Introducing Ursa Straps – the Perfect Addition to the Radio Microphone Box

Now it’s not the usual field that we cover, but it hit our radar. How many times have you seen an enthusiastic presenter or an excited contestant on TV drop their radio mic and crawl around on the floor, trying to pick it up! Well when a costume designer and a sound man get together then things get designed, and why this hasn’t be invented before is beyond us, but it looks like an idea that could take off. Read the full article here.

Sound recordist Simon Bysshe and costumier Laura Smith have combined their knowledge and expertise to create URSA Straps, a unique range of low profile body worn straps designed to conceal radio microphone transmitters.

Introducing Ursa Straps – the Perfect Addition to the Radio Microphone Box

Officially launched this month and now available in the UK and Europe, URSA Straps are made from a specially developed bonded fabric that is ultra-slim and provides excellent stretch, comfort and breathability. Each strap incorporates a pouch to keep the transmitter locked in place and a cable pocket for managing excess microphone cable. URSA Straps are available in black, beige and brown skin tone colours and can be worn around the ankle, thigh or waist.

Bysshe and Smith developed URSA Straps after listening to numerous artists express discomfort while wearing radio mic straps. Traditional thick neoprene or elastic straps can irritate the skin, become soaked in sweat and are often impossible to disguise under figure hugging costumes.

“It was obvious that a better way of discreetly securing transmitters was required,” Simon Bysshe explains. “As a boom operator I had worked with many artists who disliked wearing transmitter packs because their associated straps could restrict movement and become uncomfortable. In some cases they had simply refused to wear them.”

Laura Smith’s knowledge of costume making proved invaluable as she was able to construct prototypes and identify the exact fabrics required to suit the needs of costume, artists and sound departments.

“After many months of research we decided to create our own unique hybrid fabric by fusing two stretch fabrics together,” Bysshe explains. “This resulting fabric is just 1mm thick and much lighter and softer than any other fabric of its kind. Crucially we incorporated a hook Velcro compatible outer surface that allows the straps to be securely attached to themselves at any point.”

Introducing Ursa Straps – the Perfect Addition to the Radio Microphone Box

Bysshe tested the new straps while working on the second series of Sky Atlantic’s The Tunnel. Lead actress Clémence Poésy was an immediate convert and provided valuable feedback to help develop the product. Bysshe has subsequently used URSA Straps on the third series of Peaky Blinders. The USRA Thigh straps were particularly popular with the cast members who found them secure, light and comfortable. The fact they can be worn around the thigh as opposed to the waist made them invaluable for use with the period costumes.

“With URSA Straps we have created such a comfortable low-profile solution that artists often forget that they are wearing them. Now we have to make sure that actors remember to take them off before they leave!” Bysshe adds. “The straps can be washed and re-used every day for many months. Our Thigh straps are particularly popular as they are designed to not slip down the leg. We achieved this by bonding on a strips of Polyurethane gripper to the inside of the straps.”

Outside film and television, URSA Straps are also proving popular with dancers who need to receive audio cues during a live performance. Using waist or thigh straps the sound team can easily conceal a receiver pack on their bodies without restricting movement or compromising the look of their costumes. URSA Straps have also developed a Double-Pack strap allowing artists to wear two packs on one strap.

Oscar-winning production sound mixer Simon Hayes was an early adopter of URSA Straps and describes them as a total game changer for his team.

“URSA Straps allow us to rig radio mics on costumes previously thought to be unmicable. Tight dresses, sportswear, stunt harnesses – they can all be easily miked using low profile URSA Straps. These straps are so popular with the actresses I work with that many have asked to keep theirs at the end of the production.”

URSA Straps are suitable for a variety of wireless transmitters including Lectrosonics, Zaxcom, Wisycom MTP40 and Sennheiser 5212. Two different pouch sizes are available to ensure optimum fit. Three different waist sizes are available: small, medium and large.

“Initially Laura and I were making the straps by hand in our garage,” Bysshe says. “When we realised their potential we scaled up production by taking on two experienced manufacturing firms in Leicester. Our launch has been a huge success with orders coming in from all around the world! We are now on our third large production run and expanding our market into Theatre, Concerts and Outside Broadcasts.”


Some people who pre-ordered the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset are going to have to wait just a little bit longer.

