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Friday, May 7th, 2021

NIST links public safety radios, broadband network

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National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) engineers are espousing the benefits of a low-cost computer system connecting older public safety radios with the latest wireless communications networks.

“This NIST project aims to develop a prototype infrastructure that could be used by commercial entities to create a low-cost solution for public safety users, allowing them to interconnect their radio systems to broadband networks,” NIST engineer Jordan O’Dell said. “There isn’t a commercial option that compares to what we are developing. The goal here is to create a prototype and accelerate technology development in industry that will fill a significant gap.”

The endeavor shows how first responders might take advantage of broadband technology offering voice, text, instant messages, video, and data capabilities. NIST’s prototype system could aid the process of overcoming a chief barrier to upgrading public safety communications.

The NIST system is made of three main parts, detailing the use is a software-defined radio which interacts with the
Land Mobile Radio (LMR) signal interfaces and feeds data into the next unit; an open-source software environment for managing software radio, which handles digital signal processing; and a user interface for Long-Term Evolution (LTE) handsets, allowing LMR radio users to talk to LTE network users as if they are on the same push-to-talk network, with calls initiated from either side.

“We want public safety agencies to have a very inexpensive option that can interface with old technology when the other options are out of reach,” O’Dell said.