Cisco Broadens System For Emergency Personnel

Cisco Systems Inc. today will announce the second generation of a system designed primarily to help emergency response workers communicate with one another even if they have different radios, phones or other devices.

The first version of Cisco’s IP Interoperability and Collaboration System (IPICS), which was introduced in December 2005, works across different channels on a variety of emergency radio systems. But Version 2.0 can support any type of communications device, including cell phones and PC softphones, said Kittur Nagesh, director of marketing for the IPICS technology.

In addition, a new policy engine in IPICS 2.0 lets commanders use a single click on a management console to activate predefined procedures for delivering voice calls, text messages or video to various devices during emergencies.

Cisco has also made the IPICS server software easier to use and enhanced its capabilities for managing resources across multiple agencies, Nagesh said. Each organization can stipulate what information it will share and from which devices, he added.

Police Backup

Drew Depler, customer support manager at the Boulder County, Colo., government’s IT office, has been overseeing a field trial of IPICS 2.0 for the past four months. “Having more devices enabled is better for all kinds of contingencies, especially if a police radio failed,” he said, noting that many officers carry cell phones in addition to radios.

IPICS 2.0 also will support interfaces between radios and the county’s voice-over-IP phones, giving commanders in the Boulder County sheriff’s office and other employees the ability to monitor radio communications from the field while at their desks, according to Depler. In addition, he said, undercover officers will be able to use any cell phone in an emergency radio mode to communicate with other officers.

The county, which has about 100 users set up on an IPICS 2.0 server, is considering integrating Cisco’s technology with its flood-warning systems so that an automatic message can be sent if the potential for a flash flood is detected. The city of Boulder, which has Boulder Creek flowing through its center, could then broadcast warnings to emergency responders via radio tones, generate text messages to media outlets and make phone calls to nearby residents and businesses, Depler said.

Pricing for the IPICS 2.0 server hardware and software combined starts at $42,000, while the new policy engine has a base price of $15,000.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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