Communications Technology Research Priorities

To help State and local law enforcement agencies effectively communicate with one another across agency and jurisdictional boundaries, NIJ has established the following key communication technology research priorities:

Portable Multiband Conventional Radios

These radios can operate on VHF, UHF, and 800 MHz channels with a P25 Common Air Interface. The radio must be programmed with standardized interoperability network access codes and channel nomenclature.

Nontraditional-based Communications Such as Satellite and Ultra-Wideband

NIJ is exploring the need for such communications technologies as satellite or airborne platforms to serve as supplemental or alternative technologies for use where traditional communications technology is not available. This type of technology is best for static and mobile applications that support high voice and data rates. NIJ is exploring handheld, portable mobile-satellite radio equipment that can be used for daily routine communications as well as for forward deployment as part of a disaster response. The equipment can also be used when terrestrial infrastructure is unavailable or not operational.

Cognitive Radio and Software-Defined Radio

A cognitive radio can change its transmitter parameters based on the environment in which it operates. A software-defined radio (SDR) is a type of cognitive radio that can alter frequency range, modulation, or maximum output power through a change in software without making any changes to hardware components that affect the radio frequency emissions. SDR promises to provide an efficient and comparatively inexpensive solution to the problem of building multimode, multiband, multifunctional wireless devices that can be easily enhanced to provide interoperability across agencies.

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Additional Cognitive Applications

Agencies need cognitive radio technology and techniques (both SDR-based and non-SDR-based technologies) and development of rule sets that are definable within the current public safety communications Land Mobile Radio environment. NIJ is exploring development of cognitive radio technologies that will operate both within the public safety radio bands and the current operational environment. Cognitive tools are needed that can be deployed within rule sets defined by the public safety community (as opposed to defining a new cognitive radio environment for public safety to operate within).

Reduced Equipment Footprint and Power Requirements for Mobile Portable Radios

Smaller mobile radios are needed for better installation in newer emergency vehicles. Portable radios also need to be smaller in size and have a reduced power requirement.

Personnel Locators

New technology associated with portable radios is needed, such as a “man down” alarm and two-way communications with a user without using the push-to-talk button. NIJ program is exploring the need for consistent and improved in-building radio coverage, use of handheld radio equipment, and methods of improving performance of portable radio equipment within large commercial and public buildings. Personnel locator technology may also be able to visually display a location in 3-D to accurately depict, for example, the position of a user by floor and room inside a multilevel building.

Broadband Wireless

NIJ’s communications technology portfolio includes projects that are exploring the need for dual-purpose wireless technologies for applications such as broadband data while reducing current leased point-to-point costs (that is, the cost of leasing public telecommunications lines to connect equipment). Such technologies may, for example, transfer backhaul (data and voice communications plus system control information) between fixed sites and repeaters using a single wireless air interface.

Voice over Internet Protocol

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) allows voice communications to be transported digitally through a network using Internet Protocol standards. Two VoIP categories are particularly relevant to public safety: VoIP telephony on public telephone networks and VoIP technology within public safety radio systems.

NIJ is involved in a VoIP pilot project in Danville, VA, that has paired the Danville Police Department with a vendor to implement a potential VoIP solution.

Next section: Communications Technology Standards

Date Modified: December 12, 2012