automated hand held radio testing

DIG IT AWARD FINALIST: Robotics, Automation and UAS

Automated radio testing speeds preventive maintenance

Maintaining the radios that city and public safety workers rely on is critical, but pulling radios out of service is so disruptive that preventive testing doesn’t happen as regularly as it should. Officials at the Los Angeles Information Technology Agency are hoping to change that.

Dig IT Award Finalists

The GCN Dig IT Awards celebrate discovery and innovation in government IT.

There are 36 finalists this year. Each will be profiled in the coming days, and the winners for each category will be announced at the Oct. 13 Dig IT Awards gala.

See the full list of 2016 Dig IT Award Finalists

“Waiting for your brakes to fail before you brought your car in -- that’s the kind of situation that we have with 11,000 police radios, 5,000 fire radios, and we’re not even talking about the radios in the vehicles,” Peter Benjamins, senior communications electrician supervisor at ITA, told GCN.

He called it a “logistics nightmare” to take radios from the people who need them to do their jobs long enough to test and repair the devices.

To speed the process, ITA automated the process for testing and repairing handheld radios. The solution uses a robotic arm with machine vision to place radios into a test cradle, where a communications monitor runs hundreds of tests. Now testing can happen during off-hours to find the 3 percent to 5 percent of radios that need repairs.

Testing will become more complicated as radios become more reliant on software, Benjamins said. It can taken 200 or even 300 steps with newer models. ”That’s what's driving us to automate it,” he added.

ITA officials hope to reduce the $25,000 setup cost so they can make the system available to local police and fire stations. When that happens, Benjamins said preventive maintenance and regular checkups will become routine, and officers won’t wait until a radio breaks before they bring it in for testing.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.

inside gcn

  • A framework for secure software

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group