A new low-cost interoperability solution developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) could save the first responder community millions of dollars.
The Radio Internet-Protocol Communications Module (RIC-M), used by local, state and federal responders, is a low-cost, external, stand-alone, interface device that connects radio frequency (RF) system base stations, consoles and other RF equipment—regardless of brand—over the Internet or Private Internet Protocol (IP) network. The RIC-M converts from a commonly used V.24 serial communications protocol to an open-standard Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP). Both encrypted and unencrypted Project 25 (P25) digital communications are supported, and it can also operate with analog communication equipment.
In the past, legacy systems were not interoperable, explained S&T First Responders Group (FRG) Program Manager Christine Lee. If you bought one brand of base station, you had to buy the same brand for the all other components even if other brands offered more economical choices or better options. RIC-M allows first responder organizations to be free from dependence on expensive, single-vendor communication solutions, offering cost savings and wider variety.
Base stations are used by law enforcement, medical and other agency dispatchers to communicate with first responders and agents in the field. Using the RIC-M, agencies can easily upgrade and reconfigure legacy systems at a low cost, Lee stressed. Instead of having to replace an entire system which can cost as much as $15,000 when one component breaks or becomes obsolete, organizations can use any RIC-M compatible product to extend the system's life for another 10 to 20 years, she said. Since its conception in 2012, RIC-M has been successfully field tested with various state and federal response agencies including Montgomery County, Maryland; U.S . Customs and Border Protection; Federal Protective Service; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the U.S. Marshals Service; the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior, Office of Law Enforcement and Security.
The biggest benefit of the RIC-M is that it will allow agencies to continue to use current stock pile and installed legacy equipment, said Carter Blumeyer of Rivada Port Graham Solutions, who participated in the fielding as an evaluator. This legacy equipment is solidly built and still could last more than 10 years from now. DHS owns the RICM patent and issued a first commercial license in 2015 with more expected in 2016.