Will Niagara Get What It Bargained For? Emergency Radio System Brings Profits to Motorola

It’s always good when you see new radio communication systems being installed and going live on a big scale. Motorola are one of the big companies able to implement these systems, but as you can see below it didn’t all go smoothly, 

This is the first of a multi part investigative series on Niagara County’s new “Emergency Radio Communications System”.

The Reporter plans to  examine the roles of county officials, elected and appointed, a Pittsburg consultant and a Syracuse lawyer, both hired by the county, and a faction of first responders and others. At the dispatch end, we will examine the role of the 2-way radio king, Motorola Solutions Inc., of Schaumberg, Ill. Motorola managed a entire network of people through various channels, at whatever frequency was needed to interconnect and transmit to themselves a lucrative contract, sold, conceived, approved, designed, built, maintained, resupplied, and sold and up-sold again.The series will examine behind the scenes the course of business – as money interests intertwined with public interests and as the project comes online, we will attempt to evaluate whether Niagara County reaped the benefits it was promised or, as is so often the case in other localities, this is another deal where Motorola seems to have alone profited.

Price?

Niagara County’s new emergency radio communications system is expected to go “live” in June or July. Reported as a $10 million project, the system’s true cost has not been published. On April 29, the Reporter filed a Freedom of Information request with the clerk of the Niagara County Legislature, Mary Jo Tamburlin, for all contracts associated with the emergency radio project.

Based on estimates of reported cost overruns, consultant and legal fees, and Motorola’s reported contract price, the system cost at least $11 million and, if change orders,  maintenance, rentals and other expenses are similar to other Motorola projects, the final cost may be substantially more.

An FCC Mandate?

In Niagara County, the stated goal of the new emergency radio system was declared to be  undertaken to comply with the FCC’s “narrowbanding” mandate which requires 2-way radio licensees to reduce bandwidth to a narrower (weaker) signal.

The purpose of the mandate, the FCC declared, was to reduce congestion on UHF and VHF frequency bands. Whether public or private, 2-way radio systems were ordered to migrate from  bandwidths of, typically, 25 kHz to a narrower 12.5 kHz or its equivalent efficiency.

The deadline was set for Jan. 1, 2013.

The deadline missed, Niagara County applied for and was granted extensions from the FCC.

The simple change to narrower bandwidth was not what made Niagara County late by two years and five months and counting.

The county melded narrowbanding with a plan to combine every public safety division in the cities, towns and villages in Niagara County, along with Niagara County’s public safety departments, into one unified Motorola designed digital system.

Each independent department would abandon their analog systems and their scores of dedicated channels and share a pool of far lesser channels that Motorola would arrange to help provide.

To be clear — the main cost of Niagara County’s Emergency Radio Communications system was not FCC narrowbanding, but the merger of all public safety’s 2-way radio communications into a single digital Motorola system to be used with top of the line Motorola 2-way radios.

Digital Trunked System Promises Better Communications, New Radios

The system, a microwave network with Motorola radio transmitters on seven radio towers strategically located throughout the county and linked to a dispatch center and a backup center replete with top of the line Motorola equipment. The system does comply with the FCC narrowbanding mandate and in addition promises, as all Motorola ‘trunked’ digital systems do, the ability of radio users on the system to be able to speak directly to any other user regardless of agency or department.

Called “interoperability,” it is perhaps infrequently used except in times of crisis when coordination among first responders can be of paramount importance.

The second feature, one that Motorola contracted to provide, was 2-way radio reception with 95 percent reliability over 95 percent of the land area of Niagara County which, if realized, is greater than the county enjoys collectively with its various analog radio channels. Finally, as a sweetener, Niagara County purchased from Motorola, at, reportedly, a cost of about $2 million some 1850 top of the line 2-way Motorola radios. Normally sold to governments for $5,000 each, Motorola discounted them to not much more than $1,000 each.

County legislators made these available as gifts to every public safety employee whose agency or department joined the new Motorola system. Not every department wanted to join. Lockport Fire Chief Thomas J. Passuite said his fire radios could be bought into compliance with narrowbanding for $3,500.

Lockport Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert said his department could comply with FCC narrowbanding for $21,900.

Eggert apparently understood that by selling $5,000 list price radios for $1000, Motorola  ensured future sales. In five years or so, when the typical 2-way radio is ready for replacement, Eggert knew his department would have to buy new ones at a price 10 times higher than the $500 narrowbanding compliant 2-way analog radios cost.

The Lockport City Council – under mounting pressure from county officials – overruled Eggert and Passuite’s analog plans – and voted that their police and fire departments must join the county system and accept the gift of Motorola radios – estimated to have a replacement value of $425,000.

Now the Niagara County digital system is, according to County Manager Jeffrey Glatz, essentially finished.

Whether it will achieve the promised 95 percent coverage goals may take some time to determine.

 

Motorola has Digital Troubles and ‘Shady Dealings’ in Other Cities

In other municipalities, background noise, garbled transmissions and dead spots inside of buildings have plagued Motorola digital systems and some have failed to achieve the 95 percent coverage and 95 percent reliability Motorola appeared to have promised.

In fact, problems with Motorola digital systems are so fully documented that some readers may be surprised that Niagara County officials did not address this publicly before buying  a Motorola digital system. “Fire departments in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Phoenix and Boise, Idaho — communities that have spent tens of millions of dollars on the new equipment — are so leery of problems that they won’t use digital radios at fire scenes,” reports McClatchy DC News, a publication of the McClatchy Company, owners of Knight Ridder and 30 daily newspapers in 15 states, in a story that was part of an investigative series on Motorola’s business practices, published in 2011.

