This year’s show at London’s Business Design Centre attracted high calibre visitors from as far afield as Australia to discuss and examine the latest wireless communication solutions for public safety and disaster recovery.
‘It’s a bit quieter this year but the people who are here want to be here and are here because they want to do something,’ said Dave Shorland of Capita Security Information Systems. ‘Cost savings and efficiencies are what the markets are after so it’s about how we can help customers meet their budgetary restrictions through our services.’
Simon Orbell, director of Syntech Systems agreed: ‘The focus is on making substantial savings,’ he said. ‘Using Airwave’s network [more] means paying additional traffic charges and organisations have to change their behaviour and balance the whole equation of how to optimise network usage. Most public sector organisations are not looking to spend much but there is room for consultancy to achieve savings.’
Airwave itself was at the event demonstrating solutions to deliver efficiencies in the control centre. Product manager Glyn Boswell explained the company’s Omniguard lone worker solution, which is currently in deployment at Yorkshire Ambulance Service. ‘We developed a solution to enable them to use the platform they’ve already got to support lone worker safety for single crew rapid response vehicles,’ he said.
Omniguard enables the control room to automatically check in with lone workers at pre-determined intervals, raising an alarm if the worker does not press the response button. The fact that the system is automated means control room workers don’t need to manually keep track of lone workers but are alerted immediately in the event of a problem.
Boswell’s colleague Ben Pattison, also a product manager, was demonstrating Airwave’s Insite Forum, a tool developed to ensure that customers to get the best out of Airwave. ‘They can see in real-time how the network is performing,’ he explained.
‘Users can see how busy the network is, how much traffic flow through there is and get information first hand in real-time so they can make tactical decisions accordingly. The key benefit is in gaining an understanding of how you’ve been using the service and whether that’s the most efficient way. Ultimately that may affect your traffic and your charging,’ he said.
Among the announcements made at the show, Solaris Mobile confirmed that it is addressing the calls for additional network capacity for mobile broadband services for the public safety sector by proposing the S-Band spectrum and the provision of an integrated satellite and terrestrial hybrid network as the solution for two-way communications across Europe. To that end, the company has secured the rights to 30MHz of paired, unencumbered 2GHz spectrum in all 27 European Union member states and owns a dedicated S-Band satellite payload.
‘We have the ideal solution to the problem of cross agency and cross border operations with the ability to provide unencumbered spectrum for the deployment of dedicated networks for public protection, safety and disaster recovery situations,’ said Matt Child, CCO of Solaris Mobile.
‘It provides a unique opportunity to co-ordinate and integrate public safety networks across Europe, ensuring greater levels of co-operation and economies of scale, both in terms of provision and terminal design,’ he added.
Generating economies was certainly the theme of this year’s event. Stuart Robinson, director of Specialist Antenna Solutions, was exhibiting a range of antennas and repeaters for TETRA, cellular and GPS networks. Although he sees the LTE opportunity as interesting he thinks it will take some time to merge into the mass market.
‘If you look back to 3G, the licences were sold in 1998-2000 and now 13 years later it is happening,’ he said. ‘There’s momentum from the technology companies but it might take five or six years to emerge and once it does, depending on what frequencies are used, penetration from the network won’t be as good so more base stations will be needed.’
The need to support multiple network technologies was clearly recognised by Panorama Antennas, which was exhibiting its heavy duty multi-function antenna. This includes a 26dB GPS antenna, WLAN and WiMAX antenna elements, GSM and 3G UMTS antenna and a rugged mounting boss for various VHF and UHF whips all in one impact resistant shark fin-style housing.
‘Fleet managers want to reduce the amount of install damage on the vehicle because it affects resale value,’ explained the company’s technical sales and support manager John Thompson. ‘The four function antenna in one mounting hole achieves that aim and effectively futureproofs a police car. In addition, it can be fitted by a single installer that reduces cost further.’
Kevin Booker, manager of international sales at RFI, was demonstrating a range of repeaters. ‘We’ve brought along a re-broadcast repeater which we’re installing at networks where there’s a coverage hole caused by, for example, a mountain,’ he said.
‘We can build a small site at one-fifth of the cost of whole site. In New Zealand, we’ve just completed an installation at a fishing resort between two mountains.
Rolling out a full blown site would be too costly but a repeater can be rolled out. The cost could be as low as 15% or it could be 50% of the cost of a full blown site depending on the architecture.’
Booker sees great opportunities for his repeater technology as operators struggle to meet ubiquitous coverage conditions attached to spectrum licences. RFI was also exhibiting its Antenna Systems Monitor (ASM).
The ASM can measure radio frequency power to air in addition to other radio frequency performance measurements. BAPCO 2011 clearly demonstrated the budgetary constraints public safety organisations are having to contend with and the supplier community is clearly working hard to help its clients do more with less. Perhaps that effort was at the heart of the low attendance level at the show. People are simply working too hard to come to see the technologies of the future.