C-AT interoperability gear recommended by CWID 2005

Published 17 February 2006

We wrote yesterday that Congress is becoming impatient with the slow progress (more precisely: no progress) on the question of emergency communication gear interoperability: The administration has spent nearly $1.5 billion on interoperability since 9/11, but as Katrina showed, the very same interoperability issues hampering rescue units in 9/11 were hobbling rescue missions in the Gulf. Congress is now mulling imposing interoperability standards on gear makers which sell their equipment to first responders, while the communications industry has developed Project 25 [HSDW 2/16/06], outlining the contours of an industry developed, voluntary interoperability architecture. The implementation of Project 25 would cost some $15 billion. Until an interoperability program is agreed to, and until money is found, we should look for smaller-scale solutions, and a recent report by the U.S. Joint Forces Command, based on its annual interoperability trials, Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration 2005 (CWID 2005), offers some interesting suggestions. The CWID 2005 report cites Incident Commanders’ Radio Interface (ICRI), from Reston, Virginia-based Communications-Applied Technology (C-AT) as a “Top Performer.” The report notes that the ICRI is ready for deployment for battlefield and homeland security operations by military and public safety agencies. The ICRI is a small, flexible “bridge” which links voice communications across incompatible radios and other communications equipment.

The annual CWID is the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s (JCS) annual proving ground for technologies which improve interoperability amongst U.S. fighting units, antiterrorism forces, and coalition partners. The CWID 2005 trials were designed to focus on security within U.S. borders. This year there were forty-eight interoperability-trials participants, and the ICRI was classified as an “outstanding trial” for warfighter/operator technology, being selected for agency and limited combatant commander fielding (including fielding in support of Hurricane Katrina).

One of the ICRI advantages is that it enables disparate legacy radio signals to be transformed into single-site communication, as shown while it was deployed by DHS in Katrina relief efforts.

The CWID 2005 assessed the ICRI thus:

Successfully provided a system that allowed first responders and responding agencies to communicate on a single system utilizing dissimilar radios and communication devices

Successfully demonstrated a collaborative information environment and received high reviews from users and visiting first responder agencies and counterparts. Cost-effective radio interoperability solution supporting both DoD and DHS

ICRI proved simple to deploy and required little training. It adapted to organizational changes at a first responder scene without technical support, operational at a first responder incident in less than ten minutes

Two ICRIs have already been acquired by NORTHCOM headquarters and six by NORTHCOM’s Joint Task Force-Civil Support.

-read the CWID report at CWID Web site; see product detail at company Web site