Rockwell Collins introduce nationwide network for disaster communications

When things turn bad and disaster strikes, communication systems become critical. Rockwell Collins wants to help with that.

Having gone through the Christchurch earthquake a few years ago, and having worked as an emergency services operative for more than half my lifetime, I know only too well how critical communications systems are in times of disaster. After the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011, the cellphone networks were overloaded by concerned friends and family trying to make contact with people who may have been affected. While the emergency services communications channels stayed up, this was only partly through good management. Luck also played a part.

The reality is that communications, both civilian and emergency services, rely on traditional networks which are often overloaded or damaged in disasters. Haiti's earthquake showed just how broken these systems can get in a disaster.

Rockwell Collins, the communications and aviation electronics vendor, is looking to change this with the roll out of a new network. Rockwell Collins already puts lots of effort into flight deck avionics, cabin electronics, mission communications, simulation, and training. The company is now looking to other use cases to leverage their expertise.

ARINC UrgentLink, is a national disaster communications network for public safety that is aimed at allowing first responders, public health, public safety and critical industry officials to communicate with each other when traditional networks are damaged or destroyed. It is being demonstrated this week at the Annual Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials event.

ARINC UrgentLink is available as a subscription-based services and uses Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensed radio frequencies specifically authorized for disasters, along with Rockwell Collins’ proprietary High Frequency (HF) technology. ARINC UrgentLink radios provide one-touch voice and data connectivity to first responders, hospitals, and other critical infrastructure users in the disaster zone, as well as others outside the affected area with access to landline, cell, terrestrial or other communications services. The system is designed to remove the limitations that affect the reliability of traditional HF radio point-to-point communications, such as time of day, ionospheric fluctuations, sunspot, and frequency selection. In addition, ARINC UrgentLink does not rely on electric power in the affected area, which often makes traditional communication vulnerable during a disaster.

Of course, it would be nice if a solution such as this was deployed by federal agencies, and hence not reliant on a commercial vendor, but in the absence of the government doing it, this solution looks like the next best thing. And if it enables disaster one communications to continue, the benefits are obvious.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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