A Guide to Using a Two Way Radio

Guide to using a two way radio

Business

Trends in … hearing protection

Many business and factories are very well aware of their legal obligations when it comes to occupational deafness, and here in the UK we have the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2006. Many of the headsets that are listed on Headsetonline.co.uk are designed exactly for these types of industries, with their experience they are a leader in radio headsets and hearing protection equipment. But as the article below explains the protection has to personalised to everyone, so as to make sure that the individual is catered for and protected adequately. The original source of this article can be found here.

Hearing loss is preventable. Why, then, is it still so common? NIOSH notes that occupational hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States. And according to OSHA, approximately 30 million people in the United States are exposed to hazardous noise on the job.

“Noise-induced hearing loss is generally a gradual and painless process, so many workers don’t consider it a hazard … until it’s too late,” said Katie Mielcarek, marketing manager for Cleveland-based Gateway Safety Inc. Mielcarek went on to say that workers don’t wear hearing protection for many reasons, including discomfort, poor fit and problems with compliance monitoring and trouble inserting earplugs.

Here, industry insiders discuss what’s new and offer advice on hearing protection.

What’s new

“Electronic muffs contain the latest technology designed to protect against environments with impulse noises,” said Eric Moreno, market manager for Cranberry Township, PA-based MSA. “The technology amplifies weak sounds while compressing dangerous noises to a predetermined safe level of 82 dB or lower.” Moreno said this allows face-to-face communication and lets workers hear important sounds, such as warning signals.

Gary Klee, product manager for above-the-neck products at Latham, NY-based Protective Industrial Products Inc., pointed to a “level-dependent system” available with electronic earmuffs. This system has microphones in both ear cups to help limit sounds reproduced through the internal speakers to a safe level, which “allows communication with others while remaining protected against impulsive or hazardous noise,” Klee said.

Advice

Ricardo Allamelou, COO for Miami Lakes, FL-based Cotral Lab Inc., said providing every worker with the exact same type of hearing protection doesn’t make sense. “The protection has to be personalized since overprotection is as dangerous as no protection at all,” he said.

According to Moreno, “Overprotecting can actually increase the danger to a person’s life because this can hinder their ability to hear relevant noises such as warning signals, moving vehicles, other workers, etc.” To reduce the chance of overprotecting, Moreno recommends thoroughly understanding the level of noise in every area of the workplace to determine what level of protection each area needs.

Additionally, be sure your hearing protection is independently, third-party tested to verify noise reduction ratings, Mielcarek said. “This helps communicate quality in an industry where many manufacturers simply mark their products with a standard or a rating, without the testing to back it up.”

Business

Scientists Astounded as Four Legged Fossil Snake Turns up In Museum

A unique species of early cretaceous snake – unique in that it apparently had four functioning limbs – has been discovered in the Bürgermeister Müller Museum in Solnhofen, Germany this month.

The discovery was made by Dr. David Martill of the University of Portsmouth, who was showing a group of students through the museum’s collection when he noticed the specimen’s remarkable attributes.

The snake, which measured about 15 centimetres from nose to tail, is thought to have been a carnivore (a fact borne out by the bones of smaller animals preserved in its stomach) and probably hunted via constriction, like many of today’s snakes. Experts believe that it may even have used its limbs to aid in the process.

Built for burrowing (an activity which likely would not have included its limbs in any significant way), this new discovery lends credence to the scientists who argue for snake evolution occurring on land, as opposed to in the sea.

Fossil snakes with stunted hind limbs are known to palaeontologists – and even today’s boas and pythons have a small pair of spurs where their hind limbs are thought to have once been. However, no snake, extinct or extant, has ever been discovered with four limbs.

Appropriately enough, Dr. Martill named the creature Tetrapodophis, meaning ‘four-legged snake’.

However, some experts are not convinced. In our vibrant, ecologically diverse world, there are a great many species of legless lizards that are not true snakes. European slow worms, for example, are snake-like in aspect, but they are lizards, not snakes. Another example would be the Mexican Bipedidae family, which are serpentine in appearance, but which retain a pair of fully functioning forelimbs.

“Is it even a snake? I honestly don’t think so,” said the University of Alberta’s Dr. Michael Caldwell, an expert in snake evolution, to National Geographic.com’s Ed Yong. According to Caldwell and a growing number of other critics, Tetrapodophis lacks certain distinctive features in the spine and the skull that would label it a snake. The fact that this is the only known specimen in the world and that the skull is only partially preserved will probably see the debate continue until such time as a complete specimen is unearthed.

