British APCO 2012 review

British APCO 2012 made its debut in its new location at Manchester Central. The show included a free exhibition of products and applications, a new format of sessions and debates focusing on key issues facing the industry, and a series of breakout forums. James Atkinson reports

British APCO 2012 review

Much of the discussion at this year’s British APCO focused on new and future technology and what opportunities and challenges that will bring for public safety communications. Former Metropolitan Police and Motorola Solutions’ public safety specialist Peter Goulding kicked off proceedings with a discussion on how new next generation technology will affect command and control for mission-critical users. Naturally, the opportunities presented by LTE broadband technology loomed large.

The US is already one step ahead, rolling out a public safety LTE overlay on top of its P25 first responder network. Robert LeGrande, president and CEO, The Digital Decision, LLC, told delegates how Washington, DC, is deploying the US’s first wireless public safety 700MHz broadband network.

In the afternoon, Airwave CTO Euros Evans presented his view on the evolution of future public safety technology, which he saw as being an LTE solution, albeit one that would need considerable changes to provide the kind of functionality a TETRA network brings.

Tuesday’s session was opened by three senior partners from Mason, Duncan Swann, Nils Lofmark and Janette Stewart, who analysed where ICT is leading us socially and professionally and what that might mean for the PPDR community. Two late morning sessions saw a case study from Aberdeen City Council on how software solutions helped mobilise its workforce to save £1.5m, while Robert LeGrande returned to discuss how a private-dedicated public sector LTE can work with public carrier LTE networks.

In the final session a number of senior emergency service personnel looked at the role of social media in last summer’s riots and how this potential new threat might be tackled in the future. British APCO executive director Tony Antoniou said: ‘The British APCO 2012 Annual Exhibition and Development Sessions was a success and a huge step forward in its evolution as the must-attend event for public safety communications professionals. Attendees, exhibitors and contributors alike told me how they enjoyed the buzz that was felt throughout the exhibition and in the many, varied development sessions.

‘Our objectives as providers of knowledge exchange and thought leadership were evident, and, as you’d imagine, we’re working on yet further growth in the sessions that were an integral part of the overall event. We’ll continue to focus on learning, training, accreditation, growth, exposure to new and parallel technologies, round tables, and debates.

‘We’ll develop our leverage of being part of the global APCO family, providing insight into parallel activities and learning from other parts of Europe, the US and worldwide. I had such pleasure introducing eminent contributors from new sources. I should mention that we had jointly run a number of events which consisted of multi-date sessions culminating in a final session at the British APCO 2012 event. Valued partners, including TCCA, Wireless, Motorola, Finmeccanica and others, will be encouraged to build more of these programmes with us, which I feel bring great value to our members.

‘Even as we dust ourselves off from this success, we’re now working on our plans for 2013, integrating valued feedback and welcome encouragement from our community. If you agree that this year’s event in Manchester was a great leap forward, you’ll understand my excitement as we build our follow-on event for 2013.'

Hytera unveils TETRA covert radio and ATEX prototypes

Chinese radio manufacturer Hytera had a larger presence at British APCO this year following its acquisition of Rohde & Schwarz’s PMR division. The company was keen to market its newly acquired range of products.

On display was Rohde & Schwarz’s small base station system, a two-carrier TETRA base station that can be enhanced to make it a four-carrier system. Marketing manager Jim Luo said that the base station is designed as a plug in and play system, which is self-configuring. Being IP-based, users can connect to the internet and carry out remote monitoring and management of the base station.

Hytera has a larger TETRA base station for bigger networks and recently won a public safety contract in Lima and one other Peruvian city, which will feature the base station.

The company unveiled its DMR X1 covert radio last year, but it was joined by a TETRA version at the exhibition that will be available later this year, according to Luo.

Hytera also had prototypes of two ATEX radios on display, one DMR (in a blue casing) and one TETRA (in red). The Hytera website describes the DMR terminal as the world’s First IIC intrinsically safe digital portable radio that comes with IP67 protection. The DMR version should be available in the UK in June or July, while the TETRA model (pictured right) may be ready by the end of the year.

Brother lines up mobile printer portfolio for police and enterprises

A lot of R&D is going into finding ways to allow police to stay on the street for longer and cut the amount of office-based paperwork. And if police or ticket inspectors are going to issue receipts, warnings or fines on the street, they need a mobile printer.

