Exactly what is a Covert Earpiece?

A covert earpiece is designed to go unnoticed in a person’s ear. Typically, the iconic image of the bodyguard or FBI agent always springs to the forefront of the imagination when the subject of covert earpieces is brought up, but they are often used by live on-air television personalities to take cues and direction from the production team as well. Politicians will also use them when making live speeches to get immediate feedback and change the course of the dialogue if needed.

Not all covert earpieces are designed for two-way communication, but during sensitive surveillance operations or security details a microphone is often used for real-time communication. The presence of a low-profile microphone becomes a necessity in these types of operations to keep the security forces hands-free at all times. They also allow the user to blend into a crowd without using a conspicuous walkie-talkie or other form of hand-held device.

Covert earpieces are designed not to have any visible wiring and to fit neatly inside the ear without being observable to any passers by who may be in the general vicinity. There are even devices made to fit on an ordinary pair of glasses, which amplify sound inside of the wearer’s ear.

An Earpieceonline acoustic tube earpiece has the features of a thin tube that helps to transmit sound. The tube fits snugly behind the ear, while the bud goes inside the ear. The acoustic tube ear piece is commonly paired with a microphone when used in security or covert operations, but there are some civilians who prefer to use it with their personal devices, such as mobile phones and personal audio devices. The ability to efficiently eliminate background noise in loud areas makes them a top choice for use in television and media as well.

The sturdy tubing of the acoustic tube is vital in protecting the delicate wiring involved in the listening device. The ability to protect the most crucial aspects of the earpiece makes the acoustic tube preferable over other devices with exposed wiring and even wireless devices, as the acoustic tube earpieces are known to outlast others. Anyone who will be performing rigorous activity while wearing a covert earpiece will choose the most durable option.

Boys From The Dwarf: Classic Sci-Fi Comedy Show To Return For Two New Series

The boys from the Dwarf are back! UK TV channel Dave has announced that it has commissioned two new series of the long-running science fiction comedy, the first of which (series XI) will be set to air in 2016.

Series co-creator Doug Naylor, who has been in sole charge of the franchise since 1997’s seventh series, said, “[We were] originally asked for more shows back in 2012 (…) but frustratingly it’s taken until now to get our ducks in a row and all the boys available at the same time. Now they are, we’re all absolutely delighted.”

Craig Charles, who portrays Dave Lister on the show, has reportedly left his long-running role as Lloyd Mullaney on British soap opera ‘Coronation Street’ in order to better commit to the part.

“Lloyd has become a huge part of my life and I’ve had an absolutely fantastic ten years,” the poet-turned actor told Empire Online. “…But I feel I owe it to my colleagues on Red Dwarf to join them in filming the new series and finding out what is in store for Lister and the others.”

The BBC initially aired 8 series of Red Dwarf from 1988 – 1999. From there, Dave optioned the rights to the series and produced a three-part special entitled ‘Red Dwarf: Back To Earth’ in 2009. Fan reaction to this new series was mixed and many saw it as a creative miss-step. However, both viewing figures and DVD sales for the specials were strong and so Dave commissioned a new series, ‘Red Dwarf X’ in 2012. This time around, with the characters returning to the original ‘sit-com in space’ format, the fan reaction was much more positive, which left many fans hungry for more.

Although the viewing figures for Series X were not as strong as they were for the ‘Back To Earth’ specials, the series was still Dave’s highest rated show of 2012.

Since then, however, it’s been a long wait. Having said that, three years between series is nothing for fans of Red Dwarf. After Series III wrapped in 1989, fans had to wait until 1991 for Series 4. Then, after Series VI ended (on a cliffhanger, no less), viewers had to wait four years until Series VII kicked off in 1997. Two years passed before 1999 saw the release of Series VIII and from there it was a decade before Dave aired the three part special, ‘Red Dwarf: Back To Earth’. Even after that venture proved to be (financially, if not entirely critically) successful – it was still three more years before fans saw any new episodes coming their way.

The two new series will be shot back-to-back towards the end of this year and are being co-produced by Baby Cow Productions. Welcome back, Dwarfers, the slime’s coming home!