But Dr. Martill is insistent that his discovery is a snake. Speaking to National Geographic, he pointed out the specimen’s backwards-pointing teeth, single row of belly scales, the connections between the vertebrae and the shortness of the animal’s tail after the hip – all of which suggest snake to the educated observer. Of course, many legless lizards also feature these traits, but none has all of them. This means that even if the animal has been mis-identified, it is still totally unique to science.

Even more mysterious are the origins of the fossil itself, which contains the rather distinctive characteristics indicative of the Crato formation in Brazil. Discounting for a second that this is quite possibly the earliest fossil snake known to have emerged from South America, question marks have been raised regarding how the specimen could have made it to Germany when the trade of such artefacts is illegal under Brazilian law.

Since 1942, it has been illegal for any unlicensed person to dig for fossils in Brazil without first gaining permission from the Brazilian National Department of Mineral Production (DNPM). Last year, a number of people were prosecuted (where they faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison) for the illegal export of Brazilian fossils to museums in Germany and Great Britain. Odds are that Brazilian authorities, as well as the scientific community in general, will be looking into the origins of such an important find with great interest.

Business

Depicting as a method of communication

This is an interesting review of a paid article, depicting which is represent by a drawing, painting, or other art form can be used as a form of communications, the type of depicting is described here in many different forms and that is where we will allow the article to take up the story.

When we think of language, we usually think of words, phrases, and sentences–strings of abstract symbols. In research over the past 50 years, cognitive and social scientists have developed extensive accounts of how people communicate with these symbols. But when people are face to face, they also communicate with actions that depict people, objects, and events. They create these depictions with their hands, arms, head, face, voice, and entire body, sometimes with other props but often without.

In an article recently published Online First in Psychological Review, Herbert Clark argues that spontaneous depictions like these are missing from general accounts of how people communicate, and that is a major failing. Why? Because depicting is common in everyday conversation and depicting things is fundamentally different from describing things. Also, a great many utterances are “composites” of depicting and describing.

Clark’s point is nicely illustrated in a report, from the New Yorker, of Hollywood director WG telling correspondent TF about having to stop filming in New York because of some falcons nesting on the ledge of a building:

“In L.A., they would have–” He leveled a finger at some imaginary nestlings and made a gun-cocking sound.

As Clark notes, WG could easily have described the scene with the phrase “shot those falcons.” What he did instead was depict the scene with his finger, hand, head, eyes, and voice. The result included a depiction (leveling a finger and making a gun-cocking sound) in place of the phrase “shot those falcons.” Traditional accounts are unable to handle composites like this.

What is depicting? In the theory developed in this paper, to depict something is to stage a scene. When WG leveled his finger at the imaginary falcons, he enacted a shooter in L.A. aiming a rifle at some falcons. And he did that so that his listener could imagine the scene vividly. Depicting is much the same as putting on a play in the theater or engaging in make-believe play.

Depicting, according to Clark, is largely complementary to describing. To begin with, many ideas that are impossible to put into words are easy to depict. Tennis coaches don’t describe how to hold a racket or do a backhand return. They demonstrate it, and in living detail. Music teachers often correct their students by playing or singing what the students should have played or sung. And although it takes years for children to tell coherent stories, they have little trouble depicting stories in make-believe play. They readily enact Cookie Monster, Mother, cops and robbers–and play out what they do.

Depicting is also effective for emotion, excitement, and empathy. In telling stories and passing on gossip, people not only describe, but dramatize what the protagonists said and did, often with passion and attitude. And in apologizing, people not only say “Sorry” but add facial gestures that depict their regret.

The idea, then, is that depicting is a method of communication. Without depictions, talk would be flat, lifeless, and sometimes even impossible.

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original source of the article can be found here

Business

Motorola completes £700 million acquisition of UK emergency comms provider Airwave

Motorola has completed its acquisition of Airwave, the former provider of the mobile communications network for UK emergency services.

The acquisition was completed on a debt-free basis with a net cash payment of around £700 million, with a deferred cash payment of £64 million to be made in November 2018.

Motorola expects the acquisition to immediately contribute to non-GAAP earnings and free cash flow.

