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PMRExpo: From the exhibition hall

Land Mobile combed PMRExpo’s well-stocked exhibition hall for the latest devices and solutions. Here’s our pick of the crop

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One of the most striking things about PMRExpo was the large number of exhibitors hailing from China, with most of these based in Shenzhen and no doubt keen to replicate Hytera’s success story. 

A good selection of the most interesting products on display and being promoted on the stands are shown in this month’s products section (see p37). Perhaps the two biggest trends from a non-mission-critical perspective were the appearance of DMR-LTE hybrid handsets and the continuing growth of companies offering PTT applications for smartphones. You can expect to see more of the former next year… 

One range we didn’t have space to include, but is worth a mention, are Samhoo’s ST3 digital radios, which feature hidden antennas and a slim body (14.5 millimetred thick). They operate in UHF, are limited to one watt of RF output power and include a flashlight. Samhoo sees them as catering to the needs of hotels, large restaurants, clubs, offices, and high value residential properties. 

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Ralf Burkard, sales engineering – EMEA at iBwave, took me through the iBwave Design Enterprise software package’s capacity planning features. It uses a set of customisable profiles to model subscribers’ usage of different wireless protocols and commercial carriers, down to the specific tasks they’re doing using connected devices. It can also calculate the average data rate per user for specific areas of a building. The software uses a colour-code system, which clearly shows if subscribers’ experience is being affected by interference or equipment limitations.

Burkard showed it was possible to model the co-existence issues that can occur when IoT devices and PMR infrastructure are near each other through passive intermodulation calculations within the software package. Release 8 of the software has added support for IoT (e.g. LoRa), location-based services, and GPS (including synchronisation). 

Ferdinand Gerhardes, programme manager for education, research and defence at Anritsu, showed me its S412E LMR Master land mobile radio modulation analyser, which allows users to measure receiver sensitivity in the field, along with the bit error rate; and its range of remote spectrum monitors, such as the MS27101A, which can be deployed to detect jamming or interference. They can also be used to monitor your own transmissions and send alarms by email if a transmitter goes down. 

Lawrence Deacon, product support engineer at South Midlands Communications, highlighted some of the possible uses of the SMC Gateway, which uses a simple graphical language to create process flows that can be used to automatically trigger alerts when certain conditions are met. Deacon said that it is possible to set up flows that cause the gateway to send text messages to an engineer when there are issues with repeaters, allowing them to potentially arrive at their client’s location before the client has realised there’s a problem with the equipment. There’s also the option to send users text messages should they start going out of range.

Moving firmly into the public safety realm, Olatunde Williams, head of field and solutions marketing, Europe and Africa at Motorola Solutions, explained that its new TETRA two-way pager, the ADVISOR TPG2200, is intended for volunteer firefighters in countries that already have TETRA networks, to generate cost savings and provide greater reliability through avoiding the need to use a commercial network. He added that the TPG2200 was developed in conjunction with one of Motorola Solutions’ German public safety customers. The design process focused on battery life and coverage, because of the need to reach volunteers over a wide area and the fact that users aren’t used to charging pagers every day. Richard Bennett, senior product marketing manager, added that the TPG2200 has a 48-hour battery life, full colour screen and GPS. It allows users to accept or reject requests and send preset responses. 

The company’s MTP6650 TETRA portable radio was also on display. It features several enhancements including three watts of transmit power and Wi-Fi ready hardware. The IP67-rated handset is also designed to work seamlessly with Motorola Solutions’ Si500 body-worn camera/speaker-microphone, via Bluetooth or a cable connection. This is part of the company’s shift towards encouraging users to use a smartphone as a single input device, which will cut down on the need to interact with the radio and reduces the need to make compromises in the design of individual devices, such as battery life. 

Terry Allen, lead solutions architect at Motorola Solutions, demonstrated a virtual reality system to provide control room operators with greater situational awareness. The idea is that by using 360° cameras it would be possible to virtually transport the commander in the control room to the scene. At the same time, the need to interact with many screens can be addressed with eye-tracking technology.

Steve Beach, strategic solutions engagement manager at Motorola Solutions, said he envisages virtual and augmented reality being used more by specially-trained technical or crime analysts rather than first responders.

He also discussed Project Green Light Detroit, a collaboration between the Detroit Police Department and petrol stations around the city. Video cameras were installed at the stations and the footage is live-streamed back to Detroit’s new real-time crime centre, where the data is aggregated by Motorola Solutions’ CommandCentral Aware application. It allows analysts to view multiple feeds on one screen and share high-definition images of suspects, vehicles, licence plate numbers and so on with responding officers. Much of the impetus for the project came when crime statistics revealed that 25 per cent of violent crime in the city was taking place within 500 feet of petrol stations. The system helps quickly identify suspects, resulting in faster arrests, with one being taken into custody less than two hours after firing a weapon into a vehicle.

