DHS Science & Technology Directorate Contract for LMR / LTE Interworking leads Catalyst APCO 2018 Announcements

DHS announcement highlights Catalyst Communications Technology Innovations on display at booth 1618 at the premier conference for public safety officials

At the 2018 Association of Public Safety Communications Professionals (APCO) Conference in Las Vegas this week, Catalyst Communications Technologies, a leading provider of dispatch, interoperability and incident command solutions for critical communications, announced that they had been awarded a contract by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate for LMR  / LTE Interworking.

Interworking will enable mission critical communications between First Responders using Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems and cellular devices over Long Term Evolution (LTE) Networks with push to talk applications. This contract is the result of an SBIR solicitation won by Catalyst in competition with other businesses. Catalyst’s experience and expertise with Project 25 (P25) technology, Broadband PTT, and interoperability using Internet Protocol makes the company uniquely qualified for the project.

The objective of this three-phase project is to investigate and develop a reliable, secure, and standards-based LMR/P25 – LTE Mission Critical Network (e.g. MCPTT) interworking service for both:

1) The different LMR systems in use today

2) The current LMR systems and new LTE systems being deployed, including FirstNet™

DHS S&T is interested in technology and solutions that take advantage of existing standards in P25 LMR and 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) LTE technologies to create seamless communications between users on these systems. As FirstNet™ continues to advance the schedule for deployment of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN), the need for a feasible Interworking solution between LMR and LTE radio systems is critical. Especially as users discover applications where push-to-talk on a mobile phone or other broadband device may be more practical and less expensive than LMR portable radios, this migration will need interoperability and dispatch systems that can ensure unified and reliable communications between First Responders who are using these different systems.

Catalyst Analytics Engine

Catalyst also announced that they had developed an Analytics Engine for their IP|Console™ and Propulsion™ line of Dispatch solutions that provides insights into dispatch operations to aid first responder dispatch centers. This new tool, included in new installations and for customers upgraded as part of their annual maintenance program, delivers a data and graphs package to help Dispatchers and Dispatch Center managers better understand their environment today, and how it evolves over time.

These powerful controls provide simple visual indications for understanding changes in radio traffic over time. As a tool that tracks call volume over time, this information can help Dispatch Centers load balance their work environment, identify resourceful dispatchers, and provide insight for planning additional (or reduced level) resources. These analytics can highlight radio system degradation before failures shut down communications.

Information about the new DHS Contract for Interworking, the Catalyst Analytics Engine, and a variety of other leading-edge technologies designed to support First Responders in their pursuit of Public Safety, can be seen and demonstrated at Catalyst’s booth 1618 at the APCO Conference Monday and Tuesday, August 6 & 7.

 

Catalyst Selected for LMR / LTE Interworking Project by US Department of Homeland Security

The following post is a PRESS RELEASE describing an award from the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate to develop an LMT / LTE Interworking solution, announced at the APCO 2018 Conference in August 2018.

Mission Critical Push to Talk (MCPTT) between LMR and LTE Networks seen as a vital component of FirstNet™ deployment  

APCO 2018, Las Vegas NV – August 6, 2018

Catalyst Communications Technologies, Inc., a leading developer of Radio Control over IP Dispatch, Interoperability, and Incident Command solutions for the mission critical / first responder community, has been awarded a contract by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate for Interworking that will enable mission critical communications between First Responders using Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems and cellular devices over Long Term Evolution (LTE) Networks with push to talk applications. This contract is the result of an SBIR solicitation won by Catalyst in competition with other businesses. Catalyst’s experience and expertise with Project 25 (P25) technology, Broadband PTT, and interoperability using Internet Protocol makes the company uniquely qualified for the project.

As FirstNetTM continues to advance the schedule for deployment of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN), the need for a feasible Interworking solution between LMR and LTE radio systems is critical. Especially as users discover applications where push-to-talk on a mobile phone or other broadband device may be more practical and less expensive than LMR portable radios, this migration will need interoperability and dispatch systems that can ensure unified and reliable communications between First Responders who are using these different systems. DHS S&T is interested in technology and solutions that take advantage of existing standards in P25 LMR and 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) LTE technologies to create seamless communications between users on these systems.

The objective of this three-phase project is to investigate and develop a reliable, secure, and standards-based LMR/P25 – LTE Mission Critical Network (e.g. MCPTT) interworking service for both:

1) The different LMR systems in use today

2) The current LMR systems and new LTE systems being deployed, including FirstNet™

In Phase II of the project, Catalyst would develop an interface service/server, anticipated to be a software product running on a standard networked computer or computers.  Catalyst is following the recommendations of the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) and its supporting organizations including the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC).  By analyzing documents such as the 2018 NPSTC Public Safety LMR Interoperability with LTE Mission Critical Push to Talk report, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) P25 Standards, and the 3GPP MCPTT standards, Catalyst is creating a comprehensive set of requirements and features for Interworking.