The first Oculus headsets were set to arrive in the mail on March 28, but some people who pre-ordered the device are still waiting for their headsets. The company said in an email to some customers it had experienced an “unexpected component shortage, and unfortunately, that issue has impacted the original shipping estimates for some early customers.”

“First set of Rifts are going out slower than we originally estimated, so we’re giving free shipping for all pre-orders, including international,” Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe tweeted on Saturday. Customers have since been tweeting at Iribe asking for answers after not receiving their headsets.

Customers who ordered anytime from the beginning of January until the end of the day, Pacific Time, on April 1 are eligible for a shipping refund, Iribe said. Further updates on shipping progress are expected by April 12. Despite the email to customers, Oculus noted that it is “shipping rifts everyday.”

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey responded to frustrated customers in a Reddit thread, telling them: “Don’t shunt blame to other people, this is my call.”

“I am not going to wax poetic about this, since I have done so in the past, but bottom-line: I won’t give in-depth updates on any situation without knowing it is solid, true, and finalized. Until I can do so, the best I can do is remind people that I will get them information as quickly as I can,” a person writing from a verified account attributed to Luckey said.

Luckey traveled to Anchorage, Alaska, last month to hand deliver the first consumer headset to Ross Martin, an indie developer who has the distinction of being the first customer to pre-order Oculus Rift in January.

There has been plenty of buzz around Oculus and the experiences developers can create, ranging from games to virtual vacations and real estate tours; however, there’s nothing flashy about the Oculus launch this week. The high price tag of $599 — plus the requisite high-performance PC needed to operate the headset — puts Oculus in a price range that makes it still inaccessible to the masses.

The consumer headset ships with a wireless Xbox One controller and adapter to enhance the gaming experience, along with two games: EVE: Valkyrie and Lucky’s Tale. Pre-orders are currently backed up until July, according to the Oculus website.

Oculus is also working on Oculus Touch, which are wireless controllers that wrap around a player’s hands, allowing intuitive actions in VR feel as though users are working with their real hands — even allowing them to pick up objects in their virtual world.

Martin, who was lucky enough to have his headset delivered, gave ABC News his early review last month.

“Everyone wants to be able to fly or visit the moon, and there’s never been anything quite like this before,” he said.

This years new technology is virtual reality (VR) headsets, stories of VR headsets have been circulating for a few years, and as we understand it 2016 was penciled in for the year of Virtual Reality. So when facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg bought the oculus rift company in 2014 we were expecting this to be the first headset out and when they started taking orders in January this only confirmed what we expected, they have been pipped to the post by Samsung and the gear, then on top of that their orders are running late, but the upside is that they are giving everyone free shipping The Original Source of this article can be found here

Extreme conditions no match for latest motorola solutions radio

We all know that Motorola produce the best two way radios and claim to be best in class, that can be backed up, by just using their products. This article (original can be found here) focuses on radios for the fire service, but as we all know they are well adapted for the police, ambulance and search and rescue teams.

Motorola Solutions (NYSE: MSI) continues its legacy of designing best-in-class digital radio solutions for firefighters and other professionals who face extreme conditions with the introduction of the APX 8000XE two-way radio and APX XE500 RSM. The newest entries into Motorola Solutions’ award-winning APX portfolio of Project 25  (P25) digital radios have been developed using the company’s well-established practice of hands-on research with firefighters and other first responders who need the most reliable mission-critical communications to do their jobs efficiently, effectively and safely every day.

The APX 8000XE features all-band functionality and is a rugged P25 two-way radio that can be used in either analog or digital mode across 700/800MHz, VHF and UHF bands. Time is of the essence for firefighters and they can be ready in moments by programming the radio remotely via Wi-Fi and radio management software to operate securely on different radio networks, allowing them to quickly help neighboring counties during large-scale emergencies.

Motorola Solutions works closely with firefighters and other radio users to find out exactly what they need and the APX 8000XE is the latest example of that thinking. It features the trusted ergonomics of the APX XE radio series, designed for easy operation in harsh conditions. The right-sized radio has a large top display, exaggerated controls for gloved hands and a dedicated push-to-talk button. It also provides best-in-class audio with a 1-watt speaker, three built-in microphones and automatic noise suppression for clarity in the loudest of environments.

