Washington, D.C., is testing a public safety communications system that allows firefighters, police, and medical personnel to link radio communications seamlessly with the Internet, reports the Washington Times. Government and industry officials say the technology – Radio Over Wireless Broadband, or ROW-B – has the potential to save first responders time in an emergency. By allowing a single user to view the locations of other users in a given area, the system enables creation of an ad-hoc group of users who can communicate with each other immediately and simultaneously, either over wireless broadband or through traditional wireless radios.
Interoperability is a challenge for jurisdictions as most emergency officials rely on their own land mobile radio (LMR) systems while state and federal responders are increasingly using mobile Internet devices. Absent funding for a nationwide network, “You’ve got to start with what you’ve got,” said the Department of Homeland Security’s David Boyd. At a press event yesterday, a deputy D.C. fire chief and officials from ISCO International Inc., Raytheon JPS, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology demonstrated the technology. While industry is developing “multimode” radios capable of operating on all known first-responder networks, the radios will be costly and take time to implement.