UK-based firm Brother’s MW-140BT is a handheld mobile printer used by London Transport Police, the Metropolitan Police and Lothian and Borders Police. It is robust and small enough to be built into the fibre of the police jacket. The only moving part is the paper roller for the A6 size paper. It connects via Bluetooth to a PDA, allowing the police to print out receipts after a ‘stop and search’ or to issue a fine.

Brother also produces the larger MW-260 mobile printer for A7 paper.

Meanwhile, the PJ-663 is an A4 thermal mobile printer (26cm wide and 473g) capable of being both roll feed and single sheet. This is aimed at sales/service and logistics companies, as well as public safety and emergency service staff. It can be carried in a vehicle or in a case. It has Bluetooth and USB connections so it can link to PDAs, smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Nick Gosden, head of category, solutions and MPS, said: ‘It allows mobile staff to obtain a signature on a PDA or tablet, then print off a receipt and invoice straight away. If the tablet has GPS, it can log when and where it was signed, thereby providing proof of delivery.’

Brother’s other mobile printer offerings include the RJ-4030 (USB, serial and Bluetooth) and RJ-4040 (USB, serial and wireless), ruggedised printers that let field-based workers print four-inch sized high-quality documents. The printers have undergone IP54 6-inch drop tests and weigh just 850g. The products are due in May 2012.

Terma demonstrates dynamic radio dispatch system

Danish firm Terma was demonstrating its T.react Radio Dispatch system for handling TETRA voice communications for mission-critical command and control centres. The system is in use with Danish police and ambulance forces, where it is integrated into Motorola Solutions’ infrastructure.

The company also has a contract, awarded last summer, for a fully integrated police, fire and ambulance network in Finland using Cassidian infrastructure.

The T.react Radio Dispatch is designed to provide seamless integration between radio, computer and telephone dispatch. The system comes with full voice logs, including time, date, channel and who called who. All calls can be played back and are transferred to a storage server for easy retrieval if required.

Each call group is assigned its own folder. Tim P.A. Nielsen, system engineer, product management with Terma, said: ‘In one area of Denmark each ambulance is a designated call group, so with 140 ambulances, four operators can be required at peak times with each responsible for 35 ambulances/call groups.’

Nielsen explained that one of the system’s key functions is that controllers can reassign a terminal from one talk group to another with the click of the mouse. ‘If there is an emerging need to move people around in response to a situation, it allows you to optimise your resources on the ground,’ he said.

‘It is very dynamic in terms of what the controller can do to provide smarter utilisation of talk groups during a crisis.’

Operators can also patch together up to three different talk groups, or even create a multi-group whereby every terminal can hear the dispatcher talk, but when a user speaks, only his talk group will hear him. Terma has also introduced a more sophisticated error messaging system, which provides a visual read out to define where the particular error is in the system. The administration for the T.react system is web-based, so it is easy to install software upgrades to a customer’s network.

Handheld displays it ruggedised PDA, tablet and laptop range

Sweden’s Handheld had a range of its rugged computers on show at British APCO, including the Algiz 7 tablet (pictured right), which features a seven-inch screen and has been on the market for a year now. The device is designed for those that want a larger display than a handheld, but need something more portable than a laptop.

The tablet is powered by an Intel Atom 1.6GHz processor and comes with 64GB SSD and 2GB of DDR2 RAM. It is IP65 certified and meets MIL-STD 810G military standards for withstanding humidity, vibration, drops and extreme temperatures.

The device features a solid state drive and maximum sunlight display capability. It also features three USB ports, a network port and a serial port. Two of the ports are fully sealed so it can be used with the flaps open in the field, but the internal electrics are protected. It also has a docking system in the bottom for in-vehicle docking. Connectivity is provided via integrated GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 3G (GSM/UMTS/EVDO). The list price for the Algiz 7 is £1,700 (£200 less for the non-3G version).

The Algiz 7 weighs just 1.1kg and can be easily carried in one hand using a strap. It has a built-in two-megapixel camera with LED light. It also has hot swappable 2600mAh dual batteries so users can change batteries without shutting down. Each battery lasts for about three hours.

Handheld UK & Ireland MD Dave Cawsey said: ‘You can install extended batteries, which will give you eight to 10 hours of battery life. Or, you can take an external battery charger with you and an extra two batteries to extend use in the field.’

