The wireless industry is consumed by security issues. Individuals are bustling to safeguard WLAN networks. Biometrics is emerging to protect handheld devices from theft. Now, wireless is taking on homeland security to safeguard people's lives. With today's heightened security concerns, for example, M/A-COM (www.macom-wireless.com) realized that it needed to make public, federal, state, and local leaders aware of the need for interoperability. Different agencies with disparate communications systems must be able to effectively communicate in case of a large-scale emergency.
To illustrate its points, M/A-COM installed its products in a custom-made bus (see figure). It then took the bus on a nationwide tour to emphasize certain key issues:
- If they're communicating on different radio frequencies and standards, fire departments, police, and other emergency personnel will be unable to effectively share critical on-site information in real time. This will hinder or destroy attempts at a coordinated rescue response.
- There are many different technical and financial approaches to interoperability. Two main schools of thought exist: Buy everyone the same radio or find a way to connect existing systems together.
Due to the limited resources of many public-safety departments, the first choice is unfeasible. In effect, the departments must find a way to connect all of their systems. Rather than trying to achieve radio-based interoperability, they could turn to alternative technologies. An example is M/A-COM's network-based solution, Net-workFirst. This solution uses Internet Protocol (IP) technology to create a network that enables interoperable communication regardless of differences in radio equipment, frequency, and/or modes.
The company's tour bus contains a fully functional NetworkFirst system. At each city stop, M/A-COM connected the disparate communications systems of local police, fire, and emergency agencies through NetworkFirst. It could then demonstrate full interoperability. Hopefully, M/A-COM's actions will encourage other companies in this industry to come forward with more technologies for improving and even saving lives.