“The APX 8000XE is an all-band rugged and submersible portable radio made for firefighters,” said Lieutenant David Hudik, Elgin, Illinois Fire Department. “With Wi-Fi access, we can reprogram the APX 8000XE on the fly when we are providing mutual aid assistance out-of-state.”

Most firefighters use a remote speaker microphone with their radios and the APX XE500 RSM is designed specifically for demanding environments, whether combating a fire or providing medical services at the scene of an accident.

– With five strategically placed microphones and automatic noise suppression, the APX XE500  provides clear communications when worn on either shoulder, center chest, or over the shoulder

– It can be submersed in 2 meters of water for up to 4 hours

– It withstands heat conditions of up to 500°F (260°C) for up to 5 minutes

– A channel knob automatically controls the channels of the user’s portable APX radio

“With the APX XE500 RSM, I can completely control my APX radio without having to hunt under my bunker coat for it,” said Lieutenant David Hudik, Elgin Fire Department. “With improved water porting, you can carry the APX XE500 upright or upside down for fast water drainage while maintaining clear voice communications.”

“Customer input is essential to our design and the Elgin Fire Department was right at our side as we tested the capabilities of the APX 8000XE and APX XE500 RSM,” said Claudia Rodriguez, vice president, Devices Product Management, Motorola Solutions. “The latest XE radio means firefighters will be able to talk with other first responders at the scene and across municipalities and regions. The new rugged RSM means they can communicate clearly in the loudest fireground environments, including blaring horns and wailing sirens.”

The Sepura Group to Provide Communications for the Olympic Games

It’s a brave move by the olympic organisers, the London Olympic communications was run by Riedel and they did an excellent job, they have experience in this field, but the Brazilians are obviously set on using Teltronic and we all hope that they do just as good as a job.

Teltronic, part of the Sepura Group, has been chosen by the public security secretary of Río de Janeiro State in Brazil to supply communications for the Summer Olympics and Paralympics, informally known as Rio 2016.

The €10m contract will cover four venues (Barra da Tijuca, Copacabana, Deodoro and Maracanã), two airports (Rio de Janeiro/Galeão – Antônio Carlos Jobim International and Santos Dumont) and several key transport routes in the Olympic area.

The agreement with Teltronic will see an extension to the traffic capabilities of the existing Teltronic network currently used by the Rio police, as well as the installation of further Nebula base stations to provide additional coverage for the state police and emergency services, and the Olympics organisation workforce.

The existing network was originally provided by Teltronic for the Pan American Games in 2007 and, after some upgrades, is now supporting over 100 dispatch operators and more than 18,000 radios. This new upgrade for the Olympics will feature two extra TETRA carriers for each site, to update the capacity of the existing network; base stations with up to 12 TETRA transceivers to support high traffic loads throughout the event; a CeCoCo Control Centre, to accommodate a further 50 dispatch operators; an additional 6,000 terminals featuring Teltronic’s Synchronous Data Manager application to pare down the GPS refresh time in AVL applications; and 24/7 maintenance and operational support during the Games.

“This win builds on our long-term relationship with the Brazilian authorities and public safety agencies,” said Paulo Ferrao, the Sepura Group’s sales director for Brazil.

“We have a strong background in events of this scale, having supported communications for the FIFA World Cup 2014 and the Pan-American Games, both huge events in the sporting calendar of Brazil and, indeed, the world. We are delighted that Rio de Janeiro’s public safety agencies have, once again, placed their trust in us.”

Superintendent of critical communications at the Security Secretariat of the State, Colonel Alexandre Corval, commented: “We are extremely happy to have chosen Teltronic.

“The company has been a trustworthy partner to our public safety agencies for over ten years. Once again, they have exceeded our expectations in terms of technical development, quality of the deployment and, above all, their dedication to customer service: throughout the project, they have paid close attention to our technical and operational requirements.

“We are confident that this extension to the existing Teltronic TETRA system will optimise our mission-critical communications, enhancing the security of both visitors and employees throughout Rio 2016.”


Why Are Good Communication Skills Important?