Airwave is headquartered in Berkshire, England, and employs roughly 600 people. It is owned by a fund of Australia’s Macquarie Group.

In late 2015, Airwave filed a legal challenge to the Home Office after EE became the preferred supplier to provide a 4G network to the UK emergency services. Motorola is the preferred bidder for user services to the emergency services.

Airwave complained about the procurement process and the inability of the cellular network to handle the traffic. Currently these services are provided through Airwave’s own terrestrial trunked radio, or Tetra network, which will cease to be a component of police radios.

The decision to move from Tetra has been criticised by some, including members of the Tetra + Critical Communications Association.

Advocates of moving to 4G cite alleged failures of the network during the 2011 riots.

“The acquisition of Airwave enables us to significantly grow our managed and support services business and reflects our commitment to the public safety users in Great Britain,” said Greg Brown, chairman and CEO of Motorola Solutions.

“The combination of our years of experience as a trusted global leader in mission-critical communications and Airwave’s proven service delivery platform will provide Great Britain with innovative emergency services technology that enhances public safety today and into the future.”

This has been in the news for a while and it is a really smart move by Motorola, they have purchased the company that run all the communications for all the UK’s emergency services (tetra network) and manage all of the infrastructure along with that, so with the up-coming contract renewal and many of the phone companies sniffing around looking to capitalise, Motorola have shored up their position with this acquisition. We found this article here, where you can find a lot more on the story throughout the site.

Business

His Grave Will Be Kept Clean: Ambassador of the Blues, B.B King Passes Away Aged 89

Internationally beloved singer, songwriter and guitar hero Riley B. B.B King passed away last year. He was 89 years old.

King was a celebrated figure in Blues music from the 1950’s onwards and remained popular both in concert and on record until the time of his death.

The future Blues Boy King was born on a cotton plantation in Itta Bene, Mississippi – not far from the Delta, in 1925. He began his musical career by busking on street corners for loose change, usually performing in as many as four neighbouring towns on any given Saturday night. Seeking his fortune, the young man hitchhiked to Memphis, Tennessee, with just his guitar, the clothes on his back and $2.50 to his name.

Whilst in Memphis, Riley stayed with his cousin Bukka (pronounced Booker) White, an established Blues performer who sharpened King’s already formidable musical instincts.

In 1948, B.B performed on Sonny Boy Williamson’s KWEM radio show, which opened the door for him to perform at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis and later to appear on all-black radio station WDIA. This led to King being given a regular slot on the station, beginning with Kings Spot and later evolving to The Sepia Swing Club. It was during this time that Riley’s stage name of Beale Street Blues Boy became shortened to the initials B.B.

During the 1950’s, a fight broke out between two men at one of B.B’s gigs. In the resulting fracas, a kerosene stove was knocked over, which set the place ablaze. B.B, dashed into the inferno to save his favourite guitar – an act that very nearly cost him his life. When he learned that the fight had been over the affections of a woman named Lucille, B.B named his guitar after the woman and, from that day on, all of his guitars bore the name Lucille.

King, now a local radio star as well as a very popular musician in his own right, soon had a number one hit on his hands with Three O’clock Blues, this set the boy from Beale Street touring the United States of America, something he would continue to do for the rest of his life.

Towards the end of the 1960’s, B.B found that his music was transitioning to a young, white audience that were eager to embrace his electric Blues sound. B.B, who had spent his professional life playing almost exclusively to black audiences, suddenly found himself receiving standing ovations and an unprecedented level of respect and appreciation from white audiences, as well.

When he recalled the times changing around him in the 2003 documentary film The Road To Memphis, produced by Martin Scorsese, he was legitimately moved to tears. His music had broken down racial barriers and ultimately won the hearts of people from all races, all walks of life.

When he opened for The Rolling Stones on their 1969 US tour, King’s international stardom was assured. From this point on, B.B King held a new ambition close to his heart; he wanted to be known, nationally and internationally, as the ambassador of the Blues.

In the 1970’s, B.B King was a big enough name to tour internationally, visiting Africa for a series of concerts that were filmed for commercial release as B.B King: Live in Africa. Throughout the next four decades, B.B toured the world, recording live albums in places as far afield as Japan, Great Britain and San Quentin State Prison.