Motorola Solutions provides secure and efficient communications for Milan airports

Motorola really are the leader in complex communication systems, time and time again we see (and report) stories of Motorola completing projects for prestigious businesses and organisations. This article highlights their latest finished project.

Airport operator SEA Group (Società Esercizi Aeroportuali S.p.A.) has selected Motorola Solutions to improve operations and ensure the highest levels of security, efficiency and effectiveness at Milan’s Linate and Malpensa airports. Deploying a TETRA Dimetra IP Compact radio communications system to connect both of Milan’s airports, SEA is able to provide enhanced customer services with rapid flight turnaround and more efficient terminal operations.

“With 1,200 operating radios and an increase in operations, SEA needed a more dynamic solution for communications,” says Fabio Degli Esposti, information & communication technology director, SEA. “Faced with the need to replace an outdated system and the need to cope with an increasing demand of services, the only choice for us was to switch to digital technology, which is able to guarantee a safe and effective service.”

In Malpensa – where the old and the new systems had to coexist in the migration phase – everything was fully operational within just two weeks, including the configuration of 1,000 new radios. At Linate airport, the system, supporting 400 new radios, was set up in just a week.

“SEA could not afford any inefficiency,” says Giuliano Posenato, customer service manager, Motorola Solutions Italy. “The implementation had to be very fast, because the requirement was to change the engine on the machine while it was still running.”

Motorola Solutions’ high-performance TETRA base stations now deliver TETRA network coverage in both airports. Old radios used by personnel throughout the airports where also replaced with new TETRA digital handsets.

Motorola Solutions has signed a four-year managed services agreement with SEA, guaranteeing technology evolution including the replacement of its complete telecommunication system (controller, base stations and radios). Motorola Solutions will provide global integrated services infrastructure with highly qualified technical support and certified repair centres that will provide fast repair times and expert technical support for the system for many years to come.

In September 2015, Motorola Solutions will upgrade the connections at both airports with the latest generation of Motorola Solutions TETRA system Dimetra 8.2 enhancing data transmission and offering the SEA the opportunity to develop rich data services to further improve both operations and the customer experience at Milan’s airports.

About SEA

SEA and the Group’s companies manage and develop the airports of Milano Malpensa 1 and Milano Malpensa 2, as well as Milano Linate. The airport system managed by the SEA Group is comprised of:

  • The Milano Malpensa airport is situated about 48 km from Milan and connected to the main cities of Northern Italy and Switzerland. This airport includes two passenger terminals and one cargo terminal
  • The Linate airport is about 8 km from Milan. The airport serves a frequent flyer client traveling to domestic and international EU destinations.

At the two airports, the Group offers all services and activities related to the arrival and departure of aircraft: management of the airport safety; passenger and cargo handling; continuous development of commercial services for passengers, operators and visitors.

2 Way Radios for Business

Communication is extremely important in business, whether you’re business offers a security service or just likes to keep certain departments in close communication. There are many options for you to choose from when it comes to effective communication within your business, but a two way radio system is by far one of the best.

Buying two way radios for business use can be extremely overwhelming, there are many different types of radios available on the market. Not being properly educated on the features and specifications of each one could have a very negative impact on your business.

Why Should I Choose Two Way Business Radios?

Using a two way business radio is much more advantageous compared to other communication options such as a mobile phone. When you decide to use a two way radio system, you’re getting away from all the distractions that other communication methods have.

These business radios only have the features that you need, which will result in better communication, an increase in productivity, increased safety, and so much more.

Where Will I Use the Two Way Business Radios?

One thing that you need to think about before you decide which radio system to buy is where you will be using the radios. If the radios will be used mostly outdoors then a VHF two way business radio would be your best option . On the other hand, if radio usage will be confined mainly indoors then you’ll want to go with UHF radios.

Speak with your local deal about your circumstances specifically, he/she will help you find the best radio for your usage requirements.

So What Types of Two Way Business Radio Are There?

There are four different types of two way business radios available on the market today. Let’s take a quick look at each of these options:

Handheld — The most common type of two way radio, these are the handheld devices often used by security firms.

