"Hurricane Katrina last year really brought to light the problem first-responders - from the federal to local levels - had during evacuations, search and rescue, and cleanup," says Greg Ewert, Executive Vice- President, Iridium Satellite. "Essentially, they couldn't talk to each other. There were two issues - they were relying on land, cell and radio-based communications, yet towers went down and flooding severely hampered infrastructure. Second, if their systems did happen to be operational, they couldn't 'talk' with other systems because there was no interoperability component connecting them. It was a total breakdown."
The Iridium/Raytheon collaborative effort gives customers of both companies access to Iridium mobile satellite voice and data communications services packaged with the JPS ACU product line, including the ACU-1000, ACU-T and ACU-M. The ACU-1000 can interconnect up to 24 communications devices at a time, including those based on satellite communications, radio, cellular or land-based networks. Coupled with JPS Radio over Internet Protocol (RoIP)/Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) products, the ACU can be networked to provide multiple nodes for larger applications and for wide area interoperability systems (WAIS).
The ACU family of products is promoted as being on a 'plug-and-play' basis with Iridium phones and Iridium-based systems, as well as with all other first-responder communications devices. First-responders can use Iridium and the ACU to keep connected no matter how badly affected the surrounding area or telecommunications infrastructure, in the words of Lee Martin, Director of Department of Defence and Federal Sales, JPS Communications.
The ACU family of products is claimed to simultaneously cross-connect different radio networks, connect radio networks to satellite communications and telephone systems, or network RoIP/VoIP talk-paths. An operator can use the HSP-2A module of the ACU device to monitor or establish an interconnection with any (or all) of the connected communications systems. It provides voice prompts to assist system users and includes a software graphical user interface (GUI) that is fully touch-screen compatible. The ACU platform is completely scalable and field-configurable to meet customer and application needs. It provides three different methods of operation for system redundancy and is neither computer- nor network-dependent to operate.
Iridium Satellite offers a package of voice and data mobile satellite communications solutions for first responders in emergencies because it is offered as being able to operate even when all other sources of communications fail.
The Iridium package, in addition to ACU technology, can include:
- Iridium 9505A satellite phone;
- Iridium 9522A voice and data transceiver;
- Iridium 9601 data transceiver;
- a multi-channel fixed service with a variety of fixed antenna options for in- and out-of-building use;
- vehicular mount and docking stations; and
- solar chargers.
In addition, Iridium provides services customised to meet user needs including consulting, training and customer service. The Iridium/Raytheon solution is intended as an integral tool throughout emergency response:
- disaster warning;evacuation;
- first response;
- search and rescue;
- disaster assessment;
- rebuilding; and
- future disaster preparedness.