IBM and radio-over-IP company UnifiedEdge are aiming to make Fort Worth and Tarrant County, Texas emergency responders more collaborative as they respond to emergencies.
On Tuesday, IBM will announce a deal where Fort Worth and Tarrant County will couple the company's unified communication tools with Unified Edge's software. The aim is to allow police, firefighters, healthcare providers and officials swap data---radio communication, text messaging and file sharing---on the fly.
These efforts to handle more than one form of emergency communication are starting to snowball. Last year, the Federal Communications Commission pushed to "bring 911 into the Digital Age." The crux of the argument was that text messaging should be added to 911 call centers. Roughly 70 percent of 911 calls come from mobile phones.
The IBM-UnifiedEdge software was tested in Feb. 2011 during the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. More than 40 agencies participated in the effort, which was tested by the number of officials and weather difficulties.
In a nutshell, emergency managers can get radio calls into a desktop application. These managers, which use IBM's SameTime collaboration tools can broadcast to many or have a private conversation. RadioConnect aggregates hundreds of incoming radios and cuts down on interference.
The plan for IBM is to deploy the joint collaboration tools in the county in the months ahead.
Juan Ortiz, emergency management coordinator for the City of Fort Worth, made the following points:
- The city, county and state looked into radio-over-IP as a way to cut down the noise levels in call centers during emergencies.
- Radio systems were programmed for individual departments such as police and firefighters. These systems wouldn't allow for cross network communication.
- Soft phone and radio use---software on a desktop---has been broadened to coordinate responders who may not be familiar with each other.
- During an emergency, 30 to 40 agencies may be responding to the same issue. Keeping these folks on the same page requires collaboration tools.