Vehicle mounted mobile — The best choice for drivers and anyone who will be spending long amounts of time in a vehicle.

Desktop base station — These radios connect to a main power source and an external antenna to achieve an excellent range.

Repeater base station — A repeater base station is a device that can boost the operational range of your radio systems.

How Do I Choose What Sort of Two Way Radio System I Need?

You need to think about what sort of radio you’ll need, there are many varieties available. Think about how many people you are planning to have on your frequency, what operational range you’ll need, what type of radio system (we’ve discussed this above), your budget, and other factors. It’s always a wise decision to talk with your local radio dealer.

There are also a few extra features that you might want to consider. For examples, if you would like your two way radio system to have an emergency call feature, selectable power, or any type of accessories, this is something you should think about.

Analogue or Digital Two Way Business Radio?

Choosing between an analogue or digital two way business radio is extremely important and something that you’ll definitely want to consider. Apart from lower cost, there really isn’t any reason to choose an analogue radio over a digital one.

There are many benefits with digital two way radios when compared with analogue. Digital radios can handle more users, offer better sound quality, and provides more stable audio.

Closing Notes

Two way radios can be extremely beneficial for just about any business, as proper communication is becoming more important each and every day. You need to make sure that the radio you decide to purchase meets your criteria and can fulfill your needs properly. The advice and guidance given above will help you with this.

Don’t forget that you will need a license to operate your business radios, this can be acquired by reaching out to Ofcom. 2wayradionline.co.uk should be able to help you with your license application and your radios.


As this article shows rules on what information can be relayed from the team to the driver over the radio have been restricted, it actually started last season and has been carried over.

Drivers racing the 2015 season will still be subject to the same radio message restrictions imposed by the FIA last year, with the governing body adding that a “a few more” may be included before the start of the season.

Last year, in response to a belief that information being relayed to drivers by engineers concerning performance was against the spirit of article 20.1 of the Sporting Regulations, which state that “the driver must drive the car alone and unaided”, the FIA contemplated a blanket ban on radio traffic between teams and drivers concerning car and driver performance.

However, following consultation with teams, officials modified their position, saying, at the Singapore Grand Prix, that it would delay restricting car performance messages until this season due to the complexity of introducing the ban at short notice and the potential for differing effects among teams. The FIA issued a revised advisory specifying a range of messages that would no longer be permitted.

According to an FIA spokesman the F1 Strategy Group has now ruled that the current restrictions are sufficient and that race officials will expect teams to continue to respect the technical directive issued in Singapore.

“The Strategy Group, from whom the original request to limit what messages could be delivered to the drivers, now feel that the balance is right by only limiting messages that can be considered driver “coaching”,” said the FIA spokesman. “Therefore, the only messages we will not permit are those listed in TD/041-14 from last year.”

He added, however, that there is still scope for further message types to be prohibited.

“We may add a few to this before the start of the season and re-issue the TD,” he said.

The issue of driver coaching is of particular relevance this year to teams such as Toro Rosso, who are fielding two rookies, including F1’s youngest driver, 17-year-old Max Verstappen.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 14.33.35

Toro Rosso’s Franz Tost was strong opponent of the coaching ban, with the team boss saying last September that the changes contained in the technical directive.

“The changes are absolutely not necessary,” he said during the FIA’s press conference in Singapore.

“All the information the drivers get is also entertainment for the people in front of the TV to hear,” he added.

“For us of course it’s a big disadvantage because the more un-experienced the driver is there’s more information you have to give him.

“For me it’s absolutely nonsense what we are discussing here because in all the other kinds of sports a coach gives some informations, instructions to a football player, for example, on the sideline or wherever.

“This does not mean that the sportsman is not able to do his job, he can do his job, he does do his job, but maybe he can do it in a better way, it’s just a performance improvement. Therefore I don’t understand it.”

Under FIA technical directive TD/041 messages concerning the following are not permitted (either by radio or pit board)

-           Driving lines on the circuit.

-           Contact with kerbs.

-           Car set up parameters for specific corners.

