Santa Claus: The “Wireless Wonder”

December 23, 2009

Everybody knows about Santa Claus, right? But did you know that his nickname is now the “Wireless Wonder?”

It all started about a year ago, when things were a bit out of whack up at the North Pole. All the hammering and sawing, toy assembly, gift wrapping, and other frantic tasks were giving Santa a bad case of heartburn. And there were more presents than ever to be delivered. Plus, there were going to be quite a few new stops for Santa to make on Christmas Eve. On top of all that, Santa’s elves were struggling to meet numerous last-minute demands from all the little girls and boys around the world. Unfortunately, with all the commotion going on, no one could figure out how to effectively communicate with each other.

Santa’s flustered state was rapidly turning to frustration, and that’s when Mrs. Claus stepped in. “Your communications department is a mess,” she said, wiping her hands on her apron after removing a batch of sugar cookies from the oven. “Here, let me have one of those,” Santa said, reaching over to help himself. As quick as a flash, Mrs. Claus popped Santa’s hand and said, “Stay away from my cookies! You solve your communications problems first, and then you can have some.” Miffed by having his hand popped, Santa plopped down in his favorite easy chair in disgust and mumbled, “But we don’t have a communications department.” Mrs. Claus retorted, “That’s precisely the problem,” as she shoved another tray of cookies into the oven.

Because it had grown so big over the years, Santa’s workshop had become nearly impossible to manage. Early one morning in the first part of December of last year, Santa had been rudely awakened by Ralph, the head elf, who announced to the jolly old man that he was quitting. “What do you expect me to do?” he had shouted at Santa. “I can’t keep yelling from one end of the workshop to the other! I tried that when we ran out of lumber, and now we have twice as much paint as we need! And I have to run around to each station to see who’s producing what. I mean, I only have two feet, you know!”

Well, when Mrs. Claus heard that Ralph was quitting, she knew it would lead to a catastrophe. Whatever Ralph did, the other elves would also do in short order. That meant no Christmas, and that just couldn’t happen. Always a worrisome person, Mrs. Claus paced back and forth in her kitchen, praying for a miracle. That’s when she heard a ruckus out on the front lawn. Peering from behind the window sash, she stared in amazement. All the elves were gathered around a massive yellow Hummer as the driver (me, Wireless Woman) jumped out. Hurriedly, Mrs. Claus left Santa to his pondering, put on her shawl, and went outside to see what was happening.

Motorola MOTOTRBO Digital Two-Way Radio“Are you sure this thing will solve our communications problems?” Ralph asked, staring at the new Motorola MOTOTRBO digital two-way radio in his hands. “You betcha!” I replied. “Look, it’s got GPS, which makes it easy for the bearded wonder to find all those new addresses. You can send text messages, too, or you can just use it like a standard two-way radio to talk to the other elves whenever you need to. It’s like a walkie-talkie on steroids!”

“Santa will never go for it,” one of the older elves said. “Oh yes, he will,” Mrs. Claus injected, flashing her American Express card. “We need at least six of those things right now, young lady!” Another elf cried, “But Santa’s gonna explode when he sees the bill!” “No, he won’t,” Mrs. Claus said. “I don’t just bake cookies. Who do you think pays the bills around here? And besides, with the good price I’ll get from BearCom, I’ll have money left over to bake some more cookies!” With that, all the elves roared their approval.

Well, it’s been exactly a year now since Santa’s communications department was born at the North Pole. Ralph didn’t quit, and things began to go a lot smoother at the workshop. And all the deliveries for all the little children around the world were made on time, thanks to me, BearCom, and Santa’s new Motorola MOTOTRBO radios.

Best of all, Santa finally got his sugar cookies, as well as a new nickname: the Wireless Wonder!

For more information about Motorola MOTOTRBO two-way radios, call one of BearCom’s 28 branches across the U.S., visit the BearCom Web site, or contact me at Wireless.Woman@BearCom.com.

Wireless Woman and BearCom


Ringing in a Safe New Year with Wireless Video Surveillance Cameras

December 17, 2009

Think about the logistics involved with security and safety that go along with managing any large-scale event. Then think about Times Square in New York City on New Year’s Eve. The potential for disaster doesn’t get much greater than it does at that event. And that’s where the use of wireless video surveillance cameras comes in.