Also on display was the Algiz XRW ultra rugged notebook, which comes with a 10.1-inch screen, a 2GHz Intel Atom processor and the same RAM capacity as the Algiz 7. Like its tablet stablemate it is IP65 and MIL-STD 810G rated and comes with GPS, Bluetooth, 802.11b/g/n WLAN, while an optional modem provides GSM/UMTS/EVDO data transmission.

Handheld was also displaying the Nautiz X3, X5 and X7 PDAs. The X3 is used by Anglian Water, especially for its 1D laser barcode scanner (a 2D imager is optional), which field staff use for reading sensors. The X5 features an integrated RFID reader, which is designed for ticket ID and validation on transport systems. The Dutch railways have 10,000 X5s in use, while Czech, Swedish and Canadian railways also use it. The powerful X7 (pictured left) includes GPS, a compass, altimeter, G-sensor/accelerometer, a three-megapixel camera and integrated 3G cellular capability, along with Bluetooth and WLAN. It is also IP67 rated.

Frequency – more than just protective cases

Frequency is best known as the master European distributor for Case-Mate, which manufactures protective cases for mobile phones. It provides different tiers of protection ranging from silicon rubber skins to fully ruggedised protective cases.

The company deals with 50% of the UK’s police forces but supplies a great deal more than cases. Its other products include mobile phone mains chargers, in-car chargers and Bluetooth accessories.

Its in-vehicle Bluetooth connector looks for devices to connect to and will turn itself off when the car door is closed, re-activating itself when wind pressure sensors alert it to a door being opened.

Other specialised equipment includes the Cel-Fi RS2 3G signal booster box. This requires your phone to have one bar of signal, which it can then boost to five bars.

The wireless, plug-and-play 3G signal booster can be wall-mounted or free standing and continually seeks out the best available signal in an area up to 13,000 square feet.

Another useful device for police or others who have to be in the field longer than their mobile phone battery life is a mobile charger.

It plugs into the bottom of the phone via a Micro USB slot and will charge the battery from empty to full and then again to half full. If you have two chargers in the field, one of them can be taken away by someone else for recharging as you switch to the other one.

Frequency has just won a contract from a company servicing National Grid pylons. The current system requires five personnel to check each pylon before a repair team is sent in to do the actual work.

Tony Cossington, corporate projects manager, explained the Frequency solution. ‘We now issue one person with an iPad. He climbs the pylon via a fixed route, checking everything and rating its status from 1-6. If it is below 3, he photographs it, so the repair crew know what it is, and where and what needs doing to bring it up to scratch. It is estimated that there will be salary savings of £1.2m generated by not having to send a team of five.’

After Frequency heard some police forces were considering buying headcams at £5,000 a piece, it came up with a solution for around £60 in the shape of a BlackBerry 9900 mobile phone with a 64GB memory card. A case has been devised that slots into a pocket in the officer’s jacket. The officer simply switches on the camera and walks forward.

Procom extends antenna range with body worn TETRA portable

Procom was displaying the prototype of what it calls a body worn TETRA portable connector – essentially a much longer, thinner and more flexible antenna that can be screwed on in place of conventional antennas.

The move was prompted by complaints from users who have belt attached radios and found the hard, short antennas uncomfortable as they keep jabbing the body.

Due to its length, the antenna has a better radiation pattern and provides better performance. Procom was also displaying its new PCPI DP TETRA indoor/outdoor patch antenna for mounting on walls or ceilings.

Arqiva shows off mobile data solution for police

Arqiva’s stand was mostly devoted to demonstrating its mobile data solution for the police. The solution allows officers to access information on the police national computer (PNC) via a handheld PDA, an in-vehicle mobile data terminal (MDT) or tablet and laptop.

The company’s mobile data solution is already in use with Strathclyde Police and the Metropolitan Police in London, which has it installed in over 2,000 vehicles and 5,000 PDAs.

The solution can be scaled to meet any size of deployment from a few patrol cars to thousands of PDAs. The modular design means new applications can be added at any time. End-to-end encryption is ensured using FIPS 140-2 algorithms over all types of mobile bearer. All data stored on devices is encrypted to a minimum of AES128 bit encryption depending on the particular device.

Arqiva’s mobile communications gateway (MCG) provides the interface between local and national information sources such as the NPC and local command and control centres. Information can be transmitted via 3G, GPRS, the Airwave TETRA network and Wi-Fi.

The MCG is both a communications and integration platform and uses industry standard software, while the in-vehicle MDTs and PDAs run applications on standard Windows environments including Windows XP and Windows Embedded Handheld.

