The adoption of radios to a wide range of users means IT and security departments must consider a radio system that is easy to deploy and devices that are easy to use.
In the last few years, many campus security programs have successfully migrated their video surveillance to Internet Protocol (IP) network technology. Now the use of IP networks is extending to radio communications. Schools are considering this kind of technology because it is easily scalable, cost-effective and also easy to integrate with current infrastructure.
IP radio can be interconnected with an existing campus-wide digital two-way radio system, or installed as a localized system within residence halls, libraries or student union buildings. It is an alternative option for universities that want to create a communications system using their own wireless network.
Deploying an IP Radio System
An IP radio system uses standardized wireless local area network (WLAN) products as infrastructure. Because many universities already deploy these network products, the cost of integrating an IP radio system is typically lower than that of a completely new installation.
Additionally, an IP radio system is license-free. Unlike cellular phones, this type of system does not incur monthly charges for each subscriber unit. An IP radio system uses the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.11 a/b/g/n standard for its WLAN access points. Deploying these access points in an IP network expands communication range within buildings and across campus. IP handheld radios can roam an area and automatically use the nearest access point to communicate.
Security and other campus units can keep their conversations private as their communication is encrypted with WLAN security protocols such as WPA-PSK (TKIP/AES) and WPA2-PSK (TKIP/AES).
IP Radio Features
Like traditional two-way transceivers, IP handheld radios should promote simple operation. Whether it’s to report a routine security patrol, or to call for backup in an emergency situation, users must be able to use their radios effectively and efficiently. Factors such as a compact size, rugged construction and loud audio contribute to a radio’s ease of use. The ideal IP handheld unit should be lightweight, yet tough enough to withstand heavy and/or outdoor use. For optimal durability, look for devices that meet MILSPEC requirements (U.S. Military Standard) and have an Ingress Protection rating of IPX7 for maximum waterproof coverage.
Communication over a WLAN offers a wider frequency bandwidth and Quality of Service (QoS) priority packet delivery. The sound quality from an IP radio is often higher than traditional systems and akin to regular telephone communication. Professional IP radios may also offer full-duplex capabilities when connected to a headset. This convenience allows all users (such as bicycle patrols) to operate their radios hands-free and communicate simultaneously.
In addition to subscriber units, an IP radio system includes a network controller and access points. An IP controller installs with existing or new wireless networks and connects all IP radios under one system. After the initial system setup, the controller can program most radio configurations over the air such as radio group assignments. A controller eliminates the need to collect and redistribute radios after an update. Radios can be programmed without individual PC cable connections.
Adding several WLAN access points to a radio system can expand its coverage. These access points can also be shared for use with other wireless devices including computers, tablets and smartphones. A compatible WLAN access point uses 5 and 2.4 GHz spectrum bands and features load balancing, packet filters and Power over Ethernet (PoE) functionality.
If virtual dispatch is required, a remote communicator should also be configured to the system. Remote communicator software can help facilitate communication with dispersed university sites that are connected over an Internet Virtual Private Network (VPN).
From a PC-compatible desktop, laptop or tablet, the remote communicator serves as an additional radio to the network – exchanging calls and sending text messages to individual, group and area subscribers. The dispatch software also keeps call logs and displays location information of every IP radio deployed in the field. These features are especially helpful when generating an incident report, and when security managers need to dispatch officers closest to the location of a campus disturbance.
Expanding Radio Communications
Many campus security departments currently use IP phones, analog transceivers and/or select digital two-way radios. An advanced IP radio system can interconnect with these devices by introducing a Radio over IP (RoIP) gateway. Designed to enhance coverage in a radio system, a RoIP gateway bridges and/or converts various communication devices with IP technology. This hybrid approach allows universities to connect IP radio users on campus with offsite agencies (e.g. local law enforcement) using other radio platforms. Security departments interested in implementing a hybrid system should consult an authorized IP radio professional.