What communications products will end users need next?
Dave George, engineer and President of PRYME Radio Products, asks what the public safety market of the future will need and want from their communications devices
By Dave George
President, PRYME Radio Products
Every day, new messaging and management mobile apps appear in almost every business sector to fulfill specific needs, which then inspire end users to find devices that support them on networks with reliable connectivity. For many, these app technologies also make communicating more affordable, encouraging even more conversion and hardware purchases. Consequently, the demand for specialized mobile applications is driving device augmentation and evolution in the race to capitalize on this trend.
We’ve all witnessed how push-to-talk over cellular (PoC) applications has impacted wireless communications and hardware development, such as Bluetooth equipped two-way radios, transitional gateways for hybrid systems, smart phone adoption in heretofore non-cellular based fields, iPod Touches or tablets running large facilities, field personnel or transportation fleets and, of course, a plethora of PTT accessories that enhance convenience and audio clarity, which in turn helps sell more devices.
It’s also interesting to note that messaging app usage trends illustrate an ever-widening range of user verticals that are jumping on the PoC bandwagon, from fire safety personal and EMS, to lawyers and religious groups.
Software capabilities and network availability have been defining the communications industry much like it has in the computer world, just as devices and CPUs have progressively become smaller and more portable. It seems no matter the industry, end users are continually pushing to do more and more with less.
What will end users want next?
1. Although new mobile applications are popping up daily, the trend toward consolidation and acquisition of software companies will continue to expand, as demonstrated by Motorola’s recent purchase of Kodiak’s PTT platform. Even so, app developers will introduce fresh programs faster than others are absorbed, thus it’s extremely important for manufacturers to be nimble and react quickly to stay relevant.
2. Because law enforcement still seems somewhat uncomfortable with substituting smart phones for two-way radios, devices that look and feel exactly like radios on the outside, but are really 4G phones on the inside, may soon become commonplace. In fact, Pryme has recently been in development on its own versions—Speaker microphones with internal 4G boards and radios with a plug-in sim cards that allow users to talk to anyone in the world. In effect, it’s all just repackaging.
3. Soon, there will also be hardware devices that control multiple communication outlets at once, yet are smaller than ever before. Multi-purpose smart watches are already in use among consumers. Who’s to say this technology won’t evolve among private sectors as well? Pryme is already working on a ring-sized BLTE button that controls everything, including PTT radio, phone, channel selection, and even music programs.
4. As the mobile app trend matures, every public safety duty will have dedicated applications, just as they do in many other fields. However, today’s cellphones may not always fit the bill for every environment, so we are already seeing major manufacturers coming up with app-specific devices in some categories, and expect many more!
5. The Internet of Things (IoT) has been the impetus behind most wireless innovations and will continue to be until another network technology surpasses it or, as some may fear, it reaches maximum capacity. WiFi beacons and near-field technologies that communicate with smart phones or other devices at strategic access points are increasingly deployed in a variety of settings to target individualized messages. Similar sensors also exist in Bluetooth technologies, so it’s not inconceivable that government and public safety will find ways to incorporate these in future communications. This kind of location information might end up playing a role in emergency response, as well as enterprise. Of course, this will mean more apps and new hardware to support it. Luckily, if there’s suddenly a need for products to optimize this direction, the ability to engineer on the fly puts manufacturers like Pryme in the unique position to deliver just about anything.
6. At the rate things are changing, one of the only ways manufacturers will be able to stay relevant and meet end user requirements is to align with other companies to achieve a joint solution. The trend toward synergistic partnerships has expanded rapidly in recent years and, as new software and technologies arise, sharing the load will be an even greater necessity. Another growing entry point for manufacturers are systems integrators, which allows vendors to compete in new arenas. PoC is a perfect example of the rising partnership frenzy—PTT app companies, network providers, LMR radio and smart phone makers now work together to keep up with end-user mandates.
For now, software applications are calling the shots. As the saying goes, “There’s an app for that.” I say, “Where there’s a new app, there’s new hardware.”
About PRYME Radio Products
For nearly 30 years, PRYME Radio Products has been a leading manufacturer of high quality products to professional users of mobile communications. PRYME is devoted to the two-way radio industry - from public safety and security to healthcare, facilities management, and beyond. For more information, visit the official PRYME Radio Products website.