The McClatchy series prompted the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, John Roth, to order an audit to determine whether federal grant money has bankrolled biased contract awards to Motorola.

There are reports, easily found online, published in newspapers across the nation, many of which were available to Niagara County lawmakers when they were considering contracting with Motorola in 2010-2011, that suggest Motorola’s cozy dealings with government officials were something to be wary of.

Dozens of shady dealings with officials of various government agencies were alleged that led to Motorola getting questionable no bid contracts then adding change orders, as they did in DuPage County Ill., where a $7 million, no-bid contract wound up costing more than $28 million.

 

In Many Places Motorola’s Digital Systems Have Failed

There are as many reports that suggest Motorola’s digital 2-way emergency radios and digital communications systems – like the one Niagara County purchased – have a troubled history.

The City of Chicago, as the Chicago Tribune reported in 2011, spent nearly $23 million on a no-bid Motorola digital radio deal in 2006 for their fire department, “that still doesn’t work after more than five years”.

The Tribune reported that firefighters continue to use their 50-year-old analog radio system.

Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff told the Tribune that “digital radios have been problematic for fire departments in big cities across the country.”

McClatchy reported that Motorola’s “digital radios’ shortcomings are so widely known that they’ve acquired nicknames. There’s the ‘digital cliff,’ when a radio is out of range and the connection ends without warning. There’s ‘bonking’ — also dubbed ‘the sound of death’ by some Philadelphia firefighters — when an important transmission gets rejected because too many other radios are using the system. Then there’s ‘going digital,’ when a radio emits a garble of beeps and tones instead of a voice.”

Failures of Motorola’s digital radios were blamed in part for two firefighter deaths in Philadelphia, two in Cincinnati and one, on April 16, 2007, when a Woodbridge, Va., firefighter died in the line of duty.

The Prince William County Department of Fire Rescue concluded that the county’s Motorola digital trunked radio system contributed to the tragedy.

And Motorola reached settlements for undisclosed sums with the families of the two dead Philadelphia firefighters.

In Hamilton County, Ohio,  after some $35 million was spent on a new Motorola digital trunked system, a 2008 fire erupted in suburban Cincinnati.

Firefighters Robin Broxterman and Brian Schira perished there after they repeatedly tried to summon help on their Motorola digital radios.

A Colerain Fire Department investigation found that, in a half-hour period, the Motorola trunked system rejected at least 43 attempted communications by firefighters, some of them because 22 agencies and 75 nonparticipants monitoring the event tied up space on the system.

Broxterman’s parents, Donald and Arlene Zang, sued Motorola but lost.

The Zang’s did not sue on the premise that Motorola’s digital trunked system was defective, but that digital trunked systems in general are inferior to analog systems for firefighting.

While the court did not rule on Zang’s argument that a digital system is inferior to analog, the court reasoned that Motorola cannot be held liable for supplying an inferior product, since it was in compliance with what the buyer, Hamilton County, wanted.

More Problems in Ontario, Orlando, Houston

Closer to home, the Niagara Regional Police in Ontario, which converted from analog to a Motorola digital system, had problems with dispatch failures in 2012 and, after repeated failures, the Ministry of Labour had to intervene demanding the department identify the problem for the immediate safety of workers.

In Orlando Fla, for years digital garbling and unintelligible transmissions made the Fire Department’s Motorola digital system worthless.

Firefighters continued to use their old analog radios.

Ultimately, according to Deputy Chief Greg Hoggatt, the digital system was righted and the department is now 100 percent digital.

But problems in other cities continue.

Jeff Caynon, the president of Houston’s firefighters’ union, said problems with Motorola’s $140 million digital system, completed in 2013, forced rescuers to resort during a blaze in May 2013 to use “hand and arm signals and cell phones as a reliable way to communicate.”

As recently as January, Houston’s Fire Department was still having problems with Motorola digital radios – having to frequently discard useless but expensive Motorola digital 2-way radios.

“It compromises the safety of firefighters at emergency incidents,” Captain Ruy Lozano, of the Houston Fire Department, told ABC News in January 2015.

Which brings us back to Niagara County.

Will Niagara County’s Motorola digital system work?

There are certainly cases where Motorola digital systems do work.

Although the successes seem to be a little harder to find on internet searches.

Motorola has Checkered Dealings with Local Governments

So how did it come about that a system with a track record of flaws was pushed through with hardly a word of discussion?

This is a topic that should be explored in depth.

Motorola secured a contract for Niagara County’s digital 2-way business in a way that parallels what the company did in dozens of other municipalities and several states.

In Chicago, Dallas, the San Francisco Bay Area and on statewide systems in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Washington, Motorola has been accused of irregularities or of winning contracts through government favoritism.

In the San Francisco Bay Area a $50 million deal imploded when investigators for the Commerce Department’s inspector general’s office concluded that a grant application had  “significant misrepresentations.”

A McClatchy survey of the largest cities in America show that Motorola won 20 of 22 contracts – about half of the time these were no bid awards.

In some municipalities Motorola has been accused of deploying sales staff whose primary tasks is to counsel government officials on how to skirt public bidding laws, something Motorola spokesmen have denied.

Similarities Between Niagara County and Other Municipalities and Motorola

Ironically Niagara County sought to hand Motorola a no bid contract.

The Republican majority on the legislature was ready to vote on a $22 million no bid Motorola contract until it was scuttled, at the 11th hour, not by the savvy resolve of cost conscious legislators but through dumb luck.

Only Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso called for an RFP and open bidding, but he was ignored.

In many localities Motorola has been accused of winning RFP’s through the aid of friendly government officials and their hired consultants who craft the RFP’s to ensure Motorola wins.

