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.

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“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 former reporter for GCN.

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