Motorola Solutions hosted leading digital radio application experts from across Europe and Africa at the Motorola Radio AppForum 2014 in Brussels last week (23-25 September 2014). This year´s AppForum was exclusively dedicated to the radio developer community.
The conference provided a platform for developers to discuss the latest solutions and application trends, such as the crucial role that highly reliable, secure and encrypted applications play for today’s public safety and industry users of digital radio technology.
Apps for Motorola Solutions’ TETRA and Mototrbo digital radios enable control room operations and dispatch, telemetry or smart metering in utilities, order management and ticketing. Furthermore, they ensure increased security and effectiveness in the health and safety sector.
During the conference, Motorola provided software engineers and technical app developers with leading technological expertise, interface and application programming interface (API) know-how to continuously improve their applications.
With focused track sessions and workshops, application developers gained insight into the Motorola TETRA and MOTOTRBO product portfolio and strategy, as well as the Motorola Solutions Developer Programme.
Networking with Motorola experts and app developers from across Europe and Africa provided an opportunity to discover future-proof development tools and to generate new business opportunities.
IHS predicts PMR growth
Conference attendees also saw a presentation from analyst firm IHS on the recently published “Critical Communications Broadband, Licensed Mobile Radio and DMR” (digital mobile radio) report, providing developers with the latest insight into opportunities to create more targeted applications.
Elizabeth Mead, market analyst, critical communications, IHS Technology, said: ‘The application of TETRA and DMR solutions – such as Mototrbo – is undergoing a significant evolution as users demand even more powerful high-bandwidth solutions.
‘We have analyzed the latest developments and trends from a user perspective and see very interesting opportunities for digital radio applications. By 2018, IHS projects that 53% of users will have migrated to digital technologies. The use of PMR data networks for apps, as opposed to just voice, is projected to grow.
‘Users are increasingly aware of apps that could enhance organisational efficiencies, which will result in a number of critical data apps – such as ‘man down’ and real-time video and CCTV (closed circuit television) – becoming more common in the market over the next three to five years,’ said Mead.
Motorola’s Tim Clark on the changing communications ecosystem
Tim Clark, director, sales channel products & programmes, Europe and Africa at Motorola Solutions, said: ‘Motorola Solutions recognises that the future of digital radio communication relies on the importance of applications that enable users to benefit from data capabilities.
‘Based on our longstanding experience in digital radio solutions, we are able to support developers with best-in-class tools and new opportunities for networking.’
Clark explained that applications are critical in enabling traditional two-radio providers to keep current with the changing communications ecosystem.
‘Digitisation is the key word here,’ he said. ‘With digital PMR you get enhanced audio quality and coverage and value added solutions beyond voice through connection with the IP world.
‘Another factor changing the ecosystem is the fact that Wi-Fi is flooding public spaces everywhere and it provides a much higher band rate, so you can stream video. But it is still an expensive solution for wide area coverage, although it is fine for hotspots. What we have to consider is how to evolve our systems to interact with Wi-Fi going forward,’ said Clark.
He went on to say that a lot of people now carry Bluetooth-enabled devices, so again two-way radio manufacturers have to think about how they interact with them. He added: ‘Smartphones are now everywhere, including in the professional space. Some customers will never want to use a two-way radio, but they might want to use some of its apps (such as beacon systems).
‘Then there is social media, including texting, which is being used a lot more in the professional space as well. Even somewhere like Heathrow Airport, where we have installed a Mototrbo system at Terminal 2, Facebook and Twitter is being used via the two-way radio system to communicate with the airport community,’ said Clark.
He noted that PTT over 2G and 3G cellular has never really taken off, because of the latency issues and group calling problems. But PTT over broadband is a much better quality experience. ‘So, what about a PTT app on a smartphone to enable users to talk to radio users on their teams?’ he asked. ‘Then there is data, which is often more efficient and accurate than voice for some things. How do we bring that in?’
Clark observed that different types of communication solutions are now being integrated more and more and this is bringing new competitors into the ecosystem, including different types of company compared with traditional two-way radio rivals, such as mobile operators like Vodafone. ‘But we should also think of them as potential partners and not just potential rivals,’ advised Clark.
He acknowledged that PMR is seen as ‘old technology’, but pointed out that according to research firm IHS, it is still predicted to grow by a CAGR of 3% between 2013-18.
‘IHS predicts that 55% of the installed two-way radio base by 2018 in Europe will be digital (the fastest digital uptake region globally), while 74% of shipments from vendors will be digital. That means there are still a lot of analogue radios out there, but that should be seen as future churn business,’ said Clark.