In Niagara County, after several strokes of the most extraordinary dumb luck, to be detailed in a subsequent story, an  RFP was crafted by the county’s consultant and bids were solicited,  much to the credit of certain elected officials – whose desire for the public good, as opposed to Motorola’s, was evident.

But there were some who were ostensibly working, or contracted to work, for the county who, for reasons to be examined, appeared to be working behind the scenes to aid Motorola.

As readers will see next week, Niagara County was accused of writing an RFP that not only favored Motorola but literally excluded any competitor from having a chance at winning the contract, and this, we submit, is based on standards that, once reviewed by competent experts, will reveal themselves for what they were intended to be.

Source - http://www.niagarafallsreporter.com/Stories/2015/MAY12/Motorolai.html

British Screen Icon Richard Attenborough Passes Away, Aged 90

British actor, director and screen legend Lord Richard Attenborough passed away last August, he was 90 years old.

The iconic performer, known for a plethora of memorable film roles over a career spanning an impressive six decades, leaves behind a majestic legacy. What follows is an overview of Attenborough’s film work, both as an actor and a director and, after that, a few words about his contributions outside of cinema.

Beginning his career in the 1940’s, the young actor started out in numerous stage plays before attending The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), which he would later serve as president. His early film roles included the Noel Coward directed wartime film ‘In Which We Serve’ (1942), which starred John Mills, ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ starring David Niven (1946) and the original film version of ‘London Belongs To Me’ with Alastair Sim (1948).

Lord Attenborough’s big break came in 1947, when he starred as unscrupulous gang leader Pinkie Brown in the film adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel ‘Brighton Rock’ (which also stars future ‘Doctor Who’ actor William Hartnell). Attenborough’s portrayal was nothing short of mesmerizing in its coldness and cruelty and, by 1949, he was considered to be among the most popular British actors of the day.

Throughout the 1950’s, Attenborough starred in war films such as ‘Dunkirk’ – again with John Mills (1958) and comedies like ‘Private’s Progress’ (1956), he also dazzled as Stoker Snipe in the 1950 film adaptation of ‘Morning Departure’, a highly moving piece about a submarine crew stranded at the bottom of the sea, which also starred John Mills.

In 1960, Attenborough portrayed factory worker Tom Curtis in ‘The Angry Silence’, a British ‘kitchen sink’ movie that saw his character refuse to join his fellow workers on strike as himself and his family dealt with the consequences. He also appeared in the classic crime drama ‘The League of Gentleman’ in the same year.

In 1963, Attenborough starred in ‘The Great Escape’ playing Bartlett ‘Big X’ alongside an all-star cast that included Steve McQueen, James Garner, Donald Pleasence, Charles Bronson and James Coburn.

1965’s Oscar nominated ‘The Flight Of The Phoenix’ saw him playing alongside Hollywood screen legend James Stewart. In 1967, Attenborough portrayed Albert Blossom in the musical film ‘Doctor Dolittle’ and, in 1969, he directed his first feature, the musical ‘Oh, What A Lovely War!’

In 1971, Attenborough performed one of his most memorable roles as the serial killer John Christie, acting alongside John Hurt and Judy Geeson in ‘10 Rillington Place’. He was reluctant to take the part at first, but appears to have done so in order to take a stand against capital punishment.

In 1975, he starred alongside John Wayne in ‘Brannigan’. In 1977, he directed ‘A Bridge Too Far’, a war story that starred Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Gene Hackman, James Caan and Anthony Hopkins.

In 1981, Attenborough completed a true labour of love and his most noted work as a director, the epic biopic ‘Gandhi’, starring Ben Kingsley. The film earned Attenborough two Academy Awards, one for directing and one for producing. In 1987, he directed Denzel Washington in ‘Cry Freedom’, which celebrated the life of anti-Apartheid activist Steve Biko. He would next produce and direct a biopic in 1992, directing Robert Downey, Jr, Marissa Tomei, Dan Akroyd and Geraldine Chaplin in ‘Chaplin’, a film depicting the life of influential movie star Charlie Chaplin.

Attenborough’s two most famous late career roles occurred within one year of each other. In 1993, he portrayed impresario John Hammond in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Jurassic Park’ (a role he would reprise in the 1997 sequel ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park’) and in 1994, he joyously appeared as Father Christmas in the re-make of ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, both roles won Attenborough critical acclaim, as well as an entire generation of new fans. In 1998, he appeared as Baron William Cecil in ‘Elizabeth’, an historical drama also starring Cate Blanchett, Christopher Eccleston and Geoffrey Rush, which focussed on the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Attenborough directed his last film, ‘Closing The Ring’ in 2007 and gave his final acting performance in 2004, lending his voice to the film ‘Tres En El Camino’.

Away from acting, Lord Attenborough was active in politics; he was appointed as a life peer (as Baron Attenborough) in 1993 and chose to sit on the Labour party benches at The House of Lords. He was a vocal opponent of South African apartheid and a lifelong advocate of racial equality. In 1983, he was awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-violence Peace Prize by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Centre For Non-violent Social Change.

A passionate advocate of education at all levels, Attenborough served as Chancellor of the University of Sussex for 10 years (from 1998 until 2008) and he was a patron of University College, Leicester, where his father had served as principal.

He also worked tirelessly on behalf of several charities, including The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, The Richard Attenborough Fellowship Fund (which also aims to fund research into neuromuscular conditions) and UNICEF, for whom he served as Goodwill Ambassador and donated many of the proceeds from ‘Gandhi’ to. From ‘Gandhi’ alone, he raised in excess of a Million Dollars for the charity.