Take a second and look at Human beings, really look at us. We’re not as strong as elephants or rhinos, we’re not as tough as lions or tigers and we can neither swim like fish nor fly like birds. Yet, despite all this, there is still one inescapable fact: Human beings are the dominant species on the planet.

The short answer to your question lies implicitly within the above paragraph. With good communication skills, a group of disparate individuals can overcome a great many obstacles by working together. It is believed that our earliest ancestors were able to ward off predators by sticking together in large groups and thus presenting a formidable target (as opposed to, say, a buffet). We were also able to hunt prey much larger and stronger than ourselves (e.g. the woolly mammoth) by co-ordinating our efforts with good communication skills.

Such good communication skills are, not to put too fine a point on it, vitally important to the Human race as a whole. This excerpt from ‘Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution’ by Russian author Peter Kropotkin (1902), illustrates what we’re trying to say better than we ever could.

“Man is the result of both his inherited instincts and his education. Among the miners and the seamen, their common occupations and their every-day contact with one another create a feeling of solidarity, while the surrounding dangers maintain courage and pluck”

In other words, their shared lifestyle is a form of communication, the result of learned social primers and a lifetime of experience. It is the secret ingredient to our success as a species.

Good communication skills in the workplace operate along the same basic principles as they do outside the workplace. The goal is clarity, but equally, the speaker wishes to illustrate her point of view and encourage others to sympathize with it. This is why politicians pay their speechwriters as handsomely as they do.

Communication skills are also Vital to Human interaction. Humans are able to learn all sorts of things by listening for verbal cues that we are unconsciously primed to respond to. Information about a speaker’s age, class, race, gender and even occupation can be gleaned from the simple act of listening to a person. To quote Peter Trudgill’s book ‘Sociolinguistics: An Introduction to Language and Society’ (1974),

“Different social groups use different linguistic varieties, and as experienced members of a speech community we have learnt to classify speakers accordingly”, for those interested – this is known as ‘social-class dialects’.

You might ask how this affects you. Well, consider this; if you are applying for a typically upper or middle class job (say, office manager as an example) and you speak with a traditionally working-class accent, vocabulary and demeanour during your interview, you are actually less likely to get the job than the applicant who uses received pronunciation and does not use colloquialisms or slang terms. You might be more qualified on paper, but the interviewer will likely say something about you not being “the right fit” for the position. This is because he has been primed to expect a certain type for a certain role. Therefore, good communications skills, in this instance at least, would hinge on your ability to appeal to listeners by meeting their expectations.

Of course, we now know that such distinctions are unfair. Combating expectations of class, race, gender and sexual stereotyping led to the rise of ‘political correctness’, a much-maligned (and often justly so) and yet consistently misunderstood phenomenon.

For a more extreme example, imagine giving an obscenity-laced PowerPoint presentation at your next meeting. Once you stop laughing, consider the implications even if everything in the presentation was 100% accurate, (groundbreaking, even) you’d still be fired, wouldn’t you? Swearing is, of course, a lower-class way of communicating.

You need to find the correct words for the correct situation, but evidently, there has been a great deal of discussion as to what are the correct words.

If you want to know more, the poem ‘The Six O’Clock News’ (1976) by Scottish poet Tom Leonard is a good place to start. In the UK, we study it as part of GCSE English (or at least we did when this writer was at school), and the poem neatly highlights the social and class-based distinctions that typified (and still do to some extent) ‘normal’ speech and any important announcements..

So, in conclusion, communication skills are important because without them, nobody would be able to understand YOU.

Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

It is quite a common thing that musicians and artists that are exposed to loud noise, will eventually suffer from hearing damage. We have seen many artists suffer from this career threatening damage, the likes of Phil Collins, Eric Clapton and Ozzy Osbourne and the tinnitus that is effecting Chris Martin from Coldplay, this is a problem that many more will be affected by. This article from the BBC talks about Chris Goldscheider and his pursuit of damages over his hearing damage. Rightly or wrongly it’s an interesting tale.

A renowned viola player is suing the Royal Opera House for ruining his hearing and his career during rehearsals of Wagner’s Die Walkure.

Chris Goldscheider claims his hearing was irreversibly damaged by brass instruments put immediately behind him.

The Musicians’ Union says hearing damage is a major problem for musicians playing in orchestras.

The Royal Opera House denies it is responsible, but around a quarter of its players suffer hearing illnesses.

