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The niftiest innovation in the two-way radio market these days isn’t a radio at all. It’s a smart phone app.
Digital two-way radios have microprocessors that translate voice signals into ones and zeroes that can be put in digital packets and transmitted via Internet Protocol, or IP. Since any digital device that communicates via IP can talk to any other similarly equipped device, there’s no law saying a smart phone owner can’t communicate with someone on a digital two-radio. Smart phone app developers noticed this and developed apps that mimic the push-to-talk capabilities of two-way radios.
The question arises, why wouldn’t people just use their smart phone’s data service? Because push-to-talk apps can be designed with one-to-many and many-to-one capability just like a professional two-way radio network, which makes for a very practical solution in business and institutional settings.
Sure enough, it didn’t take long for global communications giants to latch onto the potential of push-to-talk smart phone apps. In September, Motorola Solutions announced the launch of MOTOTRBO Anywhere, which combines the company’s IP radio network system (Connect Plus Gateway) with a smart phone app that allows people to use their smart phones to call people on two-way radios anywhere in the world. How cool is that?
MOTOTRBO Anywhere isn’t the only such system out there, of course, but it does offer a good look at the appeal of this technology. Here’s a quick overview:
MOTOTRBO Anywhere users can use the Anywhere app to make private calls to MOTOTRBO digital two-way radio users. When users push-to-talk in the app, it sends a message via a wireless gateway to MOTORTRBO’s IP radio network, which broadcasts the call to individual radio users on the other end. Smart phone app users can call one person, a team or a whole department. In fact, they can speak to a talkgroup of up to a thousand people at once, or listen to 16 talkgroups at once. Think of how handy that would be for the owner of a taxi cab company or a trucking fleet to send the same message to everybody on the job while away from his office.
Smart phone app calls also can be converted back to analog on the receiving end, making it possible for smart phone owners to call people on analog radios (provided they have access to an IP radio network).
AES 256-bit encryption keeps conversations private, a huge advantage in any setting where people cannot afford the risk of people listening in on their radio communications. Of course, this would be extremely useful in military operations but many businesses also welcome having a strong lock on their communications.
The Anywhere app creates unique profiles for each user. You can store all your callgroups in the app’s profile and get your message out ASAP. That’s vital in situations where time is of the essence, like sending messages to emergency first-responders.
In the Anywhere app, private phone calls get priority over radio calls — when a cell phone call comes in, users are switched out of push-to-touch mode and into phone call mode. When the call is complete, users switch back to PTT mode.
The Anywhere Gateway software allows administrators to add and subtract users and callgroups, assign users to specific callgroups, track all calls for seven days and password-protect the entire network.
Improving Flexibility with Push-to-talk Apps
Until recently, cell phones and two-way radios occupied distinct niches defined by the constraints of their technologies. Each device plugged gaps in the capabilities of its counterparts. With the growing ability of smart phones and two-way radios to talk to each other, those gaps are getting smaller by the day.