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The Technical Interoperability Advantage


To keep up with the challenges of protecting and serving local communities, public safety and municipal services personnel must be able to communicate together in real-time to provide the appropriate response.

This need for interoperable communication solutions is evident every day across the United States, from police pursuits that cross jurisdictional lines, to cross-agency mutual-aid support including police, sheriff, fire and other departments, as well as major natural disasters and large-scale incidents involving the U.S. National Guard.

Without interoperability, everyone's in their own stovepipes, Nino DiCosmo, L3Harris president of Public Safety and Profession Communications, said. Most of these situations require coordination amongst agencies to solve the problem. If the Sheriff's Office deputies can only talk on their network, and the Fire Department can only talk on theirs, then they're not communicating as a collaborative unit to resolve the incident.

During last year's anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, former police officials from New York, Los Angeles and Arlington, Virginia, collaborated on an opinion article in The Hill expressing this exact need for interoperable communications to keep personnel and communities safe.

The fact is, agencies must retain the ability to choose their network, and that freedom of choice should not prevent effective communication in an emergency if another jurisdiction is on a different network, they said. The ongoing barrage of natural and manmade disasters that have occurred in the past 20 years are a clear demonstration of the continuing challenge. From Hurricane Sandy in 2012 to a mass shooting in a Colorado movie theater later that year, first responders were extremely hindered in their ability to communicate with one another, thus putting their safety and the people they have sworn to protect in jeopardy.

L3Harris provides interoperable and converged communication solutions in form factors specifically designed for public safety professionals. These capabilities deliver a clean solution to connect disparate networks together, according to Jason Burt, L3Harris Public Safety Market manager; talkgroups, for example, can be pre-programmed in devices to avoid cases where out-of-network officers would have to call dispatch via a cell phone and be patched into a local agency to connect for mutual aid operations.

ENABLING INTEROPERABILITY The U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2004 developed what is known as the Interoperability Continuum as a standard way of visualizing the requirements for true cross-agency interoperability. L3Harris supports the technical elements of interoperability by providing solutions from radios to standards-based shared systems. The companys radios support multiple frequency bands and waveforms, gateways and shared channels that provide multiple communications pathways for agencies to connect together.

We provide technology solutions for interoperability, but we also understand our customers and their needs, governance models and standard operating procedures, Jeremy Elder, L3Harris Product Management director, said. Because we have a deep understanding of how our customers operate, we are able to develop those technology solutions.

A number of L3Harris customers' interest has been trending away from proprietary systems to standards-based shared ones, according to Elder, noting there is a similar new development toward standards-based broadband communications. One example is the State of Florida, which recently announced that it will transition from its aging EDACS system to a Project 25-enabled shared network. These types of networks benefit the customer by providing a standard for multiple vendors to develop solutions for interoperability, providing agencies with more options to deliver their intended effects, he added.

BRIDGING P25 NETWORKS One step toward extending agency communications and their networks is the ability to connect existing systems. L3Harris' Inter Subsystem Interface (ISSI) provides such gateways for personnel operating on Project 25 (P25) networks.

When utility companies travel cross country to respond to storm damage, for instance, they need their personnel to talk not only to their on-site team and the local agencies but also to their home base. ISSI acts as a pipe of interoperability between these networks, allowing dispatchers on one network to field resources from another and vice versa, Rob Butts, L3Harris Professional Communications Market manager, said.

The company is part of a growing alliance of like-minded technology firms, the Mission Critical Alliance (MCA), that is developing system integrations based on these standards to create an ecosystem where customers can have choices for whatever kind of technology they want to deploy, Elder said.

Through this alliance, L3Harris has partnered to provide a mobile incident command system that connects users in areas where system coverage may be lacking. Commanders can monitor localized communication for emergencies and other events that cannot wait for preprogramming of network talk groups.

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