King toured Europe, Australia, New Zealand and even visited the UK from time to time, where this writer was lucky enough to watch the late, great man ply his trade in front of an awestruck and mesmerized audience.

The list of guitarists influenced by B.B’s incendiary sound is a long and impressive one. Names include Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Freddie King, Albert King (neither are related to B.B) and Johnny Winter amongst many, many others. B.B King won at least 9 Grammy awards (among numerous other accolades), was honoured and admired by several American Presidents and touched a great deal of hearts into the bargain.

B.B King recorded 42 studio albums and many more live albums, including critically acclaimed masterpieces like 1965’s Live at the Regal, 1969’s Live & Well, 1970’s Indianola Mississippi Seeds and 2005’s birthday celebration album, simply titled 80.

Earlier this week, a procession of fans, musicians and well-wishers paid tribute to King’s memory. Walking through the streets of Memphis, a Dixieland Jazz band followed a black hearse down Beale Street, as local act The Mighty Souls Brass Band played, When the Saints Go Marching In in honour of a musical legend.

Later in the day, a tribute concert, featuring artists Bobby Rush, The Ghost Town Blues Band and Ruby Taylor amongst others, was held in B.B’s honour.

Upon hearing the news of B.B’s passing, US President Barack Obama sadly said, “the Blues has lost its king and America has lost a legend”.

King’s final studio album, 2008’s One Kind Favor, paid tribute not only to his own illustrious career, but also to an early influence of his, Texas Bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson. On the title track, B.B covered one of Lemon’s best-known songs, See That My Grave is Kept Clean. There really isn’t much else to say about the staggeringly significant life and career of Riley B. King, perhaps better known as The King of the Blues except that his grave will most certainly be kept clean and that his legacy will live on until time immemorial.

Business

Will 2 Way Radios of Different Brands Communicate Together

One question that is frequently asked by people interested in buying two way radios is that can you mix brands of two way radios. To answer this question properly, it is imperative to understand first how the devices work. It should be known that whether you have a small business or a large warehousing facility, UHF band radios never communicate with the VHF band radios. Therefore, if you are looking to buy a radio, make sure to buy additional units of the device of similar bands. In this way be it a UHF band radio or a VHF band radio, if set to the same frequency can work with all brands. However, some considerations have to be put in its place beforehand.

Functionality

Two way radios imply that it can both send as well as receive radio messages. They are transceivers that are battery powered. The radios operate on a half-duplex channel system. This system implies that the radio will be able to transmit a signal on a single channel that can be received on many devices at the same time. Normally these radios are designed to transmit short-range signals. Almost all of the two way radios function on the same principle. They all include a microphone, an antenna, a speaker, and the Push to talk Button. These radios are designed to function on different frequencies.

Frequency types

The general public use frequencies are the Family radio service frequency or the FRS and the general Mobile radio Service frequency or GMRS. Both these frequencies work on a 460 MHz rage. The UHF frequency or the ultra-high frequency is ideal for the two way radios as they can easily penetrate the interference in the form of building and trees. The two way radio with a long UHF antenna will push through the concrete and will do your work efficiently. On the other hand, VHF antennas on the radios are much longer than the ones in the UHF radios. These are ideal to use in the outdoors as they usually can transmit signals over very large distances.

Types of radios

There are normally two types of radios, that are used in businesses and that are used in consumer situations. The consumer radios normally work on the FRS or the GMRS frequencies. Regardless of the number of channels in the radio, the two way radios can be mixed with other brand radios. Only the radios have to be set to the same privacy code, the channel number, and the same frequency. Alternatively, there are several different types of frequency in the business two way radios category. The radios use the UHF, VHF and the 800/900 MHz type frequency. Just by choosing, the radio with the same frequency may not be compatible with the radios of other brands bought beforehand. While buying the radio, the dealer may have programmed a special customized frequency into the radio beforehand. In order for the business, two way radios to work efficiently with the radios of different brands it is essential to completely figure the type of band that the radio uses, the pre-set frequency on the radio from the dealer.

Business

What are the diverse varieties of a Hytera earpiece

Split by a middle screw, the Hytera PD700 series is capable of connecting all Hytera radios from the same series. This includes the PD715, the PD755, the PD705, the PD785 and the PD795 radios. All of these radios bring something different to the table, in addition to Hyteras trademark solutions. These include an ergonomic design and generally good battery life. The PD715 is probably the most reliable of the bunch. It works really well even in a hazardous environment. It also meets all the ATEX and IEC standards.