-           Comparative or absolute sector time detail of another driver.

-           Speeds in corners compared to another driver.

-           Gear selection compared with another driver.

-           Gear selection in general.

-           Braking points.

-           Rate of braking compared to another driver.

-           Rate of braking or application of brakes in general.

-           Car stability under braking.

-           Throttle application compared to another driver.

-           Throttle application in general.

-           Use of DRS compared with another driver.

-           Use of any overtake button.

-           Driving technique in general.

New Smart Cast Phone Has a Built in Laser Projector

Oh, now THIS is cool. A new phone unveiled by Chinese corporation Lenovo (makers of the Ideapad tablet, amongst others), will be able to project interactive objects, such as virtual keyboards or piano keys onto almost any flat surface.

The ‘Smart Cast’ phone (which could have been branded better, it has to be said) will also be able to project videos and photographic content onto walls, desks or any other flat surface, allowing the user to share videos (and even potentially screen movies) with multiple viewers.

The phone is able to project a fully functional replica of its own touch screen, or even a full-size computer keyboard if desired.

Despite being utterly tiny (34mm x 26mm x 5mm), the phone’s laser projector does not need focussing in order to project far larger images onto walls, desks, or anywhere else you might need to project an image (and for all you nerd lings aiming on creating a pocket Bat-Signal, forget it. I got there first!).

The projector itself can also be manually moved into at least one other position, which ensures that the projection quality should always be first rate.

…It even has a motorbike style kickstand to keep it upright when you’re using the virtual keyboard. How cool is that?

Justifiably proud of their new creation, Lenovo hired Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang to play the phone’s virtual piano as projected on the desk in front of him. I suppose they could afford to, as it was recently announced that their profits are up 20% from last year.

Of course, projector phones have been explored in the past, usually without success. The Samsung Galaxy Beam, released in 2012, was a failure of Star Trek: Into Darkness proportions (the joke being in the ‘beam me up’ area – in case you missed that) and the technology is notoriously hard to use. Still, perhaps this time somebody has finally gotten it right? Time will tell…

Sadly for us Brits, the Smart cast phone seems unlikely to be released here in the UK, so for us, it’s all a moot point in the end.

The Smart Cast phone was officially unveiled at Lenovo’s Tech World conference in Beijing, China, an event that also saw the debut of a new smartwatch, which has a ‘public’ and ‘private’ mode for some reason (all I can imagine it would be useful for is if somebody asked you the time whilst you were watching porn – at which point, keeping the screen on your wrist would defeat the object somewhat anyway).

It is open to interpretation as to whether or not the Smart Cast phone will be a stroke of consumer electronics genius or a costly failure, but for now, the early buzz certainly looks intriguing and you can pretty much guarantee that various engineering bigwigs employed by other developers will be following its progress with interest.

The Shakespeare Code: Does a 400-Year-Old Portrait Offer a New Image of The Bard?

Historian and botanist Mark Griffiths claims to have cracked a centuries old code, revealing a brand new image of William Shakespeare.

The picture appears on the title page of the 1598 volume ‘The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes’ by the horticulturist John Gerard.  Apparently, Griffiths was able to decode a Latin cipher “of the kind loved by the Elizabethan aristocracy” which then revealed the identity of the man in the picture as William Shakespeare.

If he is correct, then this picture is the only demonstrably authentic portrait of the famous playwright that exists from his lifetime. But remember, I said ‘if’ – Mr. Griffiths is by no means the first person to make such a sensational ‘discovery’.

It is a spectacular claim for sure, but one that is fast gaining currency in the international news media. The only accepted images of The Bard are the famous picture from the cover of Shakespeare’s First Folio and the effigy on his monument in Stratford-Upon-Avon, both of which were created some time after his death.

Griffiths, who is presently writing a book about Gerard, came across the picture whilst browsing a first edition copy of ‘The Herball’. The image appears to have been created by William Rogers, the first English engraver and a man of much renown in his own right. Copperplate engravings, such as the ones he made of Queen Elizabeth I, are key pieces of historical evidence for the study of England in Tudor times.

