Communications, Communications, Equipment, Features, Petrillo, Technology

Lockheed Martin App Makes Smartphones Function Like Radios

By Alan M. Petrillo

Lockheed Martin Corp. has developed an app that, when registered to a universal communications platform (UCP) server the company makes, allows a user to have push-to-talk radio communications on a Smartphone or laptop.

Lockheed Martin’s Universal Communications Platform (UCP) provides translational communications among any radio frequency or manufacturer, as well as true APCO P25 cellular radio communications, enabling first responders to use personal mobile devices such as Smartphones, laptops, PCs and tablets from any location to access otherwise disparate radio network infrastructures. Shown is the version developed for the Department of Defense by Lockheed Martin. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin.)

Jim Quinn, Lockheed Martin’s commercial communications business products, says the UCP integrates any radio communications system using existing communications infrastructure to form a dedicated network to handle voice, video, and data. The UCP also enables firefighters and first responders to assess situations and respond in unison through a common operating picture feature, he notes.

“The UCP provides radio over cellular capability,” Quinn points out, “and unlike push-to-talk capability available today, it is a true radio format on a Smartphone when you launch the app. When a phone is registered to a UCP system, it gives the phone the capability of acting like a P25 radio where you have talk groups, zones, a man-down button, and all the standards available on a P25 device.”

The Lockheed Martin Tactical Deployable Unit (TDU) is a self-contained, portable system that enables first responders to set up for operation at any place and at any time in under 15 minutes. The TDU includes fully capable communications for operation centers, mobile units, and other applications. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin.)

Quinn says that the talk button on an iPhone is a button on the screen that the user pushes; on an Android device, the user pushes the volume button. “In each case, the Smartphone will function as a radio until the user hits disconnect,” he adds. “And, the system is encryptable like a P25 radio, so calls from any handheld phone are encrypted too. It gives fire and medical agencies the capability to conduct operations securely and not worry about intercepts.”

The Lockheed Martin app is available at Apple’s App Store, Quinn says. “The nonP25 version of the app is free,” he notes, “while the P25 version has a charge because of licensing fees. The app has to be registered to a device that has the UCP capability.”

The UCP typically is installed at an agency’s dispatch center or other communications facility, and Quinn points out, “it can work seamlessly with any console made today.” Lockheed Martin also makes a tactical deployable unit (TDU), a self-contained portable system that includes fully capable communications for operations centers and mobile units. “The TDU is designed to fit in a Pelican™ transit case and can connect up to four radios and cellular units,” Quinn says.

With its ability to connect any radio and frequency as well as push P25 cellular radio communications to users, the Lockheed Martin United Communications Platform allows the emergency first responders to immediately communicate and coordinate with police, fire rescue, as well as any agencies such as FEMA, American Red Cross, and the National Guard. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin.)

To illustrate the breadth of the UCP system, Quinn says, “We recently registered a number of South Korean cell phones to a UCP facility in Marietta, Georgia. While it took about 1.5 seconds of transmit time back and forth, the communications were very clear.” He adds that Lockheed Martin currently is field testing the app and system with a fire department in Owego, New York.

“The UCP has the ability to connect any device that can pick up a radio frequency (RF), WiFi, or cellular signal,” Quinn says, “whether it’s a Smartphone, laptop, or tablet.”

The UCP Communicator application can be downloaded onto any android, iOS or Windows® device and provide APCO P25 radio capabilities for the user. The app also provides command and control authorities with nearly unlimited talk groups to coordinate a wide number of responding entities. Shown is the app on a Smartphone. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin.)

Economy is an important part of the app and UCP system, Quinn maintains. “For 100 users, the cost would be one-tenth of the cost of outfitting each of those people with radios,” he observes. “We want to use the infrastructure a municipality or county already has and put in the software and hardware that will fill in the gaps existing radios and systems don’t cover.”

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.