PMR vendors continue to innovate

PMR vendors continue to innovate Cologne’s PMR Expo 2014 saw most of the established PMR manufacturers demonstrating their latest products and solutions, but it also highlighted potential competition from China, with no less than 11 two-way radio and accessories firms in attendance, as James Atkinson reports

PMR vendors continue to innovate

PMR Expo 2014 attracted a strong line-up of exhibitors, although new product launches were relatively thin on the ground. The exhibition and conference attracted a total of 165 exhibitors and approximately 3,200 attendees.

Sepura was able to introduce its DMR Tier 3 system, which was launched only a month ahead of the show. A new launch was the Sepura Dynamic Controller, which connects GSM and TETRA devices to the company’s range of covert accessories.

Tait Communications also concentrated on demonstrating its DMR Tier 3 solution, along with a range of complementary applications it has developed over the last year. After its move into DMR and dPMR in 2013, Kenwood had a quieter show, largely confining itself to launches aimed at the German market, while Icom did much the same. Aeroflex exhibited under its new owner Cobham’s brand for the first time.

Airbus Defence & Space used the show to introduce its TH9 TETRA hand portable radio. Jukka Saari, TETRA terminal portfolio manager, told Wireless: ‘The real difference is the clearer, louder sound quality. We believe it is the best product on the market for voice. It features 1.8W output power, which means it can transmit further to provide wider coverage.

‘It also features integrated Bluetooth for voice and data and a GNSS positioning chip, which provides faster and more accurate location information, because it can support simultaneous use of two satellite systems such as GPS, Glonass, BeiDou or Galileo,’ said Saari.

The radio has a large QVGA display to show all critical information and visual icons. It comes with two connectors: a side connector for audio and data accessories and a bottom connector for charging, data and programming. The radio is due to start shipping in the first quarter of 2015.

Perhaps the most eye-opening aspect of the show was the presence of no less than 11 Chinese manufacturers (up from five companies in 2013) attending the event: Auctus, Baofeng, BFDX, CXD, Dellking, HQT, Lisheng, Luiton, Puxing, Recent and Wouxu.

Most were offering a range of DMR and dPMR terminals or accessories. It will be interesting to see which of them attempts to follow in Hytera’s footsteps by seriously targeting regions outside of China.

Vertex Standard
Japan’s Vertex Standard (wholly owned by Motorola Solutions) showcased its digital and analogue range of radios at the show. Director of distribution (EMEA), Paul De Carte, says: ‘We have refreshed our analogue products to fill in the gaps left by Motorola Solutions, which will not be supporting its old analogue range after February 2015. We are also refreshing some of the features, which will be available at the end of Q1 2015.’

The Vertex digital DMR range comprises three Tier 2 hand portables: the EVX531, 534 and 539, along with two mobiles radios, the 5200 and 5400 and one repeater station. ‘We are supplying entry-level digital radios with our EVX range with more forthcoming in the future,’ explains De Carte. He reports that sales are going quite well for the digital radios, and surprisingly it is the higher tier radios that are the most popular. The company has also added to its range of languages on the displays to include Chinese, Russian, Turkish and Arabic.

‘In Eastern Europe and Russia, demand tends to come from municipalities,’ says De Carte. ‘We had shipped more than 500,000 units to Russia by October 2014, where we are number two in the market behind Motorola. In Western and Southern Europe we mostly sell to the commercial sector below Motorola’s usual customers: shopping centres, private security firms and the like. In Africa, it’s a little bit of everything, but a lot of private security customers.’

De Carte adds: ‘We go for slightly smaller system capabilities, so we are not competing with Motorola’s Mototrbo range. We can offer a solution that is not so expensive and doesn’t need such a full feature set for those who can’t afford the bigger name brands.’

Hytera showcased a number of new products including its DMR Tier II PD505 portable handset – an IP54 rated entry-level digital two-way radio. The PD565 is the more sophisticated version featuring a small display window with some programmable buttons. It is aimed at facility managers, building managers and the like.

However, Hytera’s newest product is its range of DMR Tier 1 PMR446 unlicensed digital radios – the PD355, PD356 and PD505, which all operate in the UHF band. The PD355 (with integrated antenna) and PD365 (with short external antenna) are compact digital radios aimed at the hotel and hospitality sectors in particular. Accessory connectors are the same as the compact X series, and (the PD500) and can be charged via a micro USB port.

The PD505 takes the traditional larger two-way radio form factor with typical Hytera arrangement of two rotary buttons separated by the antenna. It has no display window. All three radios are IP54 rated and can support use in analogue mode.

XPT digital trunking
Hytera also demonstrated its XPT digital trunking radio solution, which will be commercially available sometime in 2015. XPT is designed to offer a cost-efficient radio system providing more radio capacity than a conventional DMR Tier 2 system, but without the need for a
dedicated control channel. Instead, the mobile radio infrastructure manages the allocation of channels.

This allows customers to access the benefits of a trunked radio system, but without having to invest in a full DMR Tier III solution. It provides them with the ability to support a higher user density, but on a smaller-sized network. Hytera’s PD6, PD7 and X1 series of hand portables can be used with the system, along with the MD785 and MD655 mobile radios. Hytera’s RD985 super repeater and DMR SmartDispatch solution can also be used in conjunction with XPT.

TETRA train radio solution
Hytera’s TETRA solution for train radio comprises the CTZ802H on-board train mobile radio, the GTD801 mobile radio for desk operation in rail stations, dispatcher software and a separate network management system for administering the mobile radio fleet.