Lord Attenborough received a CBE (Commander of The British Empire) in 1967 and was fully knighted in 1976. From 1969 – 1982, Attenborough, a dedicated football fan, served as the director of Chelsea Football Club. Between 1993 and 2008, he was also the club’s Honorary Vice President.

Richard Attenborough’s career was truly groundbreaking in every sense of the word. He was unquestionably one of the greatest actors of all time as well as a man of moral courage and noble spirit. As an artist, philanthropist, educator and man of conscience, this world will be much poorer without him.

Pryme Radio Products features Bluetooth accessories in latest additions to product portfolio

The IWCE was a great event this year, with lots of great companies and exhibitors. Particular noted showcase’s were Pryme and their new Bluetooth range. You can find the original source of the article on this website 

Pryme Radio Products recently showcased four accessories that leverage Bluetooth technology as the California-based manufacturer continues to expand its product portfolio supporting both two-way-radio and cellular users.

Introduced at IWCE 2015, Pryme Radio Products’ new BTH-600 is a heavy-duty Bluetooth wireless speaker microphone that supports push-to-talk (PTT) capability on two-way radios, according to Pryme Radio Products President Dave George. By loading different software into the headset, the user can utilize PTT applications that are available on cellular phone, he said.

Based on Pryme’s Storm Trooper platform, the BTH-600 is waterproof and utilizes an off-the-shelf, rechargeable cell-phone battery, George said.

“One of the coolest things about it is that it’s got a big battery—it can run for 40 hours of continuous duty on a single charge, and it can be in standby mode for 30 days,” George said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “

The BTH-300 is a small, lightweight clip-on box that converts any wired Apple iPhone accessory into a Bluetooth headset, according to company literature. Featuring 10 hours of battery life, a built-in PTT switch and a built-in noise-canceling microphone, the BTH-300 can be used during covert operations—there is no visible LED light—and supports both radio and cellular communications, George said.

“This will work both with radio dongles and with cell phones at the same time,” he said. “It has a separate button on it for answering phone calls, and it has technology inside of it that will allow you to prioritize whether you want to ignore the two-way-radio calls while you are on you cell phone, or whether you want to ignore the cell phone calls when you are on a two-way-radio call.”

For those using Motorola Solutions’ XPR-3300/3500 series radios on a MOTOTRBO network, Pryme Radio Products has developed the BT-M11, which is a Bluetooth adapter that attaches directly to the radio with a patent-pending locking mechanism, George said. Previously, Bluetooth chips were so large that Pryme’s Bluetooth adapter had to be attached with a cable, he said.

“Now that the Bluetooth chips have gotten much smaller, we’re finally able to get it inside the small connector,” George said. “So, we’ve designed a new small connector that will attach directly to the side of the radio and contain the Bluetooth technology.”

Twelfth Doctor To Battle Vikings (And Other Series 9-Related Rumours)

Just a few short weeks after series 8 of the long-running sci-fi show garnered a Craft Award at the BAFTAs (for ‘Deep Breath’s excellent T-Rex sequences), shooting is already under way for Block 3 (that’s episodes 5 6, in case you were wondering) of Series 9. Phew! Don’t these guys ever take a break?

According to www.doctorwhotv.co.uk, series 9 will see everybody’s favourite Time Lord and his trusty companion having a Viking-themed adventure, guest starring Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams. Cast and crew have begun filming at Cosmeston Medieval Village, and leaked on-set photos appear to show crewmembers hard at work building period-specific boats. Other leaked info points to a showdown between The Doctor and the Norse God Odin. Should be fun.

The village will also be the setting for the brand-new monster that was officially unveiled by the BBC last week. Looking like a giant Warhammer figure brought magically to life, the monster may (or may not) be called The Cyclone and the teaser photos already have online fans buzzing.

Meanwhile, other on-set photos (leaked by Twitter user Amberlabamba) appear to show star Peter Capaldi in a new outfit, specifically, a pair of Tartan trousers that knowingly remind us of Twelve’s innate Scottishness, whilst also recalling some of the outfits worn by Second Doctor Patrick Troughton.

…He’s keeping the Doc Martens, though.

The costume change is also interesting because Capaldi’s initial series 8 outfit, a stylish, scaled back Crombie coat (designed specifically with cosplay in mind), also recalled an outfit worn by Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor during the 1970’s. It certainly looks like the BBC costume department are taking a bit of inspiration from the show’s early days. Its all good, just as long as he leaves the six-foot scarf at home – some things aren’t meant to be touched!

…And that goes TRIPLE for any Technicolor dream coats that the costume department might be planning to unleash on us.

In other Who news, it appears that director Hettie MacDonald, best known by Whovians for her sterling work on the Tenth Doctor episode Blink, will be returning to direct a couple of U.N.I.T-related episodes entitled The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar, which are set to act as a two-part series’ opener. The adventure will probably feature the return of Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart, daughter of the legendary Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

Other cast members announced (or rumoured) for series 9 guest slots are Game of Thrones and Ripper Street actor Paul Kaye, comedian Rufus Hound, The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Kelly Hunter (who may or may not be reprising her role as The Shadow Architect from Series 4’s The Stolen Earth) and Clare Higgins, who recently appeared in the Eighth Doctor mini-episode The Night of The Doctor as The High Priestess of The Karn Sisterhood.

Michelle Gomez will also return as Missy – the female incarnation of The Master, as seen throughout series 8.

A particularly juicy rumour (apparently started by The Daily Mirror) has the series returning The Doctor to the Dalek homeworld Skaro, whereupon the Time Lord must contemplate whether or not to murder his nemesis Davros, creator of The Daleks, during childhood. The episode, if indeed it is an episode at all, would therefore re-tread philosophical ground first walked during Terry Nation’s classic Fourth Doctor serial Genesis of the Daleks.