The PD755 comes with an increased battery life and a partial keypad, as well as voice call capabilities. Compared to the PD755, the PD705 is a slightly less sophisticated design but it comes with a GPS and supports both analog and digital radios. The PD785 meets all DMR standards and has probably the most ergonomic design out of these models. The PD795 comes with all ETSI and DMR standards.

The Hytera PD500 series connects its radios with a 2 pin connector. The dimensions of the two pins are 3.5mm and 2.5mm. There is a securing screw at the back. This connector can link any combination of the Hytera PD500 series radios together. When I say any, I mean the two radios in that series, since the PD500 series only has two designs, the PD505 and the PD565. The PD505 is very light and somewhat surprisingly, it still has excellent range. Its compact housing results in an improved sound quality. Compared to the PD505, the PD565 has more functions and supports both analogue and digital radios.

PD400 and PD600 series

PD400 and PD600 series radios are connected with a 13 pin connector (which connects to another plastic adapter). This particular connector connects to devices both from the PD400 and PD600 series. The list includes the PD605, PD665, PD685, X1P, X1E, PD405 and the PD415 radios. The PD605 comes with a lightweight design and probably one of the best radios of Hytera when it comes to the prize to value ratio. It has a compact housing and like most of the company’s designs, supports both analogue and digital radios.

The PD665 is another high quality handheld device. It has a lightweight metal casing and a full keypad. The programmable keys and the LCD display are surely welcomed additions as well. The PD685 brings very similar traits to the table, the lightweight design and the full keypad can all be found in the PD665. The X1P is different, it’s a lot thinner and its main advantage that it will work even in very hazardous conditions.

The X1E meets all ETSI and DMR standards and probably the smallest design Hytera has. Those who want an entry level radio for a more than affordable price, will probably have to look at the PD405. This radio can go for about 16 hours in digital mode. The PD415 has an integrated RFID reader and is generally recommended for patrolling personnel. Just like the PD405, it can last up to 16 hours.

Business

World Radio Day focuses on role of radio in disaster management

World Radio Day on 13 February brings attention to the role of radio in managing disasters and recovery in their aftermath.

Radio is recognized as a low-cost medium, specifically suited to reach remote communities and is especially effective in reaching people affected by disasters when other means of communication are disrupted. Terrestrial radio broadcasts are effective in providing timely, relevant and practical information to people who are confused and demoralised by the impact of a crisis. Broadcast information is particularly useful in situations where physical access is difficult and aid responders may take several days or weeks to reach affected communities.

Recent natural and man-made disasters are a major cause for concern to the global community. “In times of crisis and emergency, radio can be a lifeline,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “For people in shattered societies, or caught in catastrophe, or desperately seeking news, radio brings lifesaving information. This year, as we start carrying out the Sustainable Development Goals, let us resolve to use radio for human progress. On this World Radio Day, let us resolve to prove that radio saves lives.”

“Radiocommunication is indispensable in saving lives in the event of a natural disaster,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “Collaborating and sharing experiences is critical in order to support national and regional preparedness, and ITU is deeply committed to facilitating rapid and effective response in emergencies.”

“Amidst the ruins and in the face of an emergency, the radio is often the first medium for survival,” says Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. “Its durability is an incomparable advantage, often enabling it to resist shocks and re-transmit messages of protection and prevention to as many people as possible, better and faster than other media, saving lives.”

New developments in radio technology and in the transmission and delivery of radio content, especially through mobile devices and through on-demand media platforms, further extend the means to engage disaster-affected communities. These digital innovations are increasingly important in delivering effective disaster preparedness and prevention, while reinforcing the importance of community radio services.

ITU has developed a number of standards for effective emergency radiocommunications, recognizing that direct communication via radio helps reduce the sense of isolation and helplessness experienced by crisis-affected communities. Recommendation ITU-R BT.1774-2 is the standard that relates to emergency warning systems for analogue broadcasting, which facilitates the use of satellite and terrestrial broadcast infrastructures for public warning, disaster mitigation and relief.