In court documents seen by the BBC, Goldscheider claims that in 2012 his hearing was “irreversibly damaged” during rehearsals of Richard Wagner’s thunderous Die Walkure “from brass instruments placed immediately behind him” in the famous “pit” at the Royal Opera House.

The sound peaked at around 137 decibels, which is roughly the sound of a jet engine. The court documents say the noise “created an immediate and permanent traumatic threshold shift”.

Image captionChris Goldscheider played the viola with some of the world’s greatest orchestras

Goldscheider says this amounts to “acoustic shock”, one effect of which is that the brain hugely amplifies ordinary sounds.

Music has been in most of Goldscheider’s life: “For the last quarter of a century I’ve been a professional musician. Music was my income. It was my everything,” he says.

The son of a composer, from the age of 10 he spent in excess of six hours a day practising and rehearsing. He played the viola with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and BBC Symphony orchestras, before joining the prestigious Royal Opera House orchestra in 2002.

Career highlights have included performing live with the famous Three Tenors to 100,000 people at the Barcelona Camp Nou football stadium, and with Kylie Minogue on MTV. He has also recorded with artists including the band 10cc.

Goldscheider says the effects of the hearing damage have been devastating.

“Ordinary sounds like banging cups and glasses together is a very painful noise,” he says.

“My newborn daughter last year was crying so much I actually got noise-induced vertigo because of my injury and I ended up in bed for three weeks.”

The musician says he has lost the career he loved and his mental health has deteriorated as he struggles to cope with the impact and effects of his hearing problems.

Life has changed dramatically. To carry out ordinary every day tasks such as preparing food, Chris has to wear ear protectors. Especially upsetting is that he had been unable to listen to his 18-year-old son Ben – one of the country’s outstanding young French horn players.

“Ben is a fantastic musician. I haven’t been able to listen to him play or practice since my injury. I’ve missed him playing concerts and winning competitions. I can’t even bear him practising in an upstairs room when I am downstairs in the house,” he says.

musician has to wear ear protectors to carry out every day tasks

At the time of his injury, Goldscheider was provided with hearing protection capable of reducing the noise by up to 28 decibels, but his lawyers claim this was insufficient. They say he was not given enough training in how to use it and protect himself, and that the noise levels should not have been so dangerously high.

The Royal Opera House does not accept the rehearsal noise caused Goldscheider’s injury, and denies that is responsible.

In a statement it told the BBC: “Mr Goldscheider’s compensation claim against the Royal Opera House is a complex medico-legal issue, which has been going on for some time and is still under investigation.

“All sides are keen to reach a resolution. The matter is now the subject of legal proceedings, and in the circumstances it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment any further at this stage.”

And according to Goldscheider’s solicitor Chris Fry, part of the Royal Opera House’s defence breaks new legal ground.

“Essentially what is being said is that the beautiful artistic output justifies damaging the hearing of the musicians performing it,” he says.

“That’s never been tested by the courts. We don’t think the court is likely to uphold that, in particular where it’s clear steps could be taken to maintain the beautiful sound and protect hearing at the same time.”

he Royal Opera House denies it is responsible for Chris Goldscheider’s hearing issue

Hearing damage suffered by rock musicians is well documented. Years ago The Who’s Pete Townsend went public about his hearing loss and famously said a doctor had told him: “You’re not actually going deaf, but I’d advise you to learn to lip read.”

Brian Johnson of AC/DC and Ozzy Osborne have also been affected. But what is far less well known is that it is a significant problem in the more sedate and sophisticated world of classical music.

There are around 100 players in the orchestra at the Royal Opera House. The BBC has learnt more than a quarter report occasional or mild hearing illness, and that in the 2013/14 season, there were seven cases of sickness absence related to noise problems and a total of 117 weeks of sick leave taken. That’s not music to anyone’s ears.

Morris Stemp of the Musicians Union says there are many reasons for the hearing damage suffered by classical musicians.

“Conductors are allowed to ride roughshod over health and safety considerations,” he says. “They put players on the stage where they will be in harm’s way. And instruments are now louder than they ever were before because of the materials they are now made from.”

Add to that the increased number of live concerts prompted in part by the drop in income from CD sales, and there is a mix of elements that can put the hearing of orchestra players at serious risk.