In this age of terrorism, you will find a variety of precautions taking place in Times Squares and the Manhattan Borough prior to the mammoth New Year’s Eve celebration. For example, metal barriers will be positioned for blocks around the square to aid with funneling the crowds. Kept in reserve will be numerous wooden sawhorses nested on their sides adjacent to the curbs on Broadway. And to complement the video surveillance cameras in use, there will be undercover police officers who will continuously circulate through the hordes of people that show up.

Video Surveillance CamerasHigh above the video surveillance cameras on Times Square, additional officers will be placed on top of buildings to scan the activity below. No-nos in the area include backpacks and alcohol. Traffic will be blocked off, and there will be no parking on the streets. Equipment that senses airborne chemical or radiological substances will be implemented, and a police helicopter with sophisticated communications gear will patrol the skies.

New Year’s Eve at Times Square has become more of an entertainment event over the past few years, closely monitored by law enforcement and video surveillance cameras. One city official mentioned that even with better-behaved crowds, security for New Year’s Eve has been increased over previous years. He went on to explain that the makeup of today’s crowd is now largely tourists, as opposed to 10 years ago, when most participants were local residents.

But it’s just not New Year’s Eve at Times Square that demands the use of video surveillance cameras in New York City. Another security phase is underway in the borough of Manhattan that will significantly expand the coverage of some 40,000 cameras—private and public—which are already in operation. To fund what has become known as the “Manhattan Security Initiative,” the New York Police Department has made application for $75 million in federal funds to be provided by a Homeland Security grant. If approved, $21 million of those funds will go toward the purchase and installation of video surveillance cameras and related equipment that will cover Midtown over an area from 34th to 59th streets, river to river.

Adding more video surveillance cameras will help in addressing another problem the NYPD faces, whether it’s New Year’s Eve or during the regular work week—the loss of personnel through attrition. Since federal grant dollars are not available for replacement officers, the use of video surveillance cameras will hopefully bridge the gap caused by having fewer boots on the streets.

So the next time you’re in Times Square or in any of America’s bustling cities—day or night—don’t be surprised if you end up on “candid camera.” Video surveillance cameras are fast becoming as commonplace as stop lights.

For more information about wireless video surveillance cameras, call one of BearCom’s 28 branches across the U.S., visit the BearCom Web site, or contact me at Wireless.Woman@BearCom.com.

Wireless Woman and BearCom


Two Way Radio Batteries: The Power Behind the Device

December 15, 2009

Different strokes for different folks, right? That holds true in the case of two way radio batteries, as there is more than one type. As a result, understanding which ones will work best for your application—and how to take care of them—is the secret to making your batteries last.

Bearing this in mind, there are several things you should know about the different chemistries of two way radio batteries.

Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) two way radio batteries are a very cost-effective option for many applications, particularly since they provide longer cycle life than other types of batteries. NiCD is ideal for users who need high-performance batteries and who communicate under extreme conditions of cold and heat (-20 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit). However, NiCd two way radio batteries can experience what’s commonly known as “memory effect” and not return to full capacity if they are recharged too soon.

Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) two way radio batteries can work 40-50% longer between charges than NiCd batteries of similar size, but they do not operate as efficiently in extreme temperatures. However, NiMH two way radio batteries have the advantage of containing fewer toxic chemicals, so disposal is more environmentally friendly.

Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) two way radio batteries have a higher energy-to-weight ratio than NiMH batteries, offering a lighter, smaller power supply for more compact devices. Unlike NiCd two way radio batteries, these batteries do not experience “memory effect.”

Two Way Radio BatteriesUsing the right two way radio batteries is half of the equation. The other half, and equally as important, is recharging and maintenance. Before you use your two way radio batteries for the first time, charge them overnight. This is know as “initializing” and allows for maximum battery capacity. For example, in the case of Motorola Impres batteries, the calibration process is complete when the initial yellow indicator light turns to steady green.

Battery storage is important as well. Keep non-initialized two way radio batteries in a well-ventilated, cool, and dry area. If you have batteries that are removed from service, they need to be discharged to about 50% of their capacity before you place them in storage. Another point to remember is not to leave your radios or fully charged two way radio batteries in the charger when not charging, as doing so will shorten battery life.

Finally, charge your two way radio batteries only when they need it. Don’t recharge a battery that’s not fully discharged. And always carry a spare with you if you anticipate a long operating time.