20161123_115158.jpgA US-based company called Safemobile was promoting its SafeDispatch suite, which is compatible with Motorola SolutionsTETRA platforms and offers GPS, location tracking, geo-fencing and reporting functions including response time reports. It is also accessible from any Android-based device using the SafeDispatch mobile app. Safemobile’s LINX Android app provides both PTT and direct VOIP communication, together with GPS tracking, emergency alarms, man-down and lone worker features over commercial networks and Wi-Fi. 

Hytera displayed its DIB-R5 Compact and Advanced base stations. Philip Hermes, software development engineer at Hytera Mobilfunk, told me that it will be adding support for DMR Tier III to its PTTconnect app in the beginning of 2017. When used together with a Hytera connect server the app allows smartphone users to talk to their TETRA counterparts while using public UMTS and LTE networks, and benefit from many of the functions TETRA provides, such as group calls, emergency calls and prioritisation. 

He described the app’s use in a Qatari hotel, where security use TETRA and the hotel manager relies on Wi-Fi because of difficulties with TETRA indoor coverage. PTTconnect has an integrated TETRA codec and doesn’t require special hardware, aside from a small computer. 

Hans-Martin Zimmermann, head of technical solutions support at Secure Land Communications, Airbus Defence and Space, showed me a deployable TETRA system with a two carrier pico base station in a transportable rig (pictured below left). This can be used in network mode connected to a permanently sited TETRA switch, via an IP-E1 connection, making it part of a larger TETRA network. Other modes include fall-back mode, which just uses the upper rig and the base station operates as a standalone system with enhanced fall-back functionality and simple group communications, and the other involves the lower section, which is a fully functional TETRA switch virtualised in commercial off-the-shelf equipment, allowing it to run as a TETRA system with full functionality, which can be expanded with additional base stations. The system shown uses Airbus DS’ TB3p mini TETRA base station.

20161123_105201.jpgKaveh Hosseinzadeh, managing director of Tassta, told me that it is working to put 3GPP Release 13 and 14 features into its development environment and expects to be 3GPP-compliant by the middle of next year. Tassta is also looking to add video streaming as a feature to its platform in the next six months and within a similar time frame offer a pure radio dispatching solution with a target price of around €1,000. Currently Tassta is partnering with Hytera, Sepura and Motorola Solutions. It has also applied to work with Airbus Defence and Space. Hosseinzadeh showed me two gateways – one designed to work with Motorola Solutions equipment (top) and one with Sepura infrastructure (bottom). Tassta is also working on its lone worker offerings and is looking to obtain certification under the German BR139 standard in February 2017. 

Mikael Hansen, Radiocom Danmark’s managing director, visited our stand to discuss his plans to use Google Glass to allow paramedics to send video footage shot from their perspective back to hospitals, adding that they could also be used to train staff in a much safer way. Hansen explained he is working to get them certified under the NATS programme for use on the Emergency Services Network in the UK. 

Manfred Piontek, CEO of Swissphone’s German subsidiary, demonstrated the ability of its eriX communications system, which is available in three versions (compact, advanced and command, with the latter being used for 911 centres), to change the language being displayed at the click of a mouse, making it ideal for countries like Switzerland where in one mobile command vehicle there might be four different languages being used. It also features a fault tolerance system, with “automatic configuration, which means that as long as you have one PC running you can do the whole job and have access to all interfaces. There is no client server architecture, it’s peer-to-peer technology… We are the only certified partner in Europe for the US Army. We’ve done one big command centre for them in Germany.”

In some of the conversations I had after the show floor had closed there was some emphasis on the importance of prompt after-sales services from major manufacturers, with one describing a situation where a simple antenna replacement required the radio to be sent back to the manufacturer, and issues with expensive service arrangements that work to limit smaller dealers’ access to spare parts. Focusing on the total cost of ownership and realising that any tendering process that favours the lowest possible bidder can cause headaches later, due to the lack of service provision, is not always the best approach. A related factor is that radios in this industry often last long enough and are expensive enough to replace that swapping out damaged parts makes economic sense.

2016 may be winding to a close, but if PMRExpo was any indication end users will have much to be excited about in the new year, especially once dealerships start offering DMR-LTE handsets in large volumes. 


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