Rogers’ title page shows four male figures surrounded by flowers and symbols, so Griffiths decided to try and discern the identities of the four men.

One of the men is apparently Gerard himself, whilst the second image appears to depict the Flemish botanist Rembert Dodoens. The third man is assumed to be Lord Burghley, who was an adviser to the Queen and a patron of the book’s author. The three aforementioned men could be readily identified using existing portraits from the period. However, the identity of the fourth figure, clad in classical Roman garb, wearing a laurel wreath and holding a both an ear of sweetcorn and a fritillary flower, eluded him.

Griffiths began to read up on the sort of codes, ciphers and hidden messages frequently used in Tudor times and, from his research, he concluded that the identity of the fourth man had to be Shakespeare himself.

For Griffiths, there can be no doubt at all that this is the definitive image of William Shakespeare, “For me, it is not about doubt or supposition. I’m faced with a series of facts that I can’t gainsay, as much as I try. This is what these facts are, these are what the plants are, this is what they signify, this is what the symbol decodes as. All of that adds up to Shakespeare. I can’t make that – and believe me I’ve tried – add up to anybody else but Shakespeare.”

However, some of the ‘clues’ unearthed by Griffiths do seem to be somewhat strange, to say the least. For example, the image around the fourth man shows an arrowhead with an ‘E’ stuck to it, alongside a figure four. For Griffiths, this equates to the Latin word Quater, which was (apparently) a slang term for the number 4 in games of chance. Add the ‘E’ on the end of the word and it becomes quatere, which is the infinitive of the Latin verb quatior, meaning ‘ to shake’. Accordingly, Griffiths believes that the number 4 seen nearby can also be interpreted as a spear. Literally, this means ‘shake spear’.

Another ‘clue’ is the presence of the word ‘Or’. Apparently, Shakespeare’s father was presented with a golden coat of arms around the time that ‘The Herball’ was being written – and the heraldic symbol for gold is ‘Or’.

Elsewhere, he also points out references to various Shakespeare writings, particularly Venus and Adonis, in which a fritillary flower appears. He even goes as far as to suggest that the ear of sweetcorn is a reference to a single line of dialogue from Titus and Andronicus.

So, is it Shakespeare’s picture, or is Griffiths simply getting carried away looking for clues as to the identity of a so-far-unknown man who lived 400 years ago? Opinion is so far divided and, given the age of the text and the many-fold interpretations offered by the image, it seems doubtful that anybody will be able to either conclusively prove, or disprove, Griffith’s theory.

Professor Michael Dobson, Director of The Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham said that, “I can’t imagine any reason why Shakespeare would be in a botany textbook. It’s a lovely picture. Everybody is very fond of it. But that doesn’t mean that he had anything to do with it apart from the fact that he read it. (…) It’s a man in a toga, holding a little bit of a corn on the cob in one hand and a fritillary in the other.”

In his defense, Mr. Griffiths has posited that Shakespeare may have been patronized by Burghley and that he could potentially have worked with Gerard on the book, hence his appearance on the cover, but critics of the theory find this hard to swallow, especially due to the lack of any hard historical evidence to back it up.

World-renowned Shakespeare expert Stanley Wells took his disdain to Twitter, saying (slightly flippantly) “So apparently Shakespeare went around in fancy dress holding a fritillary in one hand and a cob of corn in the other.” Of course, the ‘fancy dress’ could be symbolic of the man’s connection to the theatre, but equally, it could be a romanticized portrait of a nature spirit.

As reported by The Guardian, Griffiths hit back at his critics, saying, “What we have here is a series of incontrovertible facts. I dare say people will think: ‘Oh no. It’s not him.’ But there is no other construction that can be placed on these facts. It is not an assumption that he is Shakespeare, it is algebra … it is an equation.”

Erm…No it isn’t. It is a series of educated guesses, aided and abetted by what seems to be more than a little wishful thinking.

