The evolution of push-to-talk communications

At any large-scale event, whether it’s an independence day parade or a Coldplay concert, chances are you’ll see security personnel using push-to-talk devices or walkie-talkies to coordinate with one another to keep the crowds under control.

For a while now, voice has been the primary mode of communications transmitted over land mobile radio networks in such scenarios, but the rise of high-speed mobile broadband networks such as 4G has made it possible to include videos and photos into the mix.

During a media demo at Motorola Solutions in Singapore earlier this week, executives from the supplier of data and communications equipment show how it is possible for a team of police officers to share photos and videos of their immediate vicinities to one another, on top of voice communications.

Chuah Seng Heng, vice-president for Asia at Motorola Solutions, says this helps to improve the situational awareness of teams operating in mission-critical scenarios, be it delivering emergency services or securing an event attended by VIPs. “Video has become the new voice and we’re always looking at how to put the two together,” he said.

Earlier this week, Motorola Solutions introduced its so-called broadband push-to-talk offerings that can make use of existing 4G networks to support critical communications.

These could be public networks carved out solely for use by law enforcement officers or private LTE networks that cover a specific area of operations, according to Shanti Ravindran, principal architect for next-generation experience at Motorola Solutions. In some cases, telcos can even prioritise traffic for enterprises that require high levels of reliability, she adds.

Ravindran says while it’s important to extend the reach of land mobile radios into these networks, just as important are features on devices that make it easy for officers and enterprise workers to access key functions such as video streaming, secure messaging, as well as initiating an emergency call.

“Advanced broadband push-to-talk solutions enable emergency services and enterprises to communicate easily and securely via the same communications system – regardless of whether their workers use two-way radios, smartphones, desktop computers or other devices.

“This provides significant advantages to organisations at a time when workforce demographics continue to change and organisations require more solutions to enable wider interoperability and collaboration,” Ravindran says.

But Motorola’s expertise isn’t limited to devices and networks – it is also making a bigger push into software and managed services, a business that grew by 20% last year, according to Chuah. In March 2018, it completed its acquisition of Canada’s Avigilon, a specialist in advanced video surveillance and analytics.

Chuah says advanced analytics, in particular, will help security officers in command and control rooms make better sense of the alerts that they are seeing.

Asked about the efficacy of Motorola’s analytics capabilities as compared to best-of-breed offerings, Chuah said the company’s edge is in providing an integrated offering that meets the needs of enterprises operating in mission-critical environments.

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