I’ve recently returned from Comms Connect in Melbourne and a busy few days of discussing command and control and critical communications.
Once again Comms Connect proved to be an informative event and an indicator of the direction that the C&C market is taking. Let me share a few of the insights I gained from the event.
An evolutionary jump for command and control
Our conversations with people throughout the event revealed that the command and control market has reached a tipping point.
Radio has dominated for decades, creating a static market based around radio and telephone interface functionality, with the mentality that, when these systems wore out, they’d simply be replaced with newer versions. The market culture has been slow to make decisions and even slower to embrace change: the mantra has been “don’t change what works”. As a result, organisational infrastructures are siloed, with separate telephone, mobile radio and alarm systems — with limited means to pull them all together. Unfortunately, this is perpetuated by radio system vendors who restrict access to interfaces, constraining end users to the radio vendor’s own radio dispatch consoles rather than alternative integrated console solutions that could better suit their operational needs. There’s some evidence that end customers have recognised they have the power to drive changes in this approach and are choosing to ask radio vendors to open their interfaces to other vendors.
Command and control in the cloud
As expected, the command and control sector isn’t showing significant signs of moving to the cloud. While we’re already seeing this shift in the finance sector, command and control users tend to be extremely risk adverse and, with a few exceptions, end users are waiting for cloud solutions to bed down in other industries first. We are planning on delivering the first cloud-based C&C solution in late 2020, so it will be interesting to see where the market stands on cloud between now and then.
Embracing integrated comms
We’re finding that the market is seeking greater interoperability, driving thinking away from siloed infrastructure. Instead embracing information hubs that integrate radio, telephone, Skype, video, data and mobile to create a holistic view of any event intelligence coming in. Having a comprehensive integrated toolset then allows operators to respond in the best possible way to any situation. In 2019 we saw a few control room solutions that are heading in this direction. That’s why we based our offering on a telephony solution that provides comprehensive integration with enterprise voice and collaboration, then add in the radio interfaces.
Physical devices versus PCs
It was interesting to see this year that there were fewer vendors offering dedicated hardware console devices, especially as dedicated hardware console devices continue to receive a lot of attention. From many of the discussions I had, consoles are still seen as an important part of integrated solutions (together with PC, web client and android / iOS versions), and are replacing telephones and fixed mobile radios on operator desks.
Mobile broadband developments
We saw that mobile broadband is segregating into Mission Critical (MCPTT) and OTT broadband solutions. While MCPTT was prevalent, a number of players are offering the OTT solutions, such as our ‘Radio Command’, that use the commercial mobile broadband networks, for non-emergency service applications. It was interesting to hear the marketing messages from the major radio vendors, positioning mobile broadband as an “unreliable” poor cousin to professional mobile radio. Are we seeing an attempt to protect their installed base I wonder?
With the advent of ruggedized broadband devices and a plethora of peripheral devices and vehicle mounts shown at Comms Connect, mobile broadband-based solutions will be the right solution for many market segments and end users — despite what radio vendors may be saying.
If you’d like to explore the possibilities for your control room or critical communications further, or understand why we’re being recognised as a major player in the C&C sector, visit our specialist page.