Constant global advancement in communications technology requires an in-depth understanding of both Radio Frequency Transmission and Information Technology. This is sometimes referred to as ICT (Information, Communication Technology).
More often than not, CIOs are being tasked with providing and supporting secure "ICT solutions", critical to the effective functioning of a modern business. In addition to wireless data transmission ICT often incorporates "two-way radio", something IT people usually don't have a clue about.
Modern Digital Mobile Radio communications solutions facilitate the convergence of these two worlds providing users with a valuable business tool.
"I've been a CIO for 23 years in a number of mission-critical areas: utilities, public safety, chemicals, and health. And all of those, at some point, have used radio communications as a very important operations tool.
"My goal and my role at Tait is to close the gap between IT and radio and make sure it's seamless, that IT and radio are seen as another part of the broader communications network and that it's no big deal.
"Currently mobile radio tends to be separate, and it's an area that IT people normally don't get involved in, nor understand. Mission-critical communications brings a whole new world to what the CIO and his/her IT people are used to dealing with.
"A police or fire chief can't wait an hour for a help desk to respond to an urgent communications problem he might have right now.
"In an event like an earthquake, it's absolutely critical for utilities to be able to communicate and find out what the extent of the damage is. Or even an all-too-common power or water outage where homes are left without water or power, mission-critical mobile communication is absolutely necessary.
"'Radio guys' measure response time in minutes, rather than hours, or sometimes days, which is what IT people are used to. i.e.: 'log a call with the call centre and we'll get to you as soon as we can ... '
"When I was a CIO for a county in
- Budget constraints due to poor economic conditions, or plain old bad fiscal planning.
- The whole area of mobile communications, including how to integrate private cellphone use. Why do I need a brick walkie talkie when I have a cellphone?
- Security. How do I protect my company communications and confidential database, how do I mitigate against malicious viruses?and hackers?
"Those three things are really at the top of our minds."
"Budget issues simply means that we, as CIOs, have to be a lot more effective at delivering more with less, as much as I dislike that term. We really have to work on improving our efficiencies. Traditionally, radio has been quite separate from IT. And so you've ended up with two distinct areas that don't talk to each other. There is a lot to be gained by merging the two with new TCP/IP digital mobile radio networks.
"Critical communications networks can be monitored by the same team that's monitoring the rest of the IT network.
"This immediately alleviates some of the separation issues and costs. You can bring the radio guys into the IT network team, strengthen the technical capability of the team, and present the opportunity for efficiencies."
Integrated mobile communications
"The second thing, mobile devices, is a big one. The cellphone network towers weren't necessarily in the right places. So while you or I might have a dropped bar or two with our cell phones, or a dropped call, that's simply not good enough for mission-critical radio communications. So, we needed to supplement the coverage we had from the cellphone network, not to mention offer a better mobile radio service than a typical cellphone operator's 'best efforts'.
"The reliability and security of the networks is paramount - it simply has to be 100% reliable - you've got a policeman pulling over a car in the middle of nowhere, a real personal safety threat exists for the officer that has no comms. How about a train driver, needing secure permission to go from station to station on a single line, that's critical!
"For average cellphone users it's a mere inconvenience or irritant if our phone doesn't work, but for them it's a personal safety issue. In addition, we need to recognise real-time broadband data is being demanded by the mobile user daily. How do we combine mission-critical mobile radio with mobile broadband data requirements?"
"And the third issue of security, well that's a direct impact of, the second point above. Mobile smartphone devices, directly as a result of operating in the IP world require you to provide bullet-proof security. As we move to the cloud with many of our apps, the type of security requirement, security management and currency updates become important, something the radio guy has no experience with."
So what can EMCOM and Tait offer a CIO?
Over the years, things have become a lot more complicated, e.g: smartphones, ICT and radio networks, applications in the cloud, security, network coverage and availability and a lack of qualified technical support. Part of Tait's vision, and EMCOM's value, is to simplify things: that communications networks are thought of and operate as a whole, and the divisions between radio and IT technicians are eliminated, providing integrated solutions and producing desired efficiencies.? We call this: "
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