Secure emergency services data transmission using TETRA-based PDAs from 2007

The UK's emergency services will start using data-enabled handheld devices that support TErrestrial Trunked RAdio (TETRA) from next year, following today's announcement that O2 Airwave has signed a PDA deal with Motorola.

By 2009, most of the country's police forces will be using the devices to cut down on paperwork and increase officer visibility to deter criminals and reassure the public, according to John Gherghetta, Motorola's corporate vice president and general manager for Networks and Enterprise, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

By partnering with Motorola in this way, O2 Airwave, a secure digital radio network dedicated to the UK's emergency and public safety services, has signed the world's first commercial contract to buy TETRA-supported Motorola MTC100 PDAs.

"Everything is enabled now," said Gherghetta. "The pipes are there, the devices are there and so are the applications and a number of forces are willing to [adopt]."

He added: "We probably won't see widespread usage in the next 12 months, but I'd say that in two to three years there will be a high percentage of forces using these devices."

The rugged PDAs will run a suite of applications, created by O2 Airwave that will give front-line emergency service workers access to the critical data they need to do their jobs.

They come equipped with Microsoft Windows 2005 Mobile Edition as standard, in addition to added security and messaging functionality, a large 3.52 TFT touch screen and an integrated camera and flash.

Users can also opt for additional features such as an integrated 802.11 Wi-Fi radio to enable rapid data synchronisation, the ability to create a personal area network (PAN) using Bluetooth to connect to portable devices like scanners or printers and an integrated global positioning system (GPS) to pinpoint a user's location.

Pete Richardson, chairman of O2 Airwave added: "Being able to access intelligence on the move will enable the emergency services and other TETRA users to achieve so much more in their roles.

"The PDA and its supporting applications will demonstrate the crucial role mobile data communications technology can play in improving public safety."

The devices will help police forces meet the aims and objectives outlined in the Association of Chief Police Officers' (ACPO) UK National Strategy for Mobile Information.

The MTC100 PDAs feature multi-slot packet data capabilities, increasing officers' productivity and patrol visibility by giving them access to applications that will operate on O2's existing mobile applications gateway.

The devices will connect to the Police National Computer and other key sources of criminal intelligence for rapid information transfer while working remotely.

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.