Chris Goldscheider’s case casts light on a little known or discussed problem, and will be watched closely by all those in the classical music world.


Innovative radio solution protects and preserves Chinese forests

We all know how important radio communications are, and Motorola Solutions have captured a massive coup by providing the radios for protecting the Chinese forests, a feather in the cap for Motorola because Hytera, their biggest competitor at the moment, originating from china, interesting! We found this article on this website.

Motorola Solutions (NYSE:MSI) with its channel partner Beijing Dyne Rcomm Technology are helping to keep China’s Hunan forestry region safe with a MOTOTRBO digital radio system that increases safety and security for employees while helping them to work more efficiently.

China’s Hunan province is rich in flora and fauna resources that are essential to the region’s economy. However, these vast areas which make up around 60 percent of the province’s total surface area can be risky places to work for forest rangers. Forest workers depend on reliable communications to be aware of potential bushfire risks and other emergencies.

The innovative radio system integrates MOTOTRBO digital two-way radios and repeaters, a dispatch console for centralised control and monitoring of the network at all times and Motorola Solutions’ IP Site Connect digital solution to extend radio network coverage over the internet throughout the counties and cities.

“Rangers depend on access to clear and reliable communications. They need to stay constantly connected to their colleagues working in control rooms who have visibility of the entire operation and can help to keep them safe at all times,” said Michael Jiang, China President and Country Manager, Motorola Solutions.

“It’s absolutely essential for forest rangers to know where their co-workers and resources are at all times, especially in times of emergency.

“Hunan’s new radio network provides extensive coverage throughout the region, enabling rangers working across a wide geographic area to report the very first signs of fire so that resources can be deployed quickly and effectively to protect lives and natural resources,” Mr Jiang said.

Hunan’s integrated system connects the surrounding cities and counties through clear voice communications enhanced with noise cancelling features that perform reliably in the nosiest environments. This system also supports data transfer across the radio network, using GPS to pinpoint the location of nearby team members and resources in emergency situations, while text messages and automatic alerts can be sent between the province’s central control room and radio users in the field.

Motorola Solutions has now deployed more than 5,000 radios to major forestry projects across greater China at locations including the Inner Mongolia, Hebei, Liaoning, Sichuan and Guangdong provinces.

Who Conceived The Radio Headset

Have you ever stopped to think where headsets really came from? Well, they first headset was used in the 20th century; however, the technology has significantly improved over the decades. Shockingly it did not occur to anyone that headsets could be used to listening music on devices. Read more about the invention of radio headset in this article.

Everyone Uses Headsets

Headsets are an important accessory and it is very clear that they have indeed managed to save an argument over the years. Headsets enable you to listen to audio/music without having to get in the way of anyone else. In this time and age, we use all types of headsets from tiny earplugs with a wireless Bluetooth technology for listening to music in the streets, to big leather-padded cans to listen to music at home. Gaming headsets are increasingly becoming popular as many of them today come outfitted with a microphone, hence allowing the users to speak with other relatives, gamers and friends.

Headsets can give the user a great sound quality, there isn’t any sort of interruption between the ear and the sound, external sound is blocked out and there is absolutely nowhere for it to dissipate, more so if you invest in a pair of high quality headsets which are plentifully available nowadays. As a matter of fact, if you take a walk back to the early 20th century right before amplifiers had been invented; sensitive headsets were the only means that was could be used to listen to music/audio.

What Year Was The First Radio Headset Invented?

Accurately speaking, the very first headset dates back to the telephone early adoption and by 1920 radio headsets were being commercially manufactured. These were mainly used by professionals and not by the public. There exists an argument over who was first person behind the idea to dwindle down loudspeakers and move on to attach them on our heads but the earliest living example dates back to around 1911. This was far from the headsets we use presently with no padding for comfort and a very low sound quality. They were used by telephone exchanges and radio operators.

Who Invented The Radio Headset?

Headsets were the only way to listen to audio files before the development of amplifiers. Headsets were invented in 1910 by Nathaniel Baldwin, an American born to a Canadian father and an American mother. Baldwin developed the first, truly successful set in 1910 by hand in his kitchen and later sold them to US Navy.