The 4Cs of PMR
He went on to say that people may think PMR is old technology, but if that is the case why it is still be used and why is it still growing? In Motorola’s view it comes down to what it calls the 4 Cs of PMR:
• Capacity: users have the capacity available when it is needed and do not have to rely on just what is there from a cellular mobile operator.
• Cost: there is no monthly fee as with commercial carriers.
• Coverage: this can be designed specifically to meet the end user’s need (Heathrow Airport customises its coverage by installing leaky feeders to get down corridors and out to fuel stores and so on).
• Control: a PMR network provides a dedicated task tool that is controlled by the end user, organisation or operator dedicated to that task. This enables quicker responses and faster, more efficient control of network resources.
Clark said: ‘Look at the value PMR brings compared with alternative technology. When St Petersburg was hit by an ice storm a couple of years ago, it took out the power and the GSM network. Unfortunately, the power company had switched to GSM for its communications! It has now switched back to using two-way radio.’
Motorola believes that between its TETRA and Mototrbo DMR products it has a full portfolio able to meet any end user requirement.
Mototrbo and TETRA
Motorola now has a top to bottom portfolio of radios from entry level to high end portable and mobile radio terminals. Motorola will no longer support analogue radios from February 2105. However, it will still range one analogue radio (which can be upgraded via software to digital) and all the digital range can be operated in analogue mode.
It offers a complete system portfolio with IP Site Connect, Linked Capacity Plus and Connect Plus. TETRA solutions include Dimetra IP Micro for small site solutions, Dimetra IP Compact for medium systems and Dimetra IP Scalable for large networked systems.
Clark said that key applications for Mototrbo at the moment include:
• Fleet management (the most popular app); GPS based tracking, text messaging, call dispatch, control room solutions, telemetry, etc
• System management: system analysis, RF strength recording, performance management
• Personnel Security: man down alarm etc
• Monitoring and control: good for telemetry and essential data - turning lights on off on perimeters etc; messaging, remote control, workforce management, data transmission
• Migration Aids.
TETRA supports multi-slot packet data, while TEDS (TETRA Enhanced Data Service can transfer a 10Kb photograph in 1 second, as compared with normal TETRA, which takes about 30 seconds. Norway’s Nodnett TETRA network, which has TEDS base stations, has successfully trialled streaming video, normally considered the reserve of broadband technologies.
Clark revealed that Motorola has over 200 app developers globally for TETRA and Mototrbo. At the moment it has two separate ADPs (application developer programmes) for TETRA and Mototrbo. Depending on where they are in the programme, developers have access to marketing collateral and support, app test facilities at Motorola’s Berlin laboratory and an online portal for SDKs, specs and so on.
The importance of software
Clark emphasised that software is now becoming much more important and that often the company is dealing with customer IT departments rather than RF managers these days.
‘Motorola will do more charging of software features from now on where you select what you need and we charge for it. We have to change the perception that there is no value in the software – this is a big issue and opportunity for app developers too,’ said Clark.
Clark said professional radio users value predictable cost, excellent coverage, tailored system capacity, intimate control of the system and the professional quality of the terminals. Motorola’s task now is to expand these core benefits of two-way radio to a wider audience. The question is how to tailor products and apps to meet specific customer needs?
Mototrbo Anywhere PTT app for smartphones
One response to this is Motorola’s smartphone push-to-talk (PTT) app - Mototrbo Anywhere. Clark revealed this will launch in Europe and Africa later this year – it is already available in the USA. A TETRA version is due in the future.
‘We asked ourselves how do we encapsulate the needs of smartphone users in our two-way radio world? How do we expand the PTT market for those that want PMR apps and advantages, but don’t want to give up their smartphone?’ said Clark.
The answer is Mototrbo Anywhere, which replicates features of a two-way radio on a smartphone. It is not, however, a replacement for two-way radios. Instead, it is an enterprise grade solution that connects mobile device users to Mototrbo radio users.
The aim is to extend the reach of two-way radio systems beyond the coverage of the Mototrbo system, ‘If you are outside the Mototrbo RF bubble you can still connect in via Wi-Fi or a 3G/4G type of cellular network and get the same two-way radio apps using the large PTT button on the smartphone or tablet screen,’ said Clark.
‘It is all about enhancing choice for users who cannot or will not carry a two-way radio. It increases flexibility for businesses with fast-changing needs. Anyone can download the app for free, but you have to be configured on the gateway to gain access to the radios.’
Mototrbo Anywhere provides a gateway between the Mototrbo and cellular networks. The app that runs on smartphone interfaces with the two-way radio system via Motorola’s network applications interface (NAI) in the back of the Mototrbo repeater.