Mike Schools, Vice President of Engineering at Catalyst and the technical lead for this project, said, “Catalyst is very well positioned to provide insight and technology for Interworking, as we’ve been deploying interoperability solutions for the first responder community for more than 15 years. We understand the application requirements of Mission Critical Push to Talk and the complexity of internetwork communications. Solving interoperability challenges for the first responder community is a core competency of Catalyst.”

Catalyst’s contract with DHS Science and Technology Directorate is for Phase I of a three-phased effort as defined by the SBIR Guidelines. Catalyst looks forward to our continuing efforts, working with Public Safety agencies, DHS S&T, and other partners to provide commercially available solutions.

Catalyst Dispatch Analytics provides Communications Insights Helpful to First Responder Organizations

The following post is a PRESS RELEASE describing new Capabilities from Catalyst, announced at the APCO 2018 Conference in August 2018.

Traffic Patterns, call volumes, data analysis and activity insights are tracked by Gateway / Radio Site and across systems

Catalyst Communications Technologies, Inc., a leading developer of Radio Control over IP Dispatch, Interoperability and Incident Command solutions for the mission critical / first responder community, has developed an Analytics Engine for it’s IP|Console™ and Propulsion™ line of Dispatch solutions that provides insights into dispatch operations to aid first responder dispatch centers. This new tool, included in new installations and for customers upgraded as part of their annual maintenance program, delivers a data and graphs package to help Dispatchers and Dispatch Center managers better understand their environment today, and how it evolves over time.

The primary statistical data is call volume over time. Call volume can be tracked for each Gateway on a Catalyst Radio Control over IP system, or for the entire system. (Catalyst Gateways connect to radio resources, either directly to donor/mobile radios or to radio infrastructure through wireline P25 or DMR interfaces). Calls are measured at user defined intervals including calls per minute, calls per 60 minutes, etc. Typically, calls are captured over 24 hours, and each session can be archived for historical analysis.

 

 

The meta data can be applied to chart rendering tools (Like MS Excel® chart tools) which also allow for color and design configurations for different presentations and to simplify the visual understanding of the information provided to the user.

These powerful controls provide simple visual indications for understanding changes in radio traffic over time. As a tool that tracks call volume over time, this information can help Dispatch Centers load balance their work environment, identify resourceful dispatchers, and provide insight for planning additional (or reduced level) resources. These analytics can highlight radio system degradation before failures shut down communications. In addition to the graphic displays provided by the Catalyst Analytics Engine, the meta data can be extracted and applied for custom analysis -percentage change in total call volume by month, for example. Or, calls by hour measured over time (which hour of the day generates the most dispatch traffic). Analytics empower managers with essential information to best re-allocate resources when some Dispatchers are more busy than others.

 

 

The meta data from Catalyst’s Analytics Engine can be imported into Graph rendering tools, including Microsoft Excel Graph Tools, where a variety of visual presentations and color and format options can be used.

 

 

Safe in Marshalltown

RACOM, in Marshalltown Iowa, helps keep the public safe and secure by providing Rugged, Resilient & Robust communications solutions backed with the most Reliable, Responsive & Relentless implementation and support to first responders everywhere. They are a Harris® Regional Center of Excellence — one of only four in the world — selected as the distribution, project implementation and customer support partner for the upper-Midwest and Pacific Northwest. RACOM is a long time Catalyst partner.

Yesterday, July 19, a strong tornado ripped through Marshalltown, https://weather.com/storms/severe/video/marshalltown-iowa-courthouse-steeple-no-match-for-tornado causing extensive damage to the town and the RACOM facility.

Good news from our friends at RACOM: Nobody hurt. All systems (P25 and EDACS) stayed completely operational. 2 floors now alfresco.

Thank goodness!

FREE Passes to APCO from Catalyst Communications Technologies

apco

 

Catalyst is pleased to once again extend APCO International “Exhibit Hall Only Passes” to all members of the Catalyst Community. If you’re going to APCO, you can get into the Exhibit Hall FOR FREE and check out all the new technology and capabilities.

And hey, some of the coolest new tech will be at the Catalyst booth, #1618.

The pass gets you into the Exhibit Hall, not the professional development tracks, ticketed events or other conference related events outside the expo.

Here’s how to register for APCO and get your Free Pass:

1. Go to https://www.apco2018.org/registration/
2. Select the “Register” button
3. Enter your email OR member number if known OR
4. Select the “Add Myself” button and enter information
5. Answer APCO’s General Data Protection Question
6. Complete APCO 2018 Attendee Registration Form, Select Exhibitor Hall Only Complimentary Pass, highlighted in red.
7. Complete the Demographic Profile
8. Purchase Tickets to Events. Special event tickets are NOT included with this registration category but are available at this time for purchase
9. Review the Registration Summary page and enter this code: LolRk0UO in the “Discount Code” field
10. Select Apply to remove the cost of the registration price
11. Select the box to accept the Cancellation Policy
12. A confirmation will be sent to the email provided and to the CC email if applicable

That’s it. see you in two weeks in Las Vegas at APCO 2018!

