For years, the prevalent communication tool for First Responders and Security forces has been the tried and true, portable 2-way radio. It offers a secure, private method of communication for small to medium-sized groups of participants. One of the big drawbacks however, was that having multiple levels of users meant operating on multiple channels. And if you had multiple agencies involved, they would all be on their own two-way systems, with their own channels and probably have different procedures for communicating.
There are various apps out there that enable ad hoc groups and various forms of messaging, but they were always limited in their voice capabilities because they could only make one-to-one phone calls.
Some new advances in Push-To-Talk capabilities of 3rd party apps has changed the game. Now almost any smart-phone can be used for one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-one voice communication. Combined with your smart-phones inherent or app-enabled ability to handle group messaging, share photos, share videos and share map-based locations, it becomes a very powerful forFirst Responders.
ADVANTAGES OF A SMART-PHONE SOLUTION
COST: This is probably a wash, since the average smartphone cost about as much your average P25 Radio. However, most people have their own personal smartphone, so they only thing required would be the necessary apps to create groups and enable PTT.
INTEROPERABILITY: The initiative behind P25 radios is meant to ensure that all participants are on the same playing field. While most newer radios that support FRS and/or GMRS use the same frequencies and are compatible with one another, as you expand your circle of agencies or ancillary responders, you might get users who don’t have a P25 radio or an older model with only14 channels, operating only on FRS. Whether you have an Android device or iOS device, you can communicate through cellular data networks.
ACCESSIBILITY: Again, most people already have their own smart-phone and already knows how to use it as well as how to download and run an app. This allows you to create groups and expand your network of responders much more quickly than if you had to have radios available.
Without disparaging two-way radios or their manufacturers, there are probably no more major advancements in technology or functionality with these products. I believe we are just scratching the surface on where smart-phones and their supporting apps are capable of going.