GCN LAB IMPRESSIONS

Multiband radios are put to the NASCAR test

Pilot program in Phoenix continues DHS project to help responders improve communication

This week, the Homeland Security Department began its 30-day pilot test of multiband radio usage for the Phoenix Police Department and Arizona Division of Emergency Management (Greater Phoenix and Yuma County).

One of the reasons they were chosen was because of the huge crowds at the NASCAR races that take place there.

The Phoenix test is one of 14 around the country that began back in July of 2009. Among others, it included a test at the 2010 Winter Olympics involving Blaine, Wash., and Vancouver, B.C.

Local law enforcement and other emergency responders have been issued Harris Corp.’s Unity XG-100 multiband radios and will be using them to increase their ability to collaborate on-site.

Typical radios operate only within a specified frequency, which limits the ability of responders from different organizations to communicate with each other. Multiband radios, as the name implies, can switch between frequencies.
 
With these radios, the various groups should be able to work more efficiently and as a result keep things safer for events like the NASCAR races at Phoenix International Raceway, which also started this week. Ultimately, multiband radios would be used during emergencies and other events.

Since I just finished testing for a review of Google Apps for Government (to appear in GCN in mid-March), the benefits of dynamic collaboration were in the forefront of my mind. When I told Lab Director John Breeden II about the features that allow users of Google Docs to cooperatively edit files, he asked what would happen to a document edited by multiple users simultaneously if they suddenly became petty or were working at cross purposes. Of course, at that point the dream becomes a nightmare, as the common document goes up in a fiery ball of wasted opportunity.

While any collaborative technology has that potential as long as human nature remains human nature, the public safety multiband radio tests have a couple things going for them that would prevent this from happening.

One, members of emergency response groups are highly trained to work together, and this should hold true no matter what means of communication they are using. And two, the goal of this collaboration is to save lives and protect the public, which are just a bit more important than which font to make a document title.

So, we wish the public safety personnel in Phoenix the best of luck in their pilot test and expect this sort of interoperability to be in wider use soon.

And all you NASCAR fans out there, know that you are being protected by this new technology, even if it exists in the background behind all the glitz and gas fumes of a fast-paced race day.

 

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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