In addition, the 2015 ITU World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) identified spectrum to facilitate mobile broadband communications for robust and reliable mission-critical emergency services in public protection and disaster relief (PPDR), such as police, fire, ambulances and disaster response teams. WRC-15 also reinforced protection to search and rescue beacons to uplink to satellites, such as the Cospas-Sarsat system, which has assisted in rescuing over 37,000 people worldwide since December 2013.

World Radio Day marks the anniversary of the first broadcast by UN Radio in 1946, when it transmitted its first call sign: “This is the United Nations calling the peoples of the world.” Ever since, UN Radio broadcasts have highlighted the principles of the United Nations to foster world peace and development. World Radio Day seeks to raise awareness about the importance of radio, facilitate access to information through radio, and enhance networking among broadcasters.

– See more at: http://www.tetra-applications.com/32088/news/world-radio-day-focuses-on-role-of-radio-in-disaster-management#sthash.WRnylSLy.dpuf

Business

Faulty communications along U.S.-Mexico border are America’s blind spot

We all know that mission critical communications are vital 24 hours a day and as this article shows that even a tiny lapse in communications can lead to chaos. Even the U.S government can’t keep their radio communications up-to-date on one of the most watched borders in the world, as we can see from the article below.

Put yourself in the shoes of a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. You are patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border, driving through desolate terrain, and in the distance, you spot movement. You head toward a deep ravine and step out of your vehicle when a shot rings out and you hear the zip of a bullet speeding past your head. With training and instinct, you dive for cover and draw your weapon, reaching for your handheld radio.

And the radio doesn’t work.

There’s no one to call, because you are in one of the many areas of the southern U.S. border that has no radio coverage. Out there in the ravine is a drug cartel “rip crew,” heavily armed and firing on your position, bullets punching into your vehicle until smoke is rising from the hood. If they come closer, you are outnumbered. If they flee, your vehicle is disabled, and they will disappear into the vast emptiness along the southern border, where they will likely fire on one of your fellow agents, should they encounter them.

That is the state of communications along many of the areas on the U.S.-Mexico border. When the U.S. Border Patrol needs it the most, they cannot communicate with anyone. With rising threats and political propositions, U.S. border security has again risen to the top of the public consciousness. There are calls for more border patrol officers and stronger fencing, for aerial and ground based vehicles and other technology. But the lifeblood of the border security apparatus is communication, and in some areas, communication is not possible.

“If there is one thing in securing America’s borders that hasn’t changed since September 11, 2001, it’s the inability to resolve the communications lapses and gaps along the border,” said Ron Colburn, the former National Deputy Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol. “Here we are almost 15 years into this, and we still have not addressed this problem.”

One reason 343 New York City firefighters died when the World Trade Center buildings collapsed was that their radios could not communicate with the emergency responders outside the buildings, who were warning the structures were about to come down. The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission cited the need to create interoperable tools that allow first responders and law enforcement to communicate in the most unforgiving of environments.

And there are few environments less forgiving than the nearly 2000-miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Recognizing this, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched a massive project to improve the communications capacity of officers along the U.S. border. It failed. In March last year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that $945 million in taxpayer funding used to build radio towers and upgrade radio equipment has yielded little benefit and in some cases does not work as well as what Border Patrol agents were using before. The effort cost too much and was taking too long.

Colburn said that the state of communications today means U.S. Border Patrol cannot call for support in some areas. They cannot feed information from the field into the intelligence food chain, and they cannot receive images from manned or unmanned vehicles to know whether they are walking into an ambush or encountering a group of friendly forces.

Likewise, Border Patrol agents cannot communicate easily with other law enforcement agencies (like a local Sheriff’s office), nor can those law enforcement agencies run on-site biometric checks (e.g., fingerprints) of individuals they suspect may have recently crossed into the United States illegally.

“I see it in the eyes and hear it in the voices of the men and women of the Border Patrol,” said Colburn. “They understand the mission and they want to accomplish it, but they feel like they have been abandoned.”

Answering the Unanswered Question

Most Americans own a smartphone, which is a powerful piece of technology. Experts say it’s hard to understand how, in this age of technological innovation and advancement, the United States is not arming its frontline officers with the very basic capacity to talk to one another.

Part of the challenge is that we have not brought new solutions to this long-standing problem.

To advance the effort, the Border Commerce and Security Council (of which I am Chairman and CEO) helped bring multiple stakeholders to the table in December last year in Cochise County, Arizona, to see if an innovative application of several integrated technologies could solve these communications challenges. It was a Proof of Concept test that included the U.S. Border Patrol, the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office and a group of businesses with tools that can address a range of communications and intelligence challenges. What was tested is called the Field Information Support Tool (FIST).

