Aiming to break down the barriers between emergency response services, Cisco has unveiled an internet-based technology that connects disparate communication techniques.
The Internet Protocol Interoperability and Collaboration System (Ipics) acts as a translation service between legacy radio technologies.
Because the Ipics software supports the Session Initiation Protocol, it enables Land Mobile Radios (LMRs) to communicate over the internet with other devices, including walkie-talkies, mobile phones and internet telephones.
LMRs are often used inside enterprises, and by disaster relief services, security workers and the armed forces. But the systems rarely work together.
Ipics allows these users to keep their existing infrastructures and integrate systems over the internet.
"Various agencies have different proprietary radio technologies," said Shah Talukder, general manager of Cisco's Safety, Security and Systems business unit.
"We translate that to IP and can then provide interoperability and allow different agencies to talk to each other on an IP network and yet make it behave like radio."
Ipics also allows users to communicate over long distances, Talukder added, enabling a doctor, for example, to use a mobile phone to give instructions to a relief worker in a remote area.
"We have shifted the balance from radio to radio, to any voice to any voice globally," said Talukder.
The technology is currently being used in trials and is scheduled for availability in the next six to 12 months, Cisco said.
Bradley Curran, an industry analyst with Frost & Sullivan, said that, although the need for emergency services to better communicate has been an issue for some time, it did not become a priority until the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the US.
The Cisco technology will not be limited to relief agencies, Curran told vnunet.com. "Ipics is useful in any application that is communications intensive and where you don't have everybody on the same network," he explained.
The analyst believes that there will be much interest for the technology from the armed forces and aid organisations.
He also noted that international cooperation in peace-keeping missions, or in disaster relief like the Asian tsunami or the recent earthquake in Pakistan, often requires that different technologies are made to work together.
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