The image and indeed the story as a whole, may put science fiction fans in mind of the 2007 ‘Doctor Who’ adventure ‘The Shakespeare Code’, in which a young and handsome Shakespeare portrayed by Dean Lennox Kelly (and eerily similar to the man pictured in ‘The Herball’) aids The Doctor and his companion Martha Jones in expelling Carrionite witches from The Globe Theatre. Indeed, Griffiths himself compared the image of a young, good-looking Shakespeare to the appearance of a contemporary film star.

So, when we gaze upon this Elizabethan image, are we looking at the only authentic picture of William Shakespeare? Maybe we are, maybe we aren’t, however the fact that Mr. Griffiths is now claiming to have uncovered a new play by Shakespeare does suggest, that, whether he manages to convince us or not, we’ll be hearing more from him in the future.

How Exactly Do Talkies Work?

DISCLAIMER – Usually, we’re a pretty mild-mannered bunch, but every so often, we get a question that we’ve answered so many times that we just don’t know what to say in response to it anymore. For my part, I’m tempted to say ‘magic fairy warriors’, ‘pixie dust’ or just ‘spit and happy thoughts’ – but no, I’m not going to do that. In any instance, this is the last time I will be answering this question. So, after this, you guys will have to look into the archives for answers (still, you might be able to find some good stuff back there).

All joking aside, the science behind the walkie-talkie is fairly simple to grasp (which is good, because otherwise I’d be out of a job!). I’ll render it here as a series of steps.

STEP ONE – Having tuned the walkie-talkie to the appropriate frequency (and charged the battery), you push the PTT (Push To Talk) button and speak your message.

STEP TWO – The vibrations of your voice shake a small membrane inside the walkie-talkie’s microphone.

STEP THREE – The radio’s processor then converts those vibrations into an electrical signal, which it pushes upward towards your walkie-talkie’s antenna.

STEP FOUR – The electron particles housed inside the antenna become excited (they will only respond to the set frequency) and this, in turn, ‘pushes out’ the message in the form of a radio signal.

STEP FIVE – The radio signal is then intercepted by your partner’s walkie-talkie antenna, where the incoming signal excites their electrons (which are attuned to the same frequency, of course). These electrons then in turn translate the signal into an electrical impulse, which is subsequently decoded by the processor and played out via your partner’s speakers. It is exactly the same process as you just experienced except that it has been reversed.

The fact that walkie-talkies do this practically in real time is actually nothing short of amazing, when you think about it.

Part of the reason that walkie-talkie technology has been so very successful since its initial inception is that it works very well and is very easy to use. In fact, you’d be hard pushed to find a simpler, more useful and more user-friendly technology this side of the wheel!

Thanks for your question (and I’m sorry about the rant earlier, Claudia!), hope my answer helps. If not, then I’d go with the magic fairy warriors.

New report shares details about the military communications market analysis, size, share, trends,growth and forecasts to 2020

This originally was posted on this blog, Military communications always lead the way to other communications. When this market grows, the knock-on-effect is huge for other communication industries.

The global military communications market is expected to grow over the forecast period on account of growing emphasis on providing data-centric and network-centric communications. Rapid adoption of new satellite communications platforms such as Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) and US-based Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) provides protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfare operating on various platforms.

Additionally, various communication technologies such as high frequency services and software-embedded radio systems Ka band in order to limit the bandwidth limitations are some of the emerging trends in the military communications market.

The report “Military Communications Market Analysis, Market Size, Application Analysis, Regional Outlook, Competitive Strategies And Forecasts, 2014 To 2020” is available now to Grand View Researchcustomers and can also be purchased directly at


Considering the rise in demand of handheld software defined radios such as mobile radio, joint tactical radio and tetra radio systems is expected to favorably impact military communications market growth over the forecast period. The military is poised to replace and modernize aging equipments and utilize virtually unlimited IP peer-to-peer connections for embedded systems.

However, multiple standards in devices, financial constraints towards procurement and interoperability issues are the few factors that may challenge market growth through the forecast period.

North America featured among the highest adopters of military communications in 2013 and is expected to remain a key market throughout the forecast period. Adoption of latest data links and mobile satellite technologies are the factors attributable for regional market growth.

The U.S. government is expected to secure commercial capacity due to lack of appropriate military satellite systems. The Asia Pacific regional market is expected to witness significant growth over the forecast period.

