Businesses have accelerated technology innovation and adoption to help meet new levels of risk brought about by the pandemic and other evolving industry-specific challenges. The advent of digital technologies over the years has increased the benefits of two-way radios, which remain the ultimate necessity for businesses to connect teams with instant, clear and reliable communication for safety, security and operational efficiency. The versatility of two-way radios has been harnessed to match precise business needs by combining voice communications with data applications and technology integration.
Two-Way Radios Remain a Trusted Source for Critical, Real-Time Communications
In healthcare, hospital staff relies on radios to communicate with security to deescalate aggressive situations and facilitate patient care across units and departments. As venues return to full capacity, stadium and hospitality security personnel depend on clear communication across entire premises to manage crowd control, day-to-day operations and deliver successful events. In schools, administrators and security leaders use radios to coordinate the safe arrival and departure of students through various entrances.
While cell phones may seem like an obvious choice to keep staff connected in a variety of environments, they aren’t designed with the needs and wants of field workers in mind. Two-way radios are built for durability and to withstand harsh and unpredictable environments where drops, water damage and dust exposure are common. For businesses, radios are essential for communicating critical information quickly and without compromising safety.
While analog radios have been used in two-way communication for decades, the digital mobile radio (DMR) standard has far expanded the capabilities of two-way voice communications and become today’s standard. DMR radios deliver better voice quality by eliminating background noise, providing stronger coverage, offering longer battery life and using spectrum more efficiently. Employees can easily hear and understand conversations the first time, even over the deafening noise of heavy machinery, a busy school hallway or a hospital emergency room.
For Sinai Chicago, a network of four hospitals in Chicago’s West and Southwest sides, the need for interoperable and immediate communication during emergencies was heightened during the pandemic and civil unrest of 2020. The hospitals transitioned to a digital radio system which enabled them to expand their talk groups for incident command and day-to-day operations. The new radios brought greater efficiency across incident response, emergency management and hospital administration and helped to streamline day-to-day operations and logistics. The hospitals can now deploy radios on and off-campus, enabling real-time communication.
Radio Advancements Afford Data Sharing Capabilities & Technology Integration
In recent years, greater complexity and evolving enterprise challenges have demanded more from communications systems than simple voice delivery. Businesses require real-time intelligence and data sharing capabilities to help automate tasks, provide reliable connections and respond quickly to incidents as they unfold. Data has become a business-critical asset, driving organizations to incorporate smart devices and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors into their day-to-day operations.
The need for both reliable voice communications and data capabilities has given rise to converged devices. The most sophisticated of these may combine the capabilities of a cell phone, radio, tablet and scanner into a single device so that users no longer have to carry multiple items and can streamline communications and workflows across operations. Businesses are now able to use the mobile applications they depend on, such as work ticketing for broken equipment, barcode scanning to secure inventory and team communication platforms used for messaging, meetings and shared content. A high-resolution touch screen makes it easy for workers to attach photos to work tickets, use video chat for remote diagnostics and view detailed images, schematics, diagrams, photos and videos.
Radios that offer the capability to work on the DMR standard and broadband bring increased value and significant advantages over other radios. Broadband allows a device to be programmed and updated over the air, and push-to-talk over broadband helps extend connectivity when users travel outside the range of the radio network.
While public LTE and Wi-Fi are good options for small capacity use like offices, many businesses today are beginning to lean toward private broadband networks because they provide considerably fast speeds, handle high-capacity commercial use, cover large areas, including the outdoors and remote areas, and keep communications more secure.
On-board broadband allows radios to be integrated with some sensors, as well as some video security and access control systems to provide greater visibility and security across operations and keep businesses informed with real-time information. For example, plant operators or facility staff can receive critical alerts when high levels of hazardous gas are detected. Employees no longer need to be in a control center or security room to see events unfold or receive alerts.
Today’s radio systems integrate with critical technologies, such as cameras, sensors and artificial intelligence, to automatically notify appropriate staff when something is amiss elsewhere. Technology integration allows businesses to maximize resources by placing security individuals in areas where they are needed the most. Two-way radios allow users to take their offices to the school hallways, hospital emergency rooms, and storage or maintenance rooms.
At Perry Township, the second-fastest growing school district in Indiana, security officers routinely spent hours physically checking that numerous doors were properly secured and confirming the status via radios. Using access control systems today, Perry Township has an instant view of campus and building access points from anywhere. If a door is breached, the access control system sends staff an immediate alert to their radios and provides access to a live camera feed so they can survey the situation before responding. In addition, machine learning is used to identify heavily trafficked access points and times — enabling the school to more effectively allocate security staff who can communicate with all appropriate employees from any area using two-way radios.
Two-way radios have gone through a lot of change, but they remain a standout solution for businesses across all sectors — healthcare, education, hospitality, manufacturing, transportation, logistics and utilities — for clear and instant communication. Everyone wants the latest technology money can buy, and today’s radios combine reliable, intuitive voice communications with advanced data capabilities and complex technology ecosystems to help them work more efficiently and safely.