 

Getting Ready for APCO

apco

APCO is one of two (IWCE being the other) major trade shows that Catalyst attends, as it speaks to our roots supporting public safety officers and first responders. Especially for new product announcements that involve our Project 25 product suite and other capabilities that address the needs of first responders, APCO is the premier venue to demonstrate our mission critical communications technology.

This year, one focus will be our continuing developments in the area of location services. We are convinced that, in the near future, the location information of first responders will be a requirement for most public safety dispatch systems. In the past, the low data rates available on land mobile radio systems has limited data applications like location to be included with most dispatch systems. Location data has primarily been transmitted over cellular networks, not LMR. However, with the emergence of LTE and FirstNet(tm), which can handle much higher data rates and therefore many different applications, location services will become a much more prevalent requirement. We are taking the initiative, as technology leaders, in developing location services today, and have engineered a solution that minimizes the impact of passing location data over low speed LMR networks.

We will also continue to show how both LMR and LTE networks can coexist. This will be the second APCO show where we have demonstrated interoperability between a portable radio on a land mobile radio system, and a cell phone running a push to talk application on an LTE network. Our dispatch solutions can also dispatch to both the portable radio and the cell phone. This is a precursor application to FirstNet(tm),  and as FirstNet(tm) will evolve through transition, interoperability between both radio and cellular devices will be critical. We will have more announcements about this capability as we get closer to APCO.

APCO is in one month, in Las Vegas, and for those who are planning to attend, please stop by and say hello. In addition to showcasing our technology, it’s also a terrific opportunity for us to catch up with our public safety friends. Thank you for everything you do to help keep us safe, and we are proud to develop solutions that help you do your job.

The P25 Executive Summit

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I attended the P25 Executive Summit earlier this month in Portland OR. DHS and the P25 Steering Committee organized the event to help shape the future of the P25 marketplace to ensure operable and interoperable public-safety and national security and emergency preparedness communications efforts. It seems that, after 25 years of P25, we don’t yet have interoperability between LMR systems that meet the needs of end users. And this will be come more problematic as LTE and LMR begin to co-exist in public safety.

For me, one key take-away was the explanation of how we became so mis – aligned, at least compared to the telephony world. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) unites Seven telecommunications standard development organizations and is a collaborative project aimed at developing globally acceptable specifications for third generation (3G) mobile systems, including LTE. In this environment, standards are developed AND THEN vendors develop products that meet the standards.

Contrast this with LMR and P25. In this environment, each P25 manufacturer has historic Human Machine Interface (HMI) preferences and develops their own implementation of the feature and then proposes their interface as a P25 Standard. Sometimes different implementations are both approved as a P25 standards causing confusion with the users as thee implementations meet the standard yet are incompatible with each other.

There were many suggestions as to how to help users navigate P25 interoperability, including:

• Improved P25 User Education and Training is needed
• Users need help to better understand the P25 Standards
• Improvements in distribution and access are needed to make P25 Education readily available to P25 User agencies
• Possible New document: P25 Facts and Myth page (simplistic layman’s terms)
• The use of Social media to disseminate videos, tweets, etc about P25. (Additional resources needed to do this).
• Consider developing a “P25 twitter verse” following for the P25 user community.
• Coordinate education efforts with DHS OEC, DHS OIC CAP, and APCO.

Education alone won’t help end users achieve interoperability between disparate networks be they P25, LTE or legacy. It will help end users understand the constraints of claims by manufacturers that they are P25 compliant yet cannot communicate with another vendor claiming also to be P25 compliant.

Hardware Innovations

ml100g-31-industrial-fanless-nuc-computer-newWe’re always on the lookout for new innovations in hardware, and because we use Windows (r) computers for both our console and radio gateway platforms, we can take advantage of innovations the computer industry introduces on a regular basis. Lately we have seen a lot of innovation in computers that are fanless, with no moving parts, and use solid state storage.

Innovations in this space are very important because it’s the moving parts of a computer that are most likely to fail. And, our critical communications dispatch and interoperability systems are running 24 x 7, so reliability is a key factor in maintaining the high performance levels our customers expect. Paying attention to computer hardware innovations is an ongoing effort at Catalyst to meet these strict requirements.