The story may also pick up on the as-yet unused Davros origin story written by former series boss Russell T. Davies, which was cut from series four’s The Stolen Earth/Journeys End two-parter (it can be read in Davies’ Doctor Who companion book The Writers Tale). If this is the case, then this proposed episode might also explain the return of Kelly Hunter to the Whoniverse, for obvious reasons.

Of course, you can never trust the rumour mill too wantonly, but if the idea of a series that features The Sisterhood of Karn, The Shadow Proclamation, Davros, The Master and Odin doesn’t float your (long)boat, then, quite frankly, I’m not entirely sure why you read this far…

Experts Investigate Antares Rocket Explosion

Experts are presently investigating the destruction of the unmanned space rocket Antares, which exploded during its launch on Tuesday, October 28th. Official investigations began on the 29th, but no definite cause for the accident has been identified so far.

Almost immediately upon leaving the launch pad at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, Antares became engulfed in flames and was destroyed in midair. The falling wreckage caused considerable damage to the launch pad itself.

Although the cargo was lost, there were no casualties.

Antares was carrying around 5,000lbs (2,200 kgs) of supplies, which were intended for the six astronauts currently occupying the International Space Station. The rocket’s cargo included over 1,300lbs (600kg) of dried food, as well equipment for various scientific experiments.

Despite the loss of important supplies and equipment, the astronauts aboard the ISS will still have enough provisions to continue their work.

Frank Culbertson, executive vice-president of Orbital Sciences Corp, the firm that built the rocket, is confident that the cause of the explosion will soon be determined. He told BBC News that,

“We will understand what happened, hopefully soon, and we’ll get things back on track (…) we’ve all seen this happen in our business before, and we’ve all seen the teams recover from this, and we will do the same.”

Mr. Culbertson has also urged locals not to go “souvenir hunting” along the beach, as the rocket had been carrying hazardous materials.

Some business experts are now predicting that Orbital may suffer greatly in the face of harsh competition to supply the ISS.

The investigation could take weeks, or even more, before analysts are satisfied that they have found the root cause of the problem.

In any instance, it seems highly likely that the investigators will place considerable emphasis on the rocket’s AJ-26 engines, which were used to lift Antares from the launch pad.

Earlier versions of these same engines were developed for Russia’s N1 moon missions, which came to an ignominious end after all four launch attempts failed. The second attempt, in 1969, resulted in a calamity that completely destroyed both the rocket and the launch tower.

Another of these power units actually exploded during ground testing earlier this year.

Whatever the cause, this malfunction is expected to set any further Antares rocket launches back for a considerable amount of time.

Icom Announces New Digital Land Mobile Radios at IWCE 2015

Icom America is showcasing new land mobile radio equipment at the 2015 International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE). The company will be displaying new products promoting digital and IP radio technology. The IWCE conference will be held at Nevada’s Las Vegas Convention March 16-20. Icom will be exhibiting at Booth 621 during exhibit hall hours on March 18-19. Icom associates will also be participating on weekday panels highlighting P25, NXDN™, next-gen communications, and systems deployed in Latin America.

New products on display at Icom Booth 621 include the F1000D/F2000D the F3200DEX/F4200DEX, which belong to the Icom Digital Advanced System known as IDAS™. The F1000D Series is a compact entry-level radio featuring enhanced emergency functions. The F3200DEX Series is a rugged handheld that meets Intrinsically Safe standards. For IP solutions, Icom’s VE-PG3 RoIP gateway and IP100H wireless LAN radio will also be on display.

Icom is also announcing the F5122DD Series transceiver. This data modem features MIL-STD construction and is ideal for field monitoring and remote system management. Additionally, the company is exhibiting its exclusive IC-7850 amateur radio as well as the ID-5100A and ID-51A PLUS D-STAR radios.

Sponsored by Penton Media, IWCE 2015 will host Icom and more than 7,000 dealers, distributors and end-users from various industries. IWCE’s conference program comprises five days of workshops, training courses and short courses. Keynotes, general sessions and networking events are also scheduled throughout the week.

Icom America Vice President Chris Lougee is participating in two IWCE events:

    • “Project 25 Foundations and System Technology Updates for 2015″ workshop on March 16
    • “An Update on P25 Compliance Assessment Program (CAP)” short course on March 19

“The P25 Compliance Assessment Program is critical in the equipment procurement process for government agencies,” says Lougee. “It is the best way to ensure interoperability.”

The following Icom America associates are participating as panelists for IWCE courses on March 18:

    • Mark Behrends (Senior Manager of Marketing) for “Next-Generation Push-to-Talk Roundtable: Cellular, Satellite, Wireless LAN and LTE”
    • Edwin Cortes (Technical Sales Manager, LatAm) for “Estudios de Caso: TETRA, LTE y P25″
    • Rodney Grim (Business Development Manager) and Chris Lougee for “A NXDN Deployment Review”

We are really interested in where Icom have going with their digital radios, the IP stuff is nothing new but Icom have a great history with Two Way Radios, you can find the original source of the article here - http://www.policeone.com/police-products/police-technology/press-releases/8413508-Icom-Announces-New-Digital-Land-Mobile-Radios-at-IWCE-2015/

Introducing the Sensear Intrinsically Safe Double Protection Headset

Many of you might not heard of Sensear, they are making big strides in the headset industry, here is their latest offering.

Sensear, a global leader in developing and manufacturing best-in-class digital communication headsets, announced the release today of their new Intrinsically Safe Double Protection Headset (IS-SDP). Based on Sensear’s existing SM1xSR IS headset, and incorporating the double protection feature from Sensear’s current non-IS double protection headset; the new IS-SDP headset includes an improved boom microphone, and will interface with a variety of two-way radios both cabled and via Bluetooth for wireless operations.  Bluetooth can also be used with IS Smart phones and other IS Bluetooth devices.

