IACP 2013: Motorola puts P25 LMR signal into your LTE-enabled smartphone

I’ve seen some pretty impressive technology from Motorola in the past five years, but this little development is one of those things that makes me grin and say, “Wow, that’s cool”

During my travels in the IACP 2013 Exposition Hall at the Philadelphia Convention Center on Monday afternoon, I paid a quick visit to the folks at Motorola. I spoke briefly with Dan Loeger and Ajit Bhatia of Motorola about a solution pertinent to just about any chief at this year’s seminars — staying in touch with the PD back home.

About a year and a half ago I wrote about the Motorola LEX, a ruggedized and compact handheld device designed to deliver data, photos, video and voice quickly, reliably and securely over multiple networks.

At the time, I characterized it as essentially a P25 Land Mobile Radio (LMR) device in the body of a Motorola smartphone. Not that I was wrong then, but today I saw something that even better fits that description — an actual smartphone app that converts your Android phone into a P25 LMR radio.

Ajit Bhatia and Dan Loeger demonstrate Motorola's new Unified PTT app at IACP 2013.
Ajit Bhatia and Dan Loeger demonstrate Motorola's new Unified PTT app at IACP 2013.

It’s called Motorola's new Unified PTT, and it’s awesome.

Squawking on Your Smartphone
Bhatia showed me a Samsung Galaxy SIII exactly the same as the phone I carry in my pocket while Loeger clicked on a Motorola P25 radio and took a couple of steps away.

“This is a Virgin Mobile phone, but the app can work on any LTE network,” Bhatia said, as he scrolled through apps with which any Android user would be familiar—I did not see Angry Birds Star Wars on his phone, but that’s his loss.

Bhatia got to the Motorola Unified PTT app and launched it. A clean, uncluttered UI appeared in which you see a big push-to-talk button and a few menu items enabling the user to set call priority and some other customizable elements.

As Bhatia and I spoke, Loeger — who by now was standing at my six (I allowed this, but was not all that pleased about it) — squawked over the smartphone’s speaker.

Bhatia replied back, and because I had turned around toward Loeger, I could hear that transmission perfectly from the ASTRO P25 handset. There was no latency or lag time, and the transmission was five by five.

Scan Multiple Channels, Set Multiple Permissions
Motorola has essentially fixed the problem faced by every police leader at IACP who would want to have the option to get into real-time, PTT comms with the officers back at their department in Anytown USA.

OK, I admit that most coppers would not want the chief listening in 24/7 to the radio traffic, but think about the SWAT commander, the gang unit lieutenant, or another key member of the department who has to — for whatever reason — leave the range of that ASTRO coverage area.

The application can allow scanning of multiple channels — for the public safety leader who oversees fire, police and EMS, for example — and lets the user set priorities for those channels.

You can also set permissions to include into the P25 conversation — either ad hoc or ongoing — the partners you have in the second-responder community. I’m talking about the chiefs of university police, commercial and retail security staff, as well as public utilities and public works — all of whom can be vital in a mass-emergency scenario.

I’ve seen some pretty impressive technology from Motorola in the past five years — in coming weeks I’ll be writing about their new real-time intelligence offering I also saw at IACP today — but this little development is one of those things that makes me grin from ear to ear, saying, “Wow, that’s cool.”

Great job, my friends.

About the author

Doug Wyllie is Editor at Large for PoliceOne, providing police training content on a wide range of topics and trends affecting the law enforcement community. Doug is the 2014 Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column, and has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips. Doug hosts the PoliceOne Podcast, Policing Matters, and is the host for PoliceOne Video interviews. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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