Demonstrating the set up, Arqiva’s Richard Townend said that the mobile data solution was slanted towards urban environments. Arqiva has developed customised solutions for everyday police work, including access to the PNC and voter registration lists to check records and addresses. It has also developed electronic templates that can be filled in on the spot, such as ‘stop and search’ receipts or vehicle check forms, which require officers to fill in the reason for checking, location, vehicle details, address of the owner and any details on the driver.

Other electronic templates include fixed penalty notices (FPNs) which can be filled in on the MDTs and PDAs and issued on the spot, along with collision/accident report books (CARBs), which allow the officer to fill in details of the accident, along with the ability to add a sketch illustrating how it happened, as well as photographs from the scene. All of which can turned into a PDF report and transmitted back to the station by the officer in the field.

Users can also access email and work calendars and daily briefing bulletins issued by their police force, all without having to return to the station.

One stop gazetteer for councils and emergency services from GGP Systems

London-based GGP Systems was demonstrating its gazetteer management and spatial intelligence solutions for the emergency services and local authorities.

GGP Response uses the National Land and Property Gazetteer (NLPG), which is the base dataset in its GGP NGz solution, and combines it with the GGP GIS and a suite of fully integrated desktop and web based applications to provide the most up to date information on addresses for both property and non-property (such as car parks).

The aim is to ensure that emergency services responding to an incident navigate to the right address as fast as possible. The inability to quickly identify a location or verify risk information can be vital, so dealing with different data sets can be confusing and delay response times.

Enda Maguire, principal technical sales consultant at GGP Systems, said: ‘What we offer is a single source of information by pooling as many data sets of addresses into one.’

GGP consolidates as many relevant address datasets as possible and encourages data sharing between different authorities. A key part of the solution is getting feedback from users either in the field or in organisations on inaccurate information or adding in new addresses as new homes and buildings are completed.

‘It’s a kind of self-service system,’ explained Maguire. ‘GeoPlace is a hub for a core set of addresses in England and Wales, while Forth Valley covers Scotland, but they can’t process the data. We are specialists that can process the data and input a daily or weekly feed automatically – a process which used to be imported manually.

‘We get new intelligence from local authorities and feed it into GeoPlace and then pass it on to the emergency services and other customers. In turn, they have a feedback mechanism and can enter address data themselves, so it is a two-way process to make the gazetteer as accurate as possible.’

LMR Systems showcases in-vehicle repeaters for emergency services

A new visitor to the British APCO show was California-based LMR Systems, which operates under the Pyramid Communications brand in the US. The company provides vehicular repeaters to boost radio signals for first responders.

LMR’s Chris Hoskins said: ‘When you are in a vehicle with a 25-100w radio it is not hard to get a signal. But once you are out of the vehicle using a 2w handheld radio and you go into a building, you may have difficulty getting a signal and that can be a real liability, as it may put the officer’s life in danger if he can’t call for backup.’

The company has developed a range of repeaters with the SVR 200 single-channel synthesised vehicular repeater, the standard for first responders. The repeaters are also used in fire boats to boost signals offshore.

Motorola Solutions was impressed enough to add it to its product catalogues for P25 equipment. The SVR 252 is full duplex repeater working in VHF/UHF/700/800/900MHz bands with an optional P25 variant. LMR’s latest generation repeaters are the SVR 250 and SVR P250 P25 variants, which offer 20 channels.

Hoskins told Wireless that a DMR version is nearly ready and the company is working on a TETRA model, adding: ‘Our goal is to set up international dealerships around the globe. I’d like 500 dealers and distributors worldwide.’

APD Communications shows how changing driver behaviour reduces costs

APD Communications chose to launch its ARTEMIS resource and information management system at the show.

For the police, the new ARTEMIS portfolio of modules is designed to work with both vehicles and foot patrols. APD is using the latest version of its in-vehicle data and communications tracking unit, INCA 2, which provides IP-based, real-time two-way data communications between the vehicle and the command centre.

INCA 2 uses standard connections (USB, RJ45 Ethernet and RS232 serial), so customers can deploy applications using off-the-shelf or bespoke hardware and software. It supports a wide range of networks including GPRS, 3G, TETRA, Paknet and Wi-Fi, which means it is future-proofed for new technology.