The Sensear IS-SDP headset was developed from a marketplace need for a high performance intrinsically safe headset for extreme noise environments that require Class 1 Div 1 certification. Double hearing protection (both ear plugs and ear muffs) is often required when exposures may exceed 95 decibels (dBA) in many critical working areas. At the same time operators in these environments are required to use two-way radios to hear site communications and respond appropriately. Without the use of an appropriate intrinsically safe headset communications on site can potentially be very difficult.

The ear-plugs for the IS-SDP are hard wired to the headset allowing for dual protection, and communications to be directly understood by the operator. The IS-SDP’s 31 dB NRR combined with Sensear’s patented SENS™ technology allow operators to protect their hearing at a safe level of 82 dB, communicate effectively between co-workers via two-way radio and Bluetooth and maintain 360-degree awareness.

“We were excited about the development of the IS-SDP the early beginnings of Sensear grew from creating unique solutions for many industrial environments,” said Peter Larsson, CEO.  “The IS-SDP continues to show our commitment to developing practical, usable products that solve the communication challenges in heavy industry.”

Source - http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/introducing-the-sensear-intrinsically-safe-double-protection-headset-300052146.html

When Bob Woolmer and Hansie Cronje fell foul of the ICC in their attempt to use technology to help their communication

While technology has come to play an increasing part in the modern game, when the captain is in the middle he remains very much on his own, able only to draw on advice from his team-mates and the occasional message from the dressing room surreptitiously brought out by a water carrier or physio. But at the 1999 World Cup, South Africa tried – and failed – to find a way around the problem.

For more than a year before the tournament, Bob Woolmer (at the time South Africa’s coach and always someone looking for new approaches to old problems), had been toying with an idea he had seen work in US sport where it was common practice for players to wear small earpieces to allow them to hear instructions from coaches.

Woolmer tried the equipment in a couple of benefit matches during the year; it worked well and, just as importantly, went almost unnoticed. After checking it did not breach either the tournament regulations or the laws of cricket, he suggested to Cronje they use it in the tournament itself. He agreed and when the proposal was mentioned to Allan Donald, he too said he was willing to give it a try.

South Africa tried the earpieces out in one of their warm-up matches and again it attracted no comment, so they decided to use them when South Africa played India in the two sides’ opening game in Hove on May 15. Mohammad Azharuddin won the toss and batted and when Cronje led his side on to the field he and Donald had their earpieces in place.

It did not take long for the television commentators to spot them, and Sourav Ganguly, who opened for India with Sachin Tendulkar, also noticed, bringing it to the attention of the umpires, Steve Bucknor and David Shepherd, shortly before the drinks break.

The umpires spoke to Cronje, who was quite open about what was going on. Unable to decide if what he was doing was legal, they asked Talat Ali, the match referee, for a ruling. He too was unsure and contacted the ICC, which said that while the earpieces were technically not breaching any rules, they were unfair. As drinks came out, so did Ali, making clear the earpieces had to go. Although the audience on TV was privy to the discussion, most spectators at Hove were left bemused, so small were the devices that were being used.

South Africa went on to win the match and afterwards Woolmer was unrepentant. “All I was trying to do was give help and advice,” he said. “I’m sorry if I’ve upset anyone. I’ve tried to be innovative; the idea was to take the game forward. Where we erred was, I should have asked the ICC for permission. Perhaps I’m naive, but it didn’t occur to me. I felt it was a really good idea and I would like to discuss it with the ICC.

“I’m not trying to disturb the batsman or the captain, I’m just wanting to offer some advice. They use it in American football and I believe the French used it in their World Cup campaign, so I felt it was a really good idea. Hopefully, it will make life easier for the cricketer.”

He also went out of his way to explain the system was not aimed at giving instructions. “If Donald, for example, is not bowling with rhythm I could tell him to run in harder or more softly. It is a way of addressing technical faults by looking at the game from a different angle.”

Cronje was also dismissive of criticism. “There’s nothing in the rules to stop us from using it and it’s very disappointing it’s been stopped,” he said. “The coach sits at a different angle from me and he can give me different options when we’re batting or bowling. It’s always nice to hear another voice.” He also asked if the ICC was going to ban gloves being taken out to batsmen “in case a message from the coach is sent with them”.

If the media hoped Azharuddin would be incensed, they were disappointed. “It’s going to happen,” he said. “It does in other sports.”

ICC spokesman Clive Hitchcock said: ‘We made our position clear when we said that the World Cup is not the event to experiment with new devices. We would listen to anything the South Africa management had to say on the issue, but in view of the fact that we would have to get all the countries together to discuss the issue, it is unlikely these devices will be used again in the current tournament. There may be nothing in the rules banning them but neither is there anything there saying that they can be used.”

When the press asked Ali Bacher, the chief executive of the United Cricket Board of South Africa, for his opinion, he admitted he was aware of Woolmer’s innovation. “Bob came to me about 15 months ago to ask about it and I told him at the time that it could be controversial,” he said. “But Bob has a hyperactive cricket brain and sometimes he gets ahead of himself.”

The South Africans left Hove still hoping they would be allowed to use the earpieces but the ICC made clear it was not going to budge and that was that.