‘The NAI ensures we control the app and who has access to the system,’ explained Clark. ‘Our revenue comes from selling the gateway and licensing access on a per user basis.’
The app is being pitched at hotels and events management where there is a need for third party external suppliers to get temporary access to a customer’s radio system. It is also a useful tool for managers working off site who do not have a radio. Clark added that SIP and IP telephony is also being looked at to develop interfaces with different makes of PBX.
Summing up, Clark said: ‘The implications for us are that we have to start talking IT and we need to bring in IP expertise. In terms of services support, we need to offer a complete package of voice and essential data – both software and hardware. Finally, we need to position PMR in the new communications world, as PMR is part of a wider ecosystem now.’
Motorola application partner profile: Kolibri Systems
Application partners are wide ranging and very different in terms of type of company and product offering. Kolibri Systems from The Netherlands specialises in providing software to integrate numerous types of applications into control rooms.
Bart Cuperus, chief technical officer, Kolibri Systems, said: ‘As a software development company and Motorola-licensed developer and application partner, we provide control room applications such as dispatch and tracking that are especially targeted towards the needs of users in mission-critical operations.
‘Our involvement in the Motorola community enables us to learn about latest trends and developments and benefit from the digital radio expertise of the technology leader in the market.’
Geographically, Kolibri works all over the world (except North America), while types of customer range from: oil companies (Shell in Norway); harbours; public safety (Mexico, Latin America); transport – including airports (it has supplied 40-50 consoles to King Khalid Airport in Saudi Arabia); utilities (it is currently tendering for a big water supply contract in Paris); and event management companies.
Cuperus explained that the company began 30 years ago providing control room solutions for analogue PMR products. It generally worked for Dutch system integrators and the likes of Dutch landline and mobile telecommunications company KPN. These companies rely on smaller companies such as Kolibri for software engineering solutions.
Kolibri first worked with Motorola Solutions on the C2000 TETRA public safety network for The Netherlands providing the necessary interfaces between Motorola’s standard solutions and the customised products the Dutch government wanted for its emergency services control rooms.
Cuperus said: ‘We developed the control room software and middleware interfaces for the Motorola system, which was not geared for such a big network. A lot of engineering work needed to be done there and in the control room too, of course. We then thought, we have developed some interesting new technology here, why not make what we’ve learnt available to others?
‘Now we aim to accommodate 80% of what goes into control rooms, but at the same time to not be specific to any one bearer. You just put in specific gateways to access TETRA or 4G. This means mostly software now, as although you still need specific hardware too, products are much more standardised these days in terms of switches, PCs and so on.’
Cuperus said the key features of Kolibri’s solution are that it is: scalable, configurable, programmable and language independent.
The Kolibri solution can be loaded onto a single laptop or be used for something a large as the C2000 TETRA system with hundreds of control room seats. ‘It works for everything in between. For example, in Rotterdam Harbour the control room has 10 seats. The important thing is that it is independent of specific voice and data carriers,’ said Cuperus.
To do this the system has to be very configurable. ‘Each customer wants specific things and that means you usually end up with a bad outcome in terms of time and money if you try to customise it each time,’ pointed out Cuperus. ‘So, what we provide is a system that is flexible enough to be configured to meet each end user’s needs without having to write new software.’
The system can also be programmed to provide an automatic response to a request.’ This is a distinguishing feature of the Kolibri solution,’ said Cuperus. ‘We can really programme the behaviour of the management system. The solution must be totally independent of language: Dutch is too small a language to expand the product internationally.’ He added that the system is fully IP-based, but notes that is hardly a distinguishing feature any more.
More types of technology integration required
‘We see growth in many sectors where there is a need to involve more sophisticated computer systems and more and more integration internal within organisations and further integration of outside third party applications. No one will ever provide a final control room solution, but our job is to make a sensible connection between other third party products and the control room,’ said Cuperus.
For example, the Kolibri system logs all activity on the network and then integrates that data with other products such as an operator’s billing system. Users have also wanted real time monitoring solutions so they can see immediately if there are problems on the network, rather than just using the data collected later to find out what went wrong. Kolibri is working with Motorola on just such a solution for the C2000 network.
Kolibri is typical of many application developer companies that are happy to join partner programmes such as Motorola’s, but to survive commercially they cannot afford to do so on an exclusive basis. Naturally, this can lead to some tension, as Motorola is keen to protect its intellectual property, while developers need to work with multiple partners to earn a living.
Cuperus said: ‘We do sign NDAs and, of course, we don’t share knowledge of other systems with anyone else. That’s just normal operations and it’s the same thing on big tenders where we might be working with more than one bidder.’