FIST started in 2006 as basic research at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). NPS Information Sciences Research Associate James Ehlert said in 2010 that the goal was to create “an easy-to-use, inexpensive hand-held solution to achieving communications interoperability and a common physical and human terrain operating picture for both on-the-ground field collectors and tactical decision makers.”

The research question was, how can we use modern technology to allow officers in the field to talk to one another and to their superiors while also collecting and then acting on real-time intelligence?

“The intelligence aspect is that the local and federal law enforcement officers need to look at things from a risk-management perspective,” said Brian Conroy, Business Strategy and Strategic Development Manager at NOVA Corporation, which works with Kestrel Technology Group, the company that has produced the FIST system. “They need to find the high-risk areas [along the border], and if you have a tool that collects data and runs algorithms against it, you can conduct risk assessment and trend analyses. Human intelligence contributes to a holistic common operating picture.”

This is what the FIST system achieves, and it’s what was seen during the proof of concept test. In general terms, FIST uses off-the-shelf communications tools (like an Android device) to gather intelligence from officers on the front lines. With these tools, officers feed information into a larger database compiled from a variety of sources (including other officers) that informs strategic and tactical decision making. This is then passed back to the people working along the border.

The need for this kind of tool is obvious, but it has only been recently that the right technologies and software were put together in a way that makes it possible.

Moving to the Market

Over the last year, there has been a push to transition FIST into the marketplace. Research transition is tough, as DHS has found in many cases over the years. Unlike other agencies and components, such as the military branches, the homeland security and law enforcement marketplace is heavily fragmented and with limited resources. It makes it difficult to take good, workable ideas from prototype to production. As big of a challenge as creating an innovative piece of technology is finding a way to produce it in line with operational and funding realities. A local Sheriff’s office, for example, does not have an endless amount of funding and time to bring in expensive technologies and then train deputies to use them. For that matter, neither does the U.S. Border Patrol.

What’s needed is a simpler, cheaper solution, and based on the proof of concept testing, FIST appears to be that solution.

“It’s ideal for smaller law enforcement agencies because it can unify operations and reporting and scale capability, creating a force multiplier,” said Ivan Cardenas, technical director of the Kestrel Technology Group, which is helping to bring FIST to market. “It is a sophisticated system, but it is easier to use than the complexity suggests.”

There are a few moving parts here. There are applications that allow off-the-shelf technologies to record and report intelligence, such as the location of a breach in the border fence or evidence of people moving through the rugged terrain. There are existing law enforcement and Border Patrol network capabilities (or cloud-based tools) that store that information. The secret sauce, however, is the complex digital architecture that allows real-time control and fusion of multiple information sources in a way that supports the mission. This is the one thing that has been missing from the border communications and intelligence efforts, and it’s why DHS has struggled to address the challenges to this point. The innovation is in the complexity, and FIST makes it simple.

Of course, that complex innovation is for naught if the agents in the field cannot transmit and receive intelligence. Enter SiRRAN Communications, another stakeholder at the proof of concept test in Arizona.

“We often forget that without network access, we’re blind,” said SiRRAN’s Director of Sales Mark Briggs. “Our technology brings that cell network to anywhere that it is needed.”

Briggs describes this technology as a portable, battery powered cell network—a network in a box. It creates a local, closed network that any agent within range can access to communicate and record intelligence. The unit provides local communication in areas where there is no coverage, and if there is no way to access the communications grid, it captures intelligence and transmits it to the larger repository as soon as it finds a signal.

The lesson here is not just that FIST is a workable system to satisfy the mission needs of America’s border security and law enforcement professionals. It’s also that the answer to the communications challenges along the border will not come in the form of $1 billion worth of cell towers built under DHS management. If it were, we would have solved this problem by now. The fact that we have not reveals that the ultimate solution is necessarily complex and multifaceted while also being easy to use and in-line with realistic operating budgets.

Perhaps the most important lesson, however, is that there are real tools that our Border Patrol and law enforcement officers could be using. Right now there are thousands of men and women on the border, and until we give them the tools they need to do their job, it will make border security and the safety of our frontline heroes difficult to sustain.

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