The public safety super phone

What the law enforcement—and public safety network in general—offer police that commercial carriers cannot is the ruggedized equipment built to public safety standards


Forward-firing speaker: Another element of the LEX that was adapted from commercial devices to better suit LE.

“Consumer-grade devices have the speakers in the back and in this environment, you’ve got to hear what people are talking about, so you can’t have the audio muffled" by a hand holding the device and the palm obscuring the sound originating from the back.

Take high-quality pics and video, adaptable for biometric readers, etc.: “On the back we’ve got an 8 mega-pixel camera. It also works as a camcorder too, so it’ll capture DVD-quality video,” Seick explains. “[There’s also a] high-output LED flash for low-light performance. We have attach points directly on the product on the top and bottom, so if I were to have an accessory, like a biometric reader, a fingerprint reader [or a] magstrip reader, I have the ability to attach it directly to the device, provide power and data to the application."

Motorola has developed a handful of its own apps for law enforcement and plans to allow developers the opportunity to build applications for the law enforcement market, which will be available in an app distribution platform similar to (but separate from) the Apple App Store. Two battery options include a shift-length battery or shift and a half (8-10 hours or 12-14).

The Thales solution

Thales’s LTE solution is also about the same size as the consumer-grade devices many law enforcement are using today. The Android PTT smartphone is planned to have a large touchscreen interface and fixed home buttons at the bottom of the unit, similar to the LEX.

The company says the complete offering consists of a comprehensive network management system using the LTE core broadband network, a push-to-talk smartphone device operating on the LTE network and applications that support first responders in the field. That means that in addition to its LTE compatibility, the phone will be able to use 3G networks to communicate, which would require only the SIM card allowing access supplied by the service provider such as Verizon, AT&T, etc., (chosen by the agency).

Brad Foreman, leading the Thales team in the LTE public safety division with 30 years experience total in communications for commercial and aerospace sectors, explains the Thales device mimics features from consumer smartphones, like the screen size (approximately 4.5 inches with plans to offer a possible 7- or 10.5-inch tablet-size device as well) and touchscreen interface, but is more ruggedized and beefed up to withstand law enforcement needs. That’s Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G and PTT capabilities all in one device.

In corporate documents, Thales explains its LTE distributed architecture allows dispatchers to successfully communicate messages between several interconnected base stations, towers and first responders even if one of the base stations or towers is out of service. The network architecture is meant to provide users with security and flexibility by taking away the risk of a single point of failure in the system.

Thales is also developing apps for its phone, with Foreman saying there are about 10-12 core apps in progress with the intention to allow developers to create apps for its users as well. One of Thales’ apps, Foreman says, is a GPS-enabled system that can show LE commanders and officers the location of other officers in a given area.

Those elective apps, which will be accessed through a Thales “App Store”-like platform, will be available to users but controllable by agency supervisor.

The handheld device will provide comprehensive voice, data and video recording and a streaming package, which allows users to share critical information in real-time to their teams in the field and to report images and video that address situational awareness.

Without giving too much away on pricing, Foreman and Andreas say the devices will cost more than commercial smartphones but less than a P25 radio. Two elements that will likely keep public safety super phones more costly than commercial-grade devices is that the production volume will never be to the scale of 3G phones in the consumer market, just based on the finite number of end-users for a public safety-only device, and the ruggedized nature of a device built to do what it took many devices to do prior.

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