Key military communications industry participants include Rockwell Collins, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Alcatel-Lucent, Lockheed Martin, Harris Corporation, Thales Group and L-3 Communication.

Will Niagara Get What It Bargained For? Emergency Radio System Brings Profits to Motorola

It’s always good when you see new radio communication systems being installed and going live on a big scale. Motorola are one of the big companies able to implement these systems, but as you can see below it didn’t all go smoothly, 

This is the first of a multi part investigative series on Niagara County’s new “Emergency Radio Communications System”.

The Reporter plans to  examine the roles of county officials, elected and appointed, a Pittsburg consultant and a Syracuse lawyer, both hired by the county, and a faction of first responders and others. At the dispatch end, we will examine the role of the 2-way radio king, Motorola Solutions Inc., of Schaumberg, Ill. Motorola managed a entire network of people through various channels, at whatever frequency was needed to interconnect and transmit to themselves a lucrative contract, sold, conceived, approved, designed, built, maintained, resupplied, and sold and up-sold again.The series will examine behind the scenes the course of business – as money interests intertwined with public interests and as the project comes online, we will attempt to evaluate whether Niagara County reaped the benefits it was promised or, as is so often the case in other localities, this is another deal where Motorola seems to have alone profited.


Niagara County’s new emergency radio communications system is expected to go “live” in June or July. Reported as a $10 million project, the system’s true cost has not been published. On April 29, the Reporter filed a Freedom of Information request with the clerk of the Niagara County Legislature, Mary Jo Tamburlin, for all contracts associated with the emergency radio project.

Based on estimates of reported cost overruns, consultant and legal fees, and Motorola’s reported contract price, the system cost at least $11 million and, if change orders,  maintenance, rentals and other expenses are similar to other Motorola projects, the final cost may be substantially more.

An FCC Mandate?

In Niagara County, the stated goal of the new emergency radio system was declared to be  undertaken to comply with the FCC’s “narrowbanding” mandate which requires 2-way radio licensees to reduce bandwidth to a narrower (weaker) signal.

The purpose of the mandate, the FCC declared, was to reduce congestion on UHF and VHF frequency bands. Whether public or private, 2-way radio systems were ordered to migrate from  bandwidths of, typically, 25 kHz to a narrower 12.5 kHz or its equivalent efficiency.

The deadline was set for Jan. 1, 2013.

The deadline missed, Niagara County applied for and was granted extensions from the FCC.

The simple change to narrower bandwidth was not what made Niagara County late by two years and five months and counting.

The county melded narrowbanding with a plan to combine every public safety division in the cities, towns and villages in Niagara County, along with Niagara County’s public safety departments, into one unified Motorola designed digital system.

Each independent department would abandon their analog systems and their scores of dedicated channels and share a pool of far lesser channels that Motorola would arrange to help provide.

To be clear — the main cost of Niagara County’s Emergency Radio Communications system was not FCC narrowbanding, but the merger of all public safety’s 2-way radio communications into a single digital Motorola system to be used with top of the line Motorola 2-way radios.

Digital Trunked System Promises Better Communications, New Radios

The system, a microwave network with Motorola radio transmitters on seven radio towers strategically located throughout the county and linked to a dispatch center and a backup center replete with top of the line Motorola equipment. The system does comply with the FCC narrowbanding mandate and in addition promises, as all Motorola ‘trunked’ digital systems do, the ability of radio users on the system to be able to speak directly to any other user regardless of agency or department.

Called “interoperability,” it is perhaps infrequently used except in times of crisis when coordination among first responders can be of paramount importance.

The second feature, one that Motorola contracted to provide, was 2-way radio reception with 95 percent reliability over 95 percent of the land area of Niagara County which, if realized, is greater than the county enjoys collectively with its various analog radio channels. Finally, as a sweetener, Niagara County purchased from Motorola, at, reportedly, a cost of about $2 million some 1850 top of the line 2-way Motorola radios. Normally sold to governments for $5,000 each, Motorola discounted them to not much more than $1,000 each.

