DHS streamlines emergency response with open IP conversion device

Emergency response streamlined with IP conversion device

During disasters and emergencies, the combination of primitive vendor-specific networks and joint operations among multiple agencies hamper effective communication for first responders.  To address this issue, the Department of Homeland Security has created a new device it hopes will overcome some of the communications roadblocks.

The Radio Internet Protocol Communications Module (RIC-M) is a low-cost , standalone interface device that connects radio frequency base stations  and other equipment – regardless of manufacturer – over the Internet by converting commonly used protocols to the Voice-over-Internet-Protocol. 

The RIC-M creates an IP bridge by using Ethernet cable to connect a base station to several communication devices in the field.  It can be retrofitted to any system connecting portable radios, base station systems (where dispatchers are generally headquartered) and dispatch consoles.

This interoperability design saves base stations expensive renovations to upgrade their systems, according to DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate, which developed the tool.

The RIC-M supports encrypted and unencrypted digital communications through local networks, in accordance with the Standard P25 Fixed Station Interface Messages and Protocol.         

Having been tested in several federal and state agencies, including Montgomery County, Md., U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the RIC-M’s developers hope it now will begin to see wider deployments. 

DHS developers said that the RIC-M can last between 10 and 20 years making it an extremely attractive solution to previous communications problems.  

 “Instead of having to replace an entire system – which can cost as much as $15,000 – when one component breaks or becomes obsolete, organizations can use any RIC-M compatible product to extend the system’s life for another 10 to 20 years,” said DHS Science and Technology First Responders Group Program Manager Christine Lee.   

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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