Recently we’ve been testing – with success – a new computer from Logic Supply, pictured above. The cooling that’s required is accomplished through the heat dissipating shields, and its fanless construction, combined with solid state storage, means there are no moving parts and extends the lifespan of your system. Its sealed design prevents dust, debris, chemical, and moisture ingress, making this computer capable of withstanding the rigors of even the most challenging industrial deployments. And, check out it’s small size:

ml100g-31-industrial-fanless-nuc-computer-cropped2b

 

We’ll likely promote this computer for Gateway installations where the need for a small computer, and where 1RU servers are not part of the design. This computer can easily fit into most space constrained applications. We’ll continue to innovate, and continue to take advantage of innovation throughout the industry where we conclude it can help our customers.

Catalyst at IWCE – What to Expect

InterLoc™ Location Services First Demonstration at IWCE Orlando Booth 1046

A new location services solution that derives location data from Standards based Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems will be unveiled at IWCE 2018 from Catalyst Communications Technologies. InterLoc™ obtains location and other meta data from standards based LMR networks, providing location and personal identification information from portable and mobile radios. What’s especially unique is that InterLoc™ is not an AVL (automatic vehicle location) service – it’s a Personal Location Service. InterLoc™ highlights a robust collection of demonstrations and capabilities from one of the leading technology innovators in the critical communications industry.

InterLoc™ – Personal Location Services from Standards Based LMR Systems

The InterLoc™ system from Catalyst is also unique because it does not use expensive map licensing or cellular data charges, making the system very cost effective compared to typical AVL solutions. InterLoc™ is intimately tied to Catalyst’s Dispatch and Interoperability solutions, and Dispatchers can initiate text and voice communications directly from the map. Maps can display subscriber status (such as Emergency) and Dispatchers can center the map on any resource with the click of a mouse. Multiple maps, and multiple types of maps, can be simultaneously displayed, and a robust map toolkit helps Dispatchers customize maps to help manage their critical communications tasks.

IPC Lite

Also at IWCE: FirstNet™ Ready – LMR /LTE Interoperable Communications

With the announcement that all 50 States have opted into FirstNet™, the nation’s effort to establish a unified network for First Responders using LTE at the network core, attendees at this year’s International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE) Conference can expect innovative applications around LTE technology. The immediate concerns are how existing Land Mobile Radio users will gracefully migrate voice communications to LTE and FirstNet™ and how existing LMR users will interoperate with new LTE FirstNet™ users. Catalyst Communications Technologies has the answer to both these pressing questions. Catalyst will demonstrate communications between LMR portable radios and mobile phones that are PTT enabled and integrated with a nationwide LTE network.

The significance of this demonstration is that in a FirstNet™ environment the nationwide LTE Network can be easily replaced with FirstNet™’s nationwide network. The promised benefits of FirstNet™ can be experienced today!

This demonstration will showcase several technology breakthroughs:

  • A single Dispatch Console can dispatch to both LMR radios and LTE cell phones, display essential information like Unit ID/Alias, and manage them consistently so that dispatchers don’t have to use different procedures for each.
  • Robust, flexible interoperable communications can be established between LMR portable radios and PTT enabled mobile phones that manage the audio flow so that syllables are not lost, as well as allowing dispatchers to remotely adjust the patched LMR channel.
  • Voice Communications and radio control can pass through multiple interconnected networks, including LMR over the air (P25, legacy, etc.), a wide area network backhaul, the LTE data cellular backhaul, and the LTE PTT cellular over the air network.

The potential of FirstNet™ to expand coverage can be realized today using LTE as the network backhaul. Remote locations that do not have LMR radio coverage can now be included in first responder networks because the coverage footprint of LTE is so much greater than any agency’s LMR.

Firstnet diagram

Also at IWCE: FIRE-BK™ – Catalyst’s Incident Command solution with BK Technologies Radios

Another Catalyst demonstration is Field Incident/Repeater Element – BK Technologies (FIRE-BK™), a portable radio communications solution that packages two radios, Radio Control Software, Dispatch Software, and Interoperability Software into a single unit. Designed for incident command applications where local dispatch and interoperability to multiple first responder organizations are required, the inclusion of multiple radios with different frequencies allows additional first responders supporting an incident to be included in the communications path. Catalyst will demonstrate this application with BK Technologies KNG mobile radios.

Fire BK

The importance of this demonstration is that, because of the advanced control of this radio through Catalyst technology, the Unit ID from a wide variety of subscriber radios (Project 25, SmartNet, EDACS, DMR, etc.) can be passed to the P25 subscriber radio. Especially for high stress incidents such as fire, it is vital that they see the unit ID and the associated alias so that first responders know with whom they are communicating.

The demonstrations at the IWCE Convention will take place in Catalyst Booth #1046 throughout the days of March 7 & 8 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. Catalyst personnel will demonstrate their technical innovations including InterLoc™ location services, FirstNet™ Ready LMR to LTE communications, Dispatch Console solutions, Radio Interface technology, and BK Technologies radio capabilities, and discuss critical communications solutions specific to visitor applications.