What happened next

  • The ICC subsequently banned the use of such devices but Woolmer was undeterred. “I believe that technology is the way to go forward and we will be using earpieces in the nets at Warwickshire so that I don’t have to keep interrupting players to make my point. But I am also hopeful that I can persuade the ECB to allow the use of earpieces in second team cricket to show that they can be a real help to captains and players.”
  • Less than a year later Cronje was uncovered as a match-fixer and subsequently banned from the game. He died in an air crash in 2002.
  • Woolmer resigned as South Africa coach at the end of the tournament and returned to Warwickshire. He died in suspicious circumstances during the 2007 World Cup.​​

With the end of the Cricket world cup approaching, we still don’t see any modern communications coming into the game, does it matter that the coaches are able to communicate better with their players? other sports allow the coaches to shout and lead players, why wouldn’t cricket? you can find the original source of the article here

RFID and AIDC News: What is Zebra’s Strategy for Motorola’s Mobile Wireless and Data Collection Businesses?

In early 2014, printing and RFID system focused Zebra Technologies announced it was acquiring the “Enterprise Systems” business from Motorola Solutions, in a deal that closed in late October. That left Motorola to focus on its radio systems business.

It was a somewhat surprising move, certainly moving Zebra up the supply chain food change. What was the strategy behind the deal? How fast and how far will the integration of Motorola into Zebra go? Is Zebra now a “solutions” company?

SCDigest editor Dan Gilmore recently interviewed Mike Terzich, Zebra’s Chief Administrative Officer who is leading the integration program, on these and several other topics.

Gilmore: Mike, before we start talking about the Motorola Enterprise acquisition, you’ve been around the Auto ID industry for two decades. Not long ago, it was a very recognized and defined space. Now, not so much. It doesn’t receive much press coverage at all today, though SCDigest is trying to rectify that a bit. Is it because it’s just so easy to make it work today that end users just don’t need much education any more?

Terzich: I think part of the reason that it has evolved the way it has is that if you look at who the industry icons were back in the day, the Intermecs, the Symbols [Symbol Technologies], the Telxons, the Hand Held Products, Datamax – all of them have been consolidated up into large industrial conglomerates. Zebra is really one of the last of the independents.

For years, you had so much independent development, and every manufacturer had their own operating language and everything was proprietary, so that added a dimension of complexity that users had to deal with. Over time, as architectures became more open and interoperable, the mystery kind of disappeared on how to implement and integrate this stuff. The question now is not really about the technical aspects, but issues like how to optimize my assets across my supply chain network. Today it is much more of an application and business question than it is a technical one with Auto ID.

Gilmore: I must admit the Motorola announcement took me a bit by surprise, though it was clear there were some tensions within the old Motorola Solutions between the radio side and the wireless and data collection businesses. What was Zebra’s strategy in making this deal?

Terzich: A little bit history – we tried to be part of the opportunity back in 2006 and 2007 when Symbol Technologies was put on the market and eventually found its way to Motorola. We made a pitch at the time – I was personally involved – and as I like to say we were a day late and a dollar short in terms of making a deal.

So our interest level from a strategic perspective has really been in place for seven years. So when the opportunity re-presented itself last year, our CEO Anders Gustafsson and Motorola started to have some conversations. For us, it was always about the attraction of where we saw the market evolving, and this whole concept around enterprise apps and intelligence, the interest of companies to optimize across their value chains, and we felt that the combination of Zebra and the enterprise mobility business from Motorola made complete sense because it allowed us to offer a broader portfolio and a higher percentage of the solution offering.

For us, it also allows us to become closer to the application development side of the business. As a printing company, while we had a vision and an aspiration to be part of where enterprises were willing to go in terms of managing their business, it’s hard to lead application and solution development around your brand when you’re the printing component. Printing has become almost second nature today, while the wireless business and the portfolio Motorola has there in terms of mobile computing and the trends were we seeing with Cloud-based application development, the Internet of Things, asset optimization, and ubiquitous mobility – that’s what enticed us to say this is still a very relevant strategic opportunity today as it was back in 2007.

Gilmore: I understand you have rather fully integrated Motorola in already. I would have thought that initially, given the very different nature of the business, that you would have started with it as separate SBU. I also understand you are quickly getting rid of the Motorola brand name in favor of it all being Zebra Technologies. Is that correct, and if Yes, what was the thinking?

Terzich: It’s semi-correct. Where we are integrated is in our go-to-market strategy and our face to the customer. When you look at where Motorola Enterprise Mobility was selling, who their customers were and their routes to market, it was a combination of strategically calling on some very large end users and a significant reseller and integrator channel. It turned out that the amount of common end user customers and channel partners between Zebra and Motorola Enterprise is really quite significant.

So we had the opportunity to integrate sales forces, and when you think about it through the eyes of the sales team, your carrying more products in your sales bag, you are selling largely to the same channel partners that Zebra and Motorola were both selling to independently. The largest end users are mostly customers in common, so there was some natural synergistic opportunity in our go to market model.

Where we have remained separate is in the R&D and development side, because the product lines are complementary not competitive, and over time Motorola’s competency in mobile computing, data collection and wireless networks are unique skill sets for us. So we are maintaining separate engineering and product development organizations, but we come together with a common global sales and marketing organization.

Gilmore: And what about the branding? Is the Motorola name gone, it is now all Zebra Technologies going forward?

Terzich: From a contractual/legal perspective, we have to get off the name and the “batwings” [the Motorola logo] as part of the transaction, so it’s not like we have a choice. We can however leverage the Symbol Technologies brand, and we are going to do that as a product brand is some isolated areas. But Symbol as a name has been out of circulation for about seven years, and while it has some affinity say in the reseller community, the long term strategy is that everything will be branded Zebra Technologies.

But in the transitional period there will be some product that have to transfer to a Symbol products sub-brand as a means to get off of the Motorola bat wings.