For more information about two way radio batteries, call one of BearCom’s 28 branches across the U.S., visit the BearCom Web site, or contact me at Wireless.Woman@BearCom.com.

Wireless Woman and BearCom


Two Way Radio Interoperability and Its Importance in Today’s Society

December 10, 2009

What is two way radio interoperability? That’s a frequently asked question. Let’s unmuddy the waters . . . in layman’s terms.

In the broadest sense, radio interoperability means that public safety workers can effectively communicate within various jurisdictions, disciplines, and government agencies, on multiple types of wireless equipment and across frequencies, when needed and when authorized. “I thought they could already do that,” you say.

Well, as a result of such horrific incidences as the Oklahoma City bombing, the Columbine shootings, and the 9/11 tragedy, a lot more first responders can do that now versus just a few years ago. For example, during the recent past, the inability of the police department to coordinate with the fire department in the most critical of situations made it evident that change was necessary. Still, there are cases where public safety officials, because of the lack of radio interoperability, still cannot effectively communicate with other agencies.

Radio InteroperabilityWhen emergency communications systems—such as those used by police, fire, and EMT staff—are being upgraded, the first priority should be to make sure that changes include radio interoperability at the local and regional levels—and ultimately at the state and federal levels. And all wireless communications devices need to be able to access information from a large and diverse network without the loss of time.

What happens when radio interoperability hasn’t been considered? Remember watching the second tower of the World Trade Center collapse in New York City on 9/11? The NYC police received the radio message that “collapse” was imminent. But firefighters never got that message. Why? Because they used different radio frequencies than the police. And in the immediate aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, first responders had to employ “runners” to convey messages from one command center to another, thereby wasting precious minutes. So as you can see, the lack of radio interoperability can be disastrous.

As with most wireless communications technology improvements, there is a cost to transition from standalone radio systems to radio interoperability, and at most government agencies, everyone is battling over the same scarce budget dollars. However, the general public demands security and expects emergencies to be handled in the fastest possible manner. Therefore, it’s important that public safety workers be able to talk with one another at all levels, at any time, so that the impact of disasters can be minimized and more lives can be saved. There can be no more important investment than that.

For more information about radio interoperability, call one of BearCom’s 28 branches across the U.S., visit the BearCom Web site, or contact me at Wireless.Woman@BearCom.com.

Wireless Woman and BearCom


Are Smartphones Out of Control?

December 8, 2009

Just look around you. Almost everywhere you go, you will spot smartphones. From college classes to business conferences to PTA meetings, somebody is texting somebody or Googling something.

Isn’t it just plain rude to pay more attention to your BlackBerry than to what is going on around you? Or maybe the question needs to be asked another way—should there be social etiquette standards that apply specifically to smartphones?

SmartphonesIn a recent article in the New York Times, Alex Williams noted a few things about the evolving facts on the ground regarding smartphones. He observed that, in the corporate and political worlds, the BlackBerry has become a routine device. A poll conducted by Yahoo! Hot Jobs of some 5,300 workers who use smartphones revealed that one third of those people often reviewed e-mails in meetings. And twenty percent of those same users stated they had been chastised for rudeness while using their wireless devices.

According to many executives, the etiquette issue has been losing ground in favor of increased usage for smartphones, even in spite of the resistance. It seems that all levels of management, in the private as well as public sectors, are doing it more and more.

It was only a short time ago that, according to one executive, it was just the “investment banker types” who used BlackBerrys in meetings. That has changed. Now it seems to be everybody. But maybe that’s not all bad. For example, one meeting presenter pointed out that if he noticed some of his colleagues using their smartphones in one of his meetings, that was a signal to him that he needed to speed things up.

SmartphonesOn the political scene, you often find Washington officials with bowed heads in a meeting environment—and they are not praying. This comes from Philippe Reines, a senior advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Smartphones are taboo in certain sectors of the State Department HQ, primarily due to security precautions. However, where these devices are permitted, usage is epidemic. “You’ll have half the participants BlackBerrying each other as a submeeting, with a running commentary on the primary meeting,” Reines said.

The fact is, this whole etiquette thing about smartphones is a result of the clash of the physical world with the virtual world. At the moment, the virtual world is gaining parity and vying for supremacy. But no matter which one wins out in the end, it will be an interesting struggle to watch.