Marcus Oltmanns, director of sales support at Hytera Mobilfunk, explains: ‘The CZT802H on-board radio comes with an emergency button and a pre-defined button beside the display unit so the driver can see the station information. The system connects to passenger information systems, train announcement systems and train positioning systems including ATS, GPS, Glonass or beacon solutions.

‘The second part of the system is the GDT801 radio in the stations and railway network operating centre (NOC), which supports different call, data and messaging services, along with local voice recording and a backup dispatcher application if the control room fails,’ says Oltmanns.

The TETRA dispatcher system provides extensive voice and data functions and shows the rail lines and the position of individual trains. ‘The dispatcher has a TETRA radio handset and can call one train, all trains on a particular line, or all trains on the entire rail network. The system is designed to be customisable to meet the needs of individual clients and their legacy systems,’ adds Oltmanns.

DS-6500 dispatcher package
Hytera also showcased its new DS-6500 complete dispatcher package, a plug-and-play solution ready for immediate use that combines all functions for a complete DMR dispatcher solution in one chassis. In the standard version the DS-6500 includes two Hytera radios, but it is also available with one MD785. Up to two additional MD785s can also be connected to the rear of the chassis, expanding capacity up to eight timeslots.

Finally, Hytera also highlighted a number of applications at PMR Expo including one by Karla. Its near field repeater is a dual analogue/DMR-based unit using ORIT technology specially designed for a bus driver who wants to leave the bus, but still needs to be connected. The Karla analogue base station unit extends the DMR signal to an analogue terminal, which the driver can take with them when they leave the bus.

Oltmanns says: ‘We are trying to solve these kinds of problems by working with partners who are closer to customers than we are. Partners bring requests and demands from their customers to us and we try to solve it together. We tend to have different application partners in each country.’ 

Motorola Solutions
Motorola had three key offerings at PMR Expo: the Connected Police Officer concept; the SL1600 Mototrbo hand portable; and the Mototrbo Anywhere push-to-talk app for smartphones.

Connected Police Officer
The Connected Police Officer concept is designed to showcase how the officer in the field can be connected with the control room via the Motorola Solutions Intelligent Data Portal (IDP) to provide more effective policing, while also enhancing officer safety.

The concept aggregates voice communications, video and automatically detected data from a range of sensors (GPS, accelerometers, audio and contact) located on the officer’s person and connected via Bluetooth to collaborating radio and LTE-enabled smart device.

The system understands the state of the user and their environment; enabling it to deliver the right information, at the right time and in the right way, making the wearer’s experience more personalised and appropriate to their needs at the time. The critical data enhances situational awareness for the user, command and control, and fellow responding officers.

Recon smartglasses provide a heads-up display (HUD) triggered by the connected radio, providing simplified icons to indicate: changing of channel and volume; out of range and low battery warnings; covert confirmation of silent emergency; incoming push-to-talk ID; and incoming text messages. Image capture can be activated by the officer or control, with real-time video feed transmitted via Motorola’s LEX755 LTE handheld device.

The inclusion of a ‘smart belt’ with an array of sensors captures actions such as the drawing of the TASER, pepper spray or handgun, transmitting the action and location to the IDP. Working in conjunction with personal biometric health and activity monitoring, an automatic alert in the control room can be initiated if activity shifts beyond normal operational parameters.

Mototrbo SL1600 hand portable radio
The SL1600 is targeted at the retail and hospitality sectors in particular, according to Sean Fitzgerald, solutions marketing manager. ‘Our compact SL4000 radios still use voice as the killer app, but they can carry data and connect to fixed line phones, so they are quite sophisticated. The SL1600 is at the other end of range providing just basic voice functionality.

‘It is designed in particular for those in customer-facing situations, such as boutique shops, but who only require an entry-level radio. The SL1600 is light, half the thickness of a normal radio, and a lot easier to carry and use, but it still has the necessary robustness and IP rating,’ says Fitzgerald.

‘It is targeted at those sorts of people who use radios every day, but who don’t really know the capabilities,’ says Fitzgerald. ‘So we made the user interface simple and intuitive by moving away from two-way radio style control knobs to something more like a smartphone’s controls. The up and down volume control on the side and the easy channel switch.’

The SL1600’s most radical innovation is the energy-conserving, shatterproof Active View display feature – a ‘hidden display’ on the face of the radio. ‘We wanted to provide some level of understanding and control of what is being used on the radio without presenting too much information,’ explains Fitzgerald.

‘We tried to make it familiar to those used to smartphone displays, but users worry about breaking the display glass on radios, so we embedded an LED in the plastic so they can see relevant information. It can display different status information and you can set the brightness, power ratings and get a voice announcement to complement the visual display. It’s all about providing simple efficient radio communications that do not overburden the user,’ says Fitzgerald.

Mototrbo Anywhere push-to-talk app for smartphones
Mototrbo Anywhere technology allows workers to communicate with Mototrbo radio users and talk-groups via an easy-to-use application on their Android or iOS smartphones connecting to the Mototrbo radio network through a wire-line gateway.

This enables organisations to extend their Mototrbo network communications to other mobile broadband devices for improved collaboration and efficiency. With Mototrbo Anywhere, users can deploy the same device to communicate with radio users in the business – on-site or outside the Mototrbo coverage area.

Unlike other push-to-talk applications, Mototrbo Anywhere is integrated into the radio system infrastructure to deliver system scalability and a far more radio-like experience. Users get reliable, highly secure business-critical communications, whether connecting via cellular networks or Wi-Fi.

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