Baldwin’s headsets made use of moving iron drivers that came with either balanced or single ended armatures. The requirement for high-sensitivity meant damping could not be used, and hence they had a crude sound quality. These early models did not have padding, and oftentimes ended up producing excessive clamping force on the heads of persons wearing them.

In 1944, John C. Koss a jazz musician and an audiophile from Milwaukee, US, designed the first stereo headset. Previously, headsets were used only by radio and telephone operators, as well as persons in related industries. The 3.5-mm phone connector and radio headset, which is commonly used in portable applications today, has been in use since the Sony EFM117J radio that was released in 1965.

Faulty communications along U.S.-Mexico border are America’s blind spot

We all know that mission critical communications are vital 24 hours a day and as this article shows that even a tiny lapse in communications can lead to chaos. Even the U.S government can’t keep their radio communications up-to-date on one of the most watched borders in the world, as we can see from the article below.

Put yourself in the shoes of a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. You are patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border, driving through desolate terrain, and in the distance, you spot movement. You head toward a deep ravine and step out of your vehicle when a shot rings out and you hear the zip of a bullet speeding past your head. With training and instinct, you dive for cover and draw your weapon, reaching for your handheld radio.

And the radio doesn’t work.

There’s no one to call, because you are in one of the many areas of the southern U.S. border that has no radio coverage. Out there in the ravine is a drug cartel “rip crew,” heavily armed and firing on your position, bullets punching into your vehicle until smoke is rising from the hood. If they come closer, you are outnumbered. If they flee, your vehicle is disabled, and they will disappear into the vast emptiness along the southern border, where they will likely fire on one of your fellow agents, should they encounter them.

That is the state of communications along many of the areas on the U.S.-Mexico border. When the U.S. Border Patrol needs it the most, they cannot communicate with anyone. With rising threats and political propositions, U.S. border security has again risen to the top of the public consciousness. There are calls for more border patrol officers and stronger fencing, for aerial and ground based vehicles and other technology. But the lifeblood of the border security apparatus is communication, and in some areas, communication is not possible.

“If there is one thing in securing America’s borders that hasn’t changed since September 11, 2001, it’s the inability to resolve the communications lapses and gaps along the border,” said Ron Colburn, the former National Deputy Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol. “Here we are almost 15 years into this, and we still have not addressed this problem.”

One reason 343 New York City firefighters died when the World Trade Center buildings collapsed was that their radios could not communicate with the emergency responders outside the buildings, who were warning the structures were about to come down. The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission cited the need to create interoperable tools that allow first responders and law enforcement to communicate in the most unforgiving of environments.

And there are few environments less forgiving than the nearly 2000-miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Recognizing this, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched a massive project to improve the communications capacity of officers along the U.S. border. It failed. In March last year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that $945 million in taxpayer funding used to build radio towers and upgrade radio equipment has yielded little benefit and in some cases does not work as well as what Border Patrol agents were using before. The effort cost too much and was taking too long.

Colburn said that the state of communications today means U.S. Border Patrol cannot call for support in some areas. They cannot feed information from the field into the intelligence food chain, and they cannot receive images from manned or unmanned vehicles to know whether they are walking into an ambush or encountering a group of friendly forces.

Likewise, Border Patrol agents cannot communicate easily with other law enforcement agencies (like a local Sheriff’s office), nor can those law enforcement agencies run on-site biometric checks (e.g., fingerprints) of individuals they suspect may have recently crossed into the United States illegally.

“I see it in the eyes and hear it in the voices of the men and women of the Border Patrol,” said Colburn. “They understand the mission and they want to accomplish it, but they feel like they have been abandoned.”

Answering the Unanswered Question

Most Americans own a smartphone, which is a powerful piece of technology. Experts say it’s hard to understand how, in this age of technological innovation and advancement, the United States is not arming its frontline officers with the very basic capacity to talk to one another.

Part of the challenge is that we have not brought new solutions to this long-standing problem.

To advance the effort, the Border Commerce and Security Council (of which I am Chairman and CEO) helped bring multiple stakeholders to the table in December last year in Cochise County, Arizona, to see if an innovative application of several integrated technologies could solve these communications challenges. It was a Proof of Concept test that included the U.S. Border Patrol, the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office and a group of businesses with tools that can address a range of communications and intelligence challenges. What was tested is called the Field Information Support Tool (FIST).

