Over the past decade, disasters, both natural and man-made, have boosted awareness of the need for interoperability among the many disparate, propriety radio systems in use across the U.S.—and the world—so that public safety, military, and other personnel can share voice communications under crisis conditions.
Although the promotion of such interoperability has been a goal of the U.S. government for most of the last ten years, little if anything has actually been done to achieve this goal—at least in the realm of native analog radio communications. The technological ‘islands’ remain to all intents and purposes unconnected.
One notable solution does exist, however: Twisted Pair Solutions‘ WAVE technology:
“WAVE is a software application—a standards-based application running on Windows or Linux—that is used to break down these silos of incompatibility,” Twisted Pair’s director of marketing James Mustarde explained to Enterprise VoIPplanet.com in a recent interview. “It creates a homogeneous, open communications environment where groups of users can share voice and some data capability irrespective of the technology that they themselves are using.”
In short, what WAVE does is transform two-way radio communications into a voice over IP application. Once on the IP network, the voice traffic—wherever and however it originated—can be transported across any local- or wide-area network, to any group of users. And any authorized person with a voice-enabled IP device—be it an IP desk phone, a softphone-equipped PC, or a VoIP-enabled mobile phone—can take part in the communication in real time.
“Today we could easily connect the entire country together, with very little requirement in infrastructure—” Mustarde observed—”because it already exists. WAVE is just a piece of software that leverages existing infrastructure.”
Mustarde went on to sketch out a possible deployment scenario, using a military frame of reference—as WAVE has achieved a fairly dominant position in military communications interoperability:
A soldier on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan is taking incoming fire: That soldier radios back to the nearest command post—likely a tent in the locality. At the command station, an IP gateway routes the voice communication from the radio network onto the IP network, and the WAVE domain then is able to share that traffic over the IP network—to a regional command center, via satellite link to the Pentagon, or anywhere else where personnel are authorized to participate in the mission at hand.
“And then, if I was authorized to do so, I could talk on that network,” Mustarde explained. “If I were a 3-star general, sitting in my home or my office, back in the U.S., I could talk directly to that trooper on the ground who is taking rounds.”
“The technology between the various devices becomes irrelevant. It’s IP. It’s my network to a carrier network to a military network to a satellite network, down to another military network, out to a radio network, and then to the handset of the soldier.”
The impending release of WAVE 4.8 marks a turning point for Twisted Pair, which, having made deep inroads into the military and government public safety communities, now seeks to address more fully the needs of the commercial sector.
Perhaps most significant in version 4.8 is fully integrated support for Motorola’s MOTOTRBO technology and Trident Micro Systems’s PassPort technology, a “trunked” radio system, both of which are rapidly gaining popularity in the civilian world.
“WAVE can basically work with any radio system, but it works best with radio systems that are natively integrated into the software—where you can communicate directly with a radio system because we’ve built into WAVE the capability to do all the necessary signal transcoding, and integrated some of the data functions of the radio system,” Mustarde told Enterprise VoIPplanet.
“With 4.8, we’ve done that with MOTOTRBO and with PassPort because they are very widely used and fast growing radio systems that are used in the commercial sector, particularly in corporate security and in transportation and shipping and, to a lesser extent, in public safety,” he said.
Version 4.8 also brings an update of the WAVE Desktop Communicator GUI, the PC client component of the WAVE system, which has been in daily use across thousands of desktops worldwide for mission-critical communications and collaboration. The newly redesigned Desktop Communicator uses Microsoft’s ribbon controls and Windows Presentation Foundation to increase usability, flexibility, and performance.
But the most important upgrade to new Desktop Communicator is the option to include a full-featured, softphone-based telephony system with basic PBX functionality (hold, transfer, conference) and support for multiple extensions that allows users to make and take IP calls directly to and from the phone network. (This supplements the existing ability of the Communicator to enable authorized participation in system communications for which the user has designated rights and permissions.)
WAVE 4.8 is scheduled to ship in the fourth quarter of 2009.