County legislators made these available as gifts to every public safety employee whose agency or department joined the new Motorola system. Not every department wanted to join. Lockport Fire Chief Thomas J. Passuite said his fire radios could be bought into compliance with narrowbanding for $3,500.

Lockport Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert said his department could comply with FCC narrowbanding for $21,900.

Eggert apparently understood that by selling $5,000 list price radios for $1000, Motorola  ensured future sales. In five years or so, when the typical 2-way radio is ready for replacement, Eggert knew his department would have to buy new ones at a price 10 times higher than the $500 narrowbanding compliant 2-way analog radios cost.

The Lockport City Council – under mounting pressure from county officials – overruled Eggert and Passuite’s analog plans – and voted that their police and fire departments must join the county system and accept the gift of Motorola radios – estimated to have a replacement value of $425,000.

Now the Niagara County digital system is, according to County Manager Jeffrey Glatz, essentially finished.

Whether it will achieve the promised 95 percent coverage goals may take some time to determine.


Motorola has Digital Troubles and ‘Shady Dealings’ in Other Cities

In other municipalities, background noise, garbled transmissions and dead spots inside of buildings have plagued Motorola digital systems and some have failed to achieve the 95 percent coverage and 95 percent reliability Motorola appeared to have promised.

In fact, problems with Motorola digital systems are so fully documented that some readers may be surprised that Niagara County officials did not address this publicly before buying  a Motorola digital system. “Fire departments in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Phoenix and Boise, Idaho — communities that have spent tens of millions of dollars on the new equipment — are so leery of problems that they won’t use digital radios at fire scenes,” reports McClatchy DC News, a publication of the McClatchy Company, owners of Knight Ridder and 30 daily newspapers in 15 states, in a story that was part of an investigative series on Motorola’s business practices, published in 2011.

The McClatchy series prompted the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, John Roth, to order an audit to determine whether federal grant money has bankrolled biased contract awards to Motorola.

There are reports, easily found online, published in newspapers across the nation, many of which were available to Niagara County lawmakers when they were considering contracting with Motorola in 2010-2011, that suggest Motorola’s cozy dealings with government officials were something to be wary of.

Dozens of shady dealings with officials of various government agencies were alleged that led to Motorola getting questionable no bid contracts then adding change orders, as they did in DuPage County Ill., where a $7 million, no-bid contract wound up costing more than $28 million.


In Many Places Motorola’s Digital Systems Have Failed

There are as many reports that suggest Motorola’s digital 2-way emergency radios and digital communications systems – like the one Niagara County purchased – have a troubled history.

The City of Chicago, as the Chicago Tribune reported in 2011, spent nearly $23 million on a no-bid Motorola digital radio deal in 2006 for their fire department, “that still doesn’t work after more than five years”.

The Tribune reported that firefighters continue to use their 50-year-old analog radio system.

Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff told the Tribune that “digital radios have been problematic for fire departments in big cities across the country.”

McClatchy reported that Motorola’s “digital radios’ shortcomings are so widely known that they’ve acquired nicknames. There’s the ‘digital cliff,’ when a radio is out of range and the connection ends without warning. There’s ‘bonking’ — also dubbed ‘the sound of death’ by some Philadelphia firefighters — when an important transmission gets rejected because too many other radios are using the system. Then there’s ‘going digital,’ when a radio emits a garble of beeps and tones instead of a voice.”

Failures of Motorola’s digital radios were blamed in part for two firefighter deaths in Philadelphia, two in Cincinnati and one, on April 16, 2007, when a Woodbridge, Va., firefighter died in the line of duty.

The Prince William County Department of Fire Rescue concluded that the county’s Motorola digital trunked radio system contributed to the tragedy.

And Motorola reached settlements for undisclosed sums with the families of the two dead Philadelphia firefighters.

In Hamilton County, Ohio,  after some $35 million was spent on a new Motorola digital trunked system, a 2008 fire erupted in suburban Cincinnati.

Firefighters Robin Broxterman and Brian Schira perished there after they repeatedly tried to summon help on their Motorola digital radios.

A Colerain Fire Department investigation found