INCA 2 now also has an interface with the vehicle CANbus, which means fleet managers can access vehicle diagnostics and monitor emissions. APD sales and marketing director Jonathan Hamill said: ‘What the CANbus interface allows you to do is to monitor and measure driver behaviour using accelerators and gyroscopes. You can programme in parameters for accelerating, breaking and corners and then measure driver behaviour.’

This part of ARTEMIS was developed around the ACPO ITS Working Group and the One Box Consortium requirements, which are designed to create an offering to reduce costs and drive efficiently through analysing driver behaviour and vehicle usage information.

Drivers log on to a display unit in the vehicle using an iButton key (or by swiping a warrant card). If the driver stays within the set parameters the light stays green, but it turns to amber if he starts to exceed them and red when he passes them.

The system was trialled at a race track with the participants asked to drive normally, after which their fuel consumption was measured. When they subsequently drove with the light system switched on there was a 40% difference in fuel consumption, as drivers altered their behaviour when the light went red.

Real life savings are more likely to be between 5-10%, but with thousands of litres of fuel used each year, the savings per vehicle for the police are likely to be considerable.

The INCA 2 and CANbus information can also be used to measure the speed and G-force if a police car is in a collision, while the GPS tracking information can verify a police driver’s statement as to what he was doing when the crash happened. This will greatly aid the authentification of driver testaments in collision investigations.

Another aspect of ARTEMIS is being used by Wiltshire Police to better understand the deployment of beat officers. The force wanted to know how long officers were on the beat or in the office and how long they stayed within their designated beat area when they were out of the office. Using geo-filtering to pre-define geographical ‘beat areas’ and the GPS location information automatically transmitted from officers’ radios, the police are able to map the movements of their foot patrols.

By doing so, command can work out whether it is deploying enough officers in the right areas at the right time, enabling them to optimise their resources at a time when budgets are under considerable pressure.

PageOne keeps emergency services in contact with off-duty and field staff with two-way pager

Paging off-duty and field staff has come back into fashion in the emergency sector, as it provides the most reliable way of contacting personnel. PageOne’s two-way pager is predominantly aimed at the fire service, where it provides an ideal way to contact retained firefighters.

The pagers are now MTPAS-enabled (Mobile Telecommunication Privileged Access Scheme) for all Category 1 and 2 responders.

‘The beauty of our pager is that the sender can tell the message has been received,’ said Nick Smith, area sales manager. ‘If there is an incident and more crew are needed, the dispatcher can page off-duty firefighters. The firefighters can choose from a number of pre-set responses, such as ‘unable to attend’ or ‘on the way’.’

The pager system is integrated with command and control equipment, so dispatchers can see exactly who is available and who is not as the replies come in. Integrated GPS means command can locate the device, which also comes with an emergency SOS alert button for lone workers. The alert is displayed on-screen with an audible alert and a map showing the person’s location. Messages are sent out through PageOne’s private paging network, while replies are sent back using either a GSM SIM card or via GPRS. The pager has a rechargeable battery, which will last up to a week depending on the number of messages and the frequency of the GPS setting.

Smith explained that the next step is a dual-frequency device: ‘If a message generated from a local system is out of range of the pager, then the message will be delivered through a wide area system.’

The device is ready to go, but PageOne is looking for an organisation to trial it to gauge demand.

Covert radio accessories from Savox

Savox was showcasing various wireless PTT versions of its covert accessories range. ‘Covert kit comes in tiers now depending on just how ‘covert’ you want to be and how much you want to pay,’ says Brian Edwards, UK regional sales manager, radio comms.

The covert system can be built with either an inductive neckloop inductor, brooch microphone inductor, flexible inductor or an interference free loop system usable with covert earpieces. The system can also use a wireless covert car key fob PTT or Picatinny mounted wireless PTT for firearms/SWAT applications.

The car key fob has two buttons: one button is for voice transmission and the other is a tone generator, whereby the handler can ask questions as the operative nears the target. If the operative is no longer in a position to talk he can use the tone generator to indicate yes or no to questions he is being asked. In the works are volume adjustment and talk-group change functions.

Savox also has two- and three-wire kits in its portfolio. The two-wire kit is aimed at door stewards and private security personnel and uses the same replaceable earpieces as a one-wire kit. The second cable is fitted with a combined microphone/PTT unit and cuff/lapel clip. The three-wire kit has one wire connected to the earpiece, one to a discreet microphone and clothing clip and the third to a covert PTT unit. Pictured above: a wireless earpiece with a 5p coin.

Written by Wireless magazine
Wireless magazine

Leave a Comment