For more information about smartphones, call one of BearCom’s 28 branches across the U.S., visit the BearCom Web site, or contact me at Wireless.Woman@BearCom.com.

Wireless Woman and BearCom


Why Wireless Call Box Technology is So Important for Safety

December 3, 2009

Every spring and summer, parents with their college-bound offspring visit prospective universities throughout the United States. One thing that shouldn’t be overlooked when evaluating potential institutions of higher learning for your child is the level of attention that is paid to campus safety. That’s where the call box comes in.

In the words of American social reformer Whitney M. Young, “It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” In that spirit, officials at Coastal Carolina University (CCU) in Conway, South Carolina, recognized the importance of preparedness as it relates to the call boxes on its campus and took appropriate action.

Call BoxIn 2004, CCU had only 10 call box installations on its campus, which spanned more than 300 acres and 50 main buildings. Not only was the number of units inadequate, about half the call boxes didn’t even work properly. Another issue facing university officials was the lack of sufficient phone lines to transmit communications to and from each call box, and adding new lines would have been cost prohibitive. On top of all that, power was also a concern, as each station needed to be fully operational at all times, despite any power restraints or outages.

Other than the occasional student-on-student theft, a major incident hadn’t taken place at the university, but campus safety officials planned ahead and decided to upgrade its call box system. To overcome all the obstacles mentioned above, CCU security personnel turned to solar power and wireless technology.

Now the university has more than 80 properly functioning call box installations, consisting of both indoor and outdoor units, all of which are connected through a wireless Ethernet system. Each call box is also tied into the university’s two-way radio system, enabling campus security personnel to hear all communications made from or to each call box, thereby increasing situational awareness and reducing response time.

Ensuring student safety needs to be at the top of the priority list at the school your child attends. Having a well thought-out plan and making the most of wireless and solar call box technology can increase any university’s level of security and give you and your family peace of mind.

For more information about a call box, call one of BearCom’s 28 branches across the U.S., visit the BearCom Web site, or contact me at Wireless.Woman@BearCom.com.

Wireless Woman and BearCom


ALPR—Revolutionizing Law Enforcement’s Capabilities

November 30, 2009

Does automated license plate recognition (ALPR) pay off? Ask the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Recently, the city’s ALPR system allowed police officers to arrest and remove from the streets some dangerous felons. It was just after midnight on a Saturday that the men in blue were notified of a “hit” as they drove by a stolen vehicle in the vicinity of Santa Monica Boulevard and Moreno Drive. The hit was courtesy of the department’s ALPR system. The vehicle in question had been stolen 10 days earlier in LAPD’s Hollywood Division by an armed assailant.

ALPRWhen they tried to stop the stolen vehicle, a brief chase ensued. But within minutes, the stolen car came to a sudden stop, and a passenger jumped out and ran. Moments later, the fleeing passenger was apprehended by police. And shortly thereafter, several miles away in southwest Los Angeles, another police unit captured the driver and took him into custody.

As a result of the information supplied by the ALPR system, police knew their suspects and were able to operate in a manner that avoided traffic collisions and injuries. Further investigation by authorities determined that the suspects were responsible for a home invasion robbery in Hollywood a mere 20 minutes before the ALPR hit that the Beverly Hills police received.

“This was a great example of how officers utilize the best technology to apprehend dangerous felons,” said Lieutenant Tony Lee, a Beverly Hills Police Department spokesman. “There’s no question that the arrest of these individuals prevented another crime occurring in Beverly Hills or Los Angeles.”

ALPRPrevious to the installation of ALPR equipment, the Beverly Hills Police Department performed license plate checks much like the standardized routine used by law enforcement throughout the country. When a plate of interest was observed, the police officer typed the number into a mobile data terminal (or he may have radioed the plate number in). The data terminal was linked to a centralized computer that accessed a database to determine if a vehicle has been stolen. That process usually took several minutes to complete.

During one shift, an experienced police officer using this method might be expected to process up to 150 plates. But in a patrol vehicle equipped with ALPR cameras, that same officer could check several hundred to several thousand plates in one shift—and not even have to take his hands off the wheel.

In short, Mr. Bad Guy, beware! ALPR has you in its sights.

For more information about ALPR, call one of BearCom’s 28 branches across the U.S., visit the BearCom Web site, or contact me at Wireless.Woman@BearCom.com.

Wireless Woman and BearCom