Connection 8: Take your WiFi with you

The following is an article from the latest issue of Connection magazine, a collection of educational and thought-leading articles focusing on critical communications, wireless and radio technology. In this piece, Will Dougan explores the enormous potential that greater connectivity and computing power is bringing to mobile radio.

The smart-phone revolutionized the way we think about cellular phones, with connectivity and applications. Now that revolution is coming to your mobile fleet.

In the late 2000s, the already-ubiquitous mobile phone gained further connectivity and greater processing power for applications, as the world met the smart-phone. The impact of this was immense, as this already-well established device became utterly indispensable in our personal and professional lives.

Many of the devices we use every day feature wireless connectivity and a library of software applications, so it seems inevitable that “smart” devices would eventually find their way into the vehicles we drive.

Features like GPS are now commonplace, and it’s not unusual for car stereos to connect with your smart device. Some automobile manufacturers are offering in-dashboard voice calling, and the self-driving car is emerging from science-fiction into reality.

Can a Mobile Radio be smart?

Now, we’re seeing an already well-established device – in this case the mobile radio – get smarter and become even more indispensable to our professional lives, as a recently-introduced solution brings together connectivity and applications. What a smart-phone brings to your pocket, the smart-mobile radio can now bring to your vehicle fleet, only with much greater power.

An early example of the smart-mobile is UnifyVehicle, which brings Bluetooth, WiFi and Cellular together with a powerful processor and an open application interface into your mobile radio. This creates a vehicle area network or mobile WiFi hot spot, connected to the wider world through the best network bearer available. It also provides a platform to run smart applications that will dramatically improve workforce safety and productivity.

“UnifyVehicle brings powerful communication to key locations where people work, but connectivity is scarce.”

Smart-mobiles aren’t hindered by the technical limitations that portable devices suffer. They can take advantage of the vehicles’ much-greater battery capacity, and larger antennas. So with UnifyVehicle, a mobile radio becomes more than just a communications device; it is a connectivity platform for other nearby devices –  effectively a mobile WiFi connection, which goes wherever you go.

This is interesting in terms of the technology, but some of scenarios it creates are truly game-changing. Let’s take a look at the working day for a Police Officer, to see what these smart mobiles can contribute.

OTAP over WiFi

The local Police Department has installed UnifyVehicle in their fleet, with specialized applications designed to support and assist officers. The vehicle begins its day at the precinct, where a technician connects his computer to the radio’s WiFi, updating the latest software version to ensure it operates optimally. In the past, this process would require a technician to enter the vehicle and connect to the radio manually, a slow and awkward task which takes the vehicle – and the officer – off the road. WiFi connectivity makes it fast and painless.

Bluetooth

As the shift beings, the officer’s smart-phone connects via WiFi to the radio terminal, and the officer can see the applications at their disposal. Before setting out, the officer runs a quick inventory on the vehicle. Key pieces of equipment have Bluetooth tags, so UnifyVehicle detects that these items are all on board, to make sure the officer has all the tools needed for a day on the job.

Broadband data on the go

The officer hits the road, but the UnifyVehicle terminal stays connected to the Internet via the cellular network. The powerful receiver in UnifyVehicle, means the officer will stay connected even where his smartphone has no service, so clear voice and data communications continue as the officer receives instructions to head to an emergency. Pictures, video, vehicle licensing and other situational information can be delivered to laptops, tablets, or any devices connected to the UnifyVehicle WiFi network.

Mission-Critical Voice

The officer travels to a rural area on the outskirts of the city, beyond the reach of cellular networks. Because UnifyVehicle is built into a mission-critical communications device, it will maintain a voice and data connection to dispatch over the wide area Police radio network. The officer remains in contact with dispatch over the radio – still safe, informed and connected, despite the remote location.

Custom Applications

Software from any qualified vendor can be installed on the UnifyVechile terminal, offering a variety of safety and efficiency applications:

  • Voice recording: The officer can replay messages they might have missed or misunderstood. This saves valuable time in repeat conversations and helps ensure clear communication.
  • Extension app: When the officer exits the vehicle, their smart-phone remains connected to UnifyVehicle via WiFi, effectively becoming a remote-head extension for the vehicle radio. (In the past, officers would also carry a portable radio, but UnifyVehicle bridges the gap between cellular devices and wide-area networks.)

As soon as a situation is resolved, the officer can file a report which will reach dispatch whenever the vehicle is within range of a suitable bearer network. UnifyVehicle brings powerful communication to key locations where people work, but connectivity is scarce.

Our examples involve a Police Officer, but this it is just one potential scenario. An open application interface means that apps can be developed by network operators or vendors to create custom solutions. This application flexibility puts the tools you need in your hands. Some of the most exciting potential applications have likely not been imagined yet – some may be in development right now.

The Future

Like smart-phones, the smart-mobile is an evolving platform. As well as new applications generated by an easy-to-use custom app builder, future versions will have even greater connectivity. Connectivity with satellite networks could bring mobile communication to even more remote locations, and roaming vehicles could collect localized data as they travel. The open nature of the platform creates enormous opportunities for growth. UnifyVehicle represents an evolutionary leap in the connectivity and power mobile radio can offer.


Learn how Tait UnifyVehicle can supercharge your communications with connectivity, computing power, and applications, or read more thought-provoking articles from Issue 8 of Connection magazine here, and make sure to subscribe to be the first to know when new issues are released.

Tait Communications

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