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May 24, 2011
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John Rivera Technology Helpdesk
with John Rivera

New 'Bluetooth' devices making their way into law enforcement

Bluetooth technology was developed in 1994 by Ericsson in Sweden with technology that has existed since 1944

As police officers working in the 21st century, equipped with both vehicle and or portable radios, radio waves are everywhere around us. Many of our vehicle computers use cellular radio waves to communicate with other officers or dispatch. Radio waves are further used in many different devices in an ever-increasing variety of methods. A relatively new form of radio wave is Bluetooth. The term “Bluetooth” is most associated with cellular telephones, but did you know it is widely used in other electronics?

According to the www.Bluetooth.com web site, Bluetooth technology was developed in 1994 by Ericsson in Sweden with technology that has existed since 1944. The name, Bluetooth, has no real meaning. In fact, Bluetooth is a project code name that simply stuck and is still used to this day.

Bluetooth uses radio waves to link electronic devices containing Bluetooth chips embedded in them, allowing the devices to communicate and send and receive information. Unlike television stations or other electronic devices using radio waves that have the ability to send information a long distance, Bluetooth radio waves can only link to another device within about 30 feet.

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This short distance allows linking to other electronic devices that have the Bluetooth chip embedded in them the ability to send and receive information wirelessly and somewhat securely.

Some newer vehicle manufacturers have eliminated the use of a key to enter and turn the vehicle ignition on by using Bluetooth technology. The driver only needs to have a Bluetooth keyless entry device in their pocket that is linked to the vehicle to be able to turn the vehicle on.

Several electronic equipment manufacturers have found that Bluetooth technology has benefits in home or work offices by installing Bluetooth capabilities into computers, allowing them to link to printers, other computers or even Smartphone via Bluetooth link.

I recently spoke to an electronics retailer who pointed out me several after-market electronic manufacturers that offer Bluetooth devices that can be installed on a portable radio, paired to a typical Bluetooth cell phone ear piece, or paired to a second device thus eliminating the wired microphone. When I researched electronics company catalogs regarding microphones that use Bluetooth technology, I discovered they offer a variety of equipment that enhances safety by eliminating the microphone wire tethered to you and the portable radio.

Two manufacturers specifically pointed out to me are ImpactComms and Pryme. ImpactComms offers a two-piece set that has a microphone you can place on your shirt or lapel, with an earpiece and radio dongle installed on the portable radio that is linked via Bluetooth. This is a great setup. The microphone as well as the dongle are both small and each has a PTT button enabling the user to use either the microphone PTT button or the radio dongle PTT button for transmission.

Pryme offers a radio dongle that is installed on your portable radio and paired to a typical cellular telephone headset. I found this set up less desirable because the only to press the PTT button is too reach around to your radio possibly exposing yourself.

FreeLinc offers a portable radio microphone that can be hung on a shirt but it also requires a radio dongle installed on your portable radio and the microphone looks a little too bulky for my choice of microphone.

I’m sure there are more manufacturers that offer the same Bluetooth technology for law enforcement use that I have not mentioned. I’m sure there are readers who are as interested in this technology as I am and I encourage you to research this technology as it does not violate your agency policy. Once you find a device that interests you, be sure it is functional and that enhances your personal safety.

Stay safe.

About the author

John Rivera is a Patrol Officer with the Bremerton Police Department. John’s career BPD started as a Volunteer Reserve Officer and while he volunteered his time as a reserve officer he work as Police Officer at Naval Base Kitsap. He was hired full time in 2006 and attended the Washington State Police Academy. While at the academy, John was selected as the class “Techy” to help with the technologically deficient class instructors. Before John’s law enforcement career, he gained his computer experience through earning a degree in Computer Programming and then working in the computer industry as a Network Administrator and Systems Engineer for several companies.

Contact John Rivera

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