DHS unveils interoperability technology

DHS unit demonstrates new Radio over Wireless Broadband application

The Homeland Security Department and Washington, D.C.'s,
Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) introduced a working
prototype of a new interoperable communication technology, called
Radio Over Wireless-Broadband, at a pilot demonstration on Capitol
Hill yesterday.

The ROW-B technology connects existing wireless radio systems
with computers, smart phones and other devices used by firefighters
and emergency services providers.

The technology uses a new implementation profile known as
Bridging Systems Interface. BSI relies on standard IP/SIP (Session
Initiation Protocol) messaging as a medium to provide voice over IP
access to Land Mobile Radio (LMR) networks. But it also integrates data applications, including real-time location mapping, and the ability to detect the
presence of users on the network and enable location-based group
calls.

The pilot program is being developed jointly by DHS'
Office for Interoperability and Compatibility, the National
Institute of Standards and Technology's Office of Law
Enforcement Standards, the Institute for Telecommunications Sciences (ITS), and a variety of industry partners, including ISCO
International and Raytheon JPS.

"The capability to communicate among radio and broadband
system users will significantly improve emergency response
operations by allowing non-radio users to communicate with response
units in the field," said Dr. David Boyd, director of the
Command, Control and Interoperability division in DHS'
Science and Technology Directorate.

In a demonstration of the technology, ITS representative
Emil Olbrich showed how a voice command, spoken into an LMR
radio, was transmitted to OCTO's servers, routed via the
Internet through a virtual private network to ISCO International servers hosting the BSI technology in
Aurora, Ill., and back to Capitol Hill to a laptop with a wireless broadband card
in about 600 to 800 milliseconds.

In a related demonstration, Olbrich demonstrated how the location of
public safety workers, each with different GIS-enabled phones and
radios, appeared on a computer-generated map depicting the area
surrounding the Capitol building. Using unified communication
technology and the ROW-B interface, it was a simple matter of
clicking selected individuals represented on the map, and creating
a group call almost instantly.

D.C. Deputy Fire Chief Demetrios Vlassopoulos, who represented
OCTO at the demonstration, praised the potential of the system. He
said he is looking forward to testing the system in the field to evaluate how it actually performs. The demonstration pilot will use the
Washington, D.C., Regional Wide Broadband Network, a high speed, 700
MHz wireless broadband network ' currently the only one in the
nation ' that covers 69 square miles of the District.

The ability of wireless carriers to maintain wireless broadband
service during emergencies remains a major concern to officials
like Vlassopoulos. Longer term funding for the project also remains
unclear, he said. But ROW-B's capabilities to facilitate dynamic
talk groups and locate responders in an emergency offer great
appeal, he said.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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