FIST started in 2006 as basic research at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). NPS Information Sciences Research Associate James Ehlert said in 2010 that the goal was to create “an easy-to-use, inexpensive hand-held solution to achieving communications interoperability and a common physical and human terrain operating picture for both on-the-ground field collectors and tactical decision makers.”

The research question was, how can we use modern technology to allow officers in the field to talk to one another and to their superiors while also collecting and then acting on real-time intelligence?

“The intelligence aspect is that the local and federal law enforcement officers need to look at things from a risk-management perspective,” said Brian Conroy, Business Strategy and Strategic Development Manager at NOVA Corporation, which works with Kestrel Technology Group, the company that has produced the FIST system. “They need to find the high-risk areas [along the border], and if you have a tool that collects data and runs algorithms against it, you can conduct risk assessment and trend analyses. Human intelligence contributes to a holistic common operating picture.”

This is what the FIST system achieves, and it’s what was seen during the proof of concept test. In general terms, FIST uses off-the-shelf communications tools (like an Android device) to gather intelligence from officers on the front lines. With these tools, officers feed information into a larger database compiled from a variety of sources (including other officers) that informs strategic and tactical decision making. This is then passed back to the people working along the border.

The need for this kind of tool is obvious, but it has only been recently that the right technologies and software were put together in a way that makes it possible.

Moving to the Market

Over the last year, there has been a push to transition FIST into the marketplace. Research transition is tough, as DHS has found in many cases over the years. Unlike other agencies and components, such as the military branches, the homeland security and law enforcement marketplace is heavily fragmented and with limited resources. It makes it difficult to take good, workable ideas from prototype to production. As big of a challenge as creating an innovative piece of technology is finding a way to produce it in line with operational and funding realities. A local Sheriff’s office, for example, does not have an endless amount of funding and time to bring in expensive technologies and then train deputies to use them. For that matter, neither does the U.S. Border Patrol.

What’s needed is a simpler, cheaper solution, and based on the proof of concept testing, FIST appears to be that solution.

“It’s ideal for smaller law enforcement agencies because it can unify operations and reporting and scale capability, creating a force multiplier,” said Ivan Cardenas, technical director of the Kestrel Technology Group, which is helping to bring FIST to market. “It is a sophisticated system, but it is easier to use than the complexity suggests.”

There are a few moving parts here. There are applications that allow off-the-shelf technologies to record and report intelligence, such as the location of a breach in the border fence or evidence of people moving through the rugged terrain. There are existing law enforcement and Border Patrol network capabilities (or cloud-based tools) that store that information. The secret sauce, however, is the complex digital architecture that allows real-time control and fusion of multiple information sources in a way that supports the mission. This is the one thing that has been missing from the border communications and intelligence efforts, and it’s why DHS has struggled to address the challenges to this point. The innovation is in the complexity, and FIST makes it simple.

Of course, that complex innovation is for naught if the agents in the field cannot transmit and receive intelligence. Enter SiRRAN Communications, another stakeholder at the proof of concept test in Arizona.

“We often forget that without network access, we’re blind,” said SiRRAN’s Director of Sales Mark Briggs. “Our technology brings that cell network to anywhere that it is needed.”

Briggs describes this technology as a portable, battery powered cell network—a network in a box. It creates a local, closed network that any agent within range can access to communicate and record intelligence. The unit provides local communication in areas where there is no coverage, and if there is no way to access the communications grid, it captures intelligence and transmits it to the larger repository as soon as it finds a signal.

The lesson here is not just that FIST is a workable system to satisfy the mission needs of America’s border security and law enforcement professionals. It’s also that the answer to the communications challenges along the border will not come in the form of $1 billion worth of cell towers built under DHS management. If it were, we would have solved this problem by now. The fact that we have not reveals that the ultimate solution is necessarily complex and multifaceted while also being easy to use and in-line with realistic operating budgets.

Perhaps the most important lesson, however, is that there are real tools that our Border Patrol and law enforcement officers could be using. Right now there are thousands of men and women on the border, and until we give them the tools they need to do their job, it will make border security and the safety of our frontline heroes difficult to sustain.