guide first responders through the selection process. After reviewing the local...


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Interoperability and technology solutions in general have inundated the public safety market. With so many solutions available, there must be some easy method to help guide first responders through the selection process. After reviewing the local interoperability situation and determining the Interoperability Gap (IG), the next natural step was to find the interoperability “SWEET spot.”

According to Webster’s Online Dictionary, a “sweet spot” is, “The place on a bat, club, racket or paddle where it is most effective to hit a ball.” The goal in this case is to find the most effective way to achieve tactical interoperability.

The acronym “S-W-E-E-T” helps locate the spot and in this case stands for:

While this is not a highly scientific process, it does give credence to a process that facilitates the desired outcome.

In Charlottesville, VA, three main IGs were identified:

  • To interconnect voice via disparate wireless devices
  • To communicate by satellite and establish a tactical wireless network
  • To alert first responders and/or citizens using text messaging and to e-mail or wireless devices

Now let’s review the solutions selected and see how they measure up to the SWEET spot analogy.

Goal No. 1 – To interconnect voice via disparate wireless devices – Selection was the Incident Commanders’ Radio Interface (ICRI), www.radiointeroperability.com.

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The ICRI is used by many public safety agencies and was recently purchased by the Virginia State Police to be deployed in each of its seven statewide divisions. Its simplicity is its true value. Turn it on, connect the wireless device or devices by cable, turn the radios on and you are in operation. The ICRI will also operate on eight AA batteries for 30 hours. It comes in a number of sizes and configurations and can fit in any vehicle. The ICRI can connect to any radio, cell phone, satellite phone, Nextel Direct Connect or other wireless device.

Goal No. 2 – To communicate by satellite, establish a tactical wireless network and enable wireless video. The selection was Edge Access, www.edgeaccess.com.

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The Edge Access Integrated Interoperability Solution (IIS) by my comparisons was the best buy based on the capabilities provided. The system provides 512k download capabilities via the XtremeSat satellite service, standard telephones, wireless printer/fax, wireless video, 802.xx hot spot phones, creates a quarter-mile wireless hotspot and provides many channels of Voice over IP (VoIP) as well as allowing telephony access through the ICRI, which provides the ability to talk to virtually anyone in the world.

To set up Edge Access, turn the unit on, press the setup button and it self deploys the TracStar Systems satellite dish, self locates automatically and establishes the wireless network – all within five minutes. The system comes with a computer server that establishes the wireless hotspot and can be used for other programs such as incident command, hazardous materials reference, GIS applications and much more.

Goal No. 3 – To alert first responders and/or civilians quickly via text messaging to e-mail and other wireless devices. The selection was the Emergency Email Wireless Network (EEWN), www.emergencyemail.org.

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The EEWN is done through a web portal or from a cell phone or Blackberry and is as simple as using Yahoo or other free online e-mail accounts, but it is much more versatile. It can be used from an emergency operations center (EOC), on site at an incident or from anywhere else. Log in, enter your message, select the list and send – within seconds, the message reaches subscribers.

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