Gilmore: What’s your take on wireless systems market? It really now is just down in the US to just two major players, Honeywell and now Zebra. Is it is still a good market, a growth market?

Terzich: What’s interesting about the combination is we’re now number one in mobile computing, number one in data collection, and number one in printing. We have a very large global service organization. And then you get to wireless LAN, and that’s the fifth of our major revenue buckets.

What’s interesting about wireless LAN is that it has the highest growth profile of any of those segments, but clearly Motorola’s position here is not number 1. You have some very large players [e.g., Cisco] that operate in a more horizontal market mode, and focus generally on more “carpeted” areas of a business, versus a distribution center or shop floor or a retail store. I think Motorola had done a nice job of carving out a niche relative to some markets that we service, principally in the retail and some of the hospitality markets, and the product has been successful and we have quite a bit of customer loyalty in these sectors.

So our strategy going forward from a wireless LAN perspective is to be very vertically focused and application specific where the product has some advantages, and to build off that customer loyalty. We don’t think the answer is to compete broadly in the wireless LAN marketplace because we don’t have the R&D engine or the brand equity in some of those markets or applications.

So we are going to stick to our knitting, which will concentrated in retail, hospitality and healthcare, where our product seems to resonate.

Gilmore: You and Motorola use primarily a channels strategy. Are you in the solutions business, and can you do that if you use a channels strategy and are one-step removed from the customer?

Terzich: Great question.

One of the things that most people don’t realize is that Zebra, organically before the Motorola acquisition, had about 80% of its business through channels and about 20% through some large, named strategic accounts. And those accounts tended to be some very sophisticated adopters of technology that effectively act as their own systems integrator.

These are large retailers, large transportation companies, and large manufacturers that well understand how to deploy technology to drive efficiency and productivity. So that was our composite, and Motorola’s was very similar, the difference being that because Motorola offered enterprise mobile computing, they tended to call a little higher in those organizations, and they worked more closely with application developers and independent software developers because usually the real problem is solved by application software and re-engineering of business processes.

So Motorola may have been calling on maybe 40% of its revenue from a strategic account perspective, and that means they had a seat at the end user table and they are influencing those companies, even if those are sometimes still being fulfilled through channels.

So where do we fall in the solutions spectrum? Both product lines do not constitute a solution by themselves, they still need to connect to application software and that requires integration support. So the channel will remain a very vital part of the strategy.

At a very simple level, we see that there are opportunities for better enabling application software. So how do we make mobile printing devices and mobile computing and data collection devices better together from a product design set? How do we make our technology more interoperable and attractive for application development?

When you look at this technology and how ubiquitous it is you, find that deployment is really though many hundreds of application developers. You don’t see a small number of applications as being really dominant. Our job is to continue to work with those developers to make our solutions as easy to integrate with them as we can.

No CIO or CFO goes to bed at night thinking “I need to bar code something.” But they do wake up and say I need to take a billion dollars out my supply chain, or whatever the figure is. What we do is often a key piece of what becomes the strategy to achieve those goals.

Gilmore: If I understand it right, you have released your own Voice solution, originally developed by Motorola’s Psion unit in Europe, here into the US market. Before, Motorola relied exclusively on partners here for Voice software. What is the strategy?

Terzich: Ultimately, Voice as a technology is just another extension of using mobility to make operations more productive and efficient, especially in warehousing applications. So it’s really just a continuum to us of bringing more capability to those that are trying to optimize workflow. Workflow has become without question one of the biggest areas of opportunity across anyone’s supply chain. This is part of why we are so excited about the combined portfolio in general, and our Voice solution is part of that.

Gilmore: Mike, appreciate you sharing your insight today.

Terzich: Thanks Dan. I enjoyed the conversation.

For more information and conversation visit the source of this article – http://www.scdigest.com/ontarget/15-02-04-1.php?cid=8965

What are the benefits of the Motorola DP2400?

If you work on a construction site or in a factory, you know how imperative it is to keep your employee safe at all times. MOTOTRBO digital radio solutions can help you achieve exactly that, providing you with the chance to communicate with other members of staff quickly, safely, and effectively.

The Motorola DP2400 is one of the world’s most advanced digital radio solutions, and can be used in a number of different environments, from production lines to construction sites. Just give your team the communication device in order to improve safety in the workplace. The Motorola DP2400 comes with intelligent voice announcement and audio features which facilitate easy communication in work environments that require instant contact with other staff. The product is available in both VHF and UHF frequency bands, giving you greater flexibility than ever before. You’ll also be able to upgrade to digital at your own pace, and take advantage of a wealth of different features.

Product specification

The DP2400 features 16 channel capacity, IP55 specifications for water protection, and three programmable buttons. The VHF frequency operates on 136-174 MHz, while the UHF frequency operates on 403-527 MHz. With a three-color LED screen for visual feedback when operating the digital device, the product has large push-to-talk buttons which ensure instant communication wherever your staff are. The product is easy to use, and comes with a full instructional guide – with all the information you need to get started. You will also be able to contact Motorola if you have a technical query, or just need some more advice on how to use the Motorola DP2400 to its full capability.

Other features

Other product features include two programmable buttons which can increase operator efficiency, analogue mode, and a remote monitor which can allow you to quickly assess remote user status and make sure your employees are safe. Group, All-call and individual capability is also available. The product has an attractive design, with VOX capability, five tone signalling (via software purchase), and privacy features (with even more privacy options via software purchase). You’ll be able to quickly attach and remove accessories without using a tool with a new accessory connector, and take advantage of intelligent audio which adjusts background noise and makes communication clearer (ideal in noisy workplaces like construction sites and factories). The product also provides conventional multiple site coverage, as well as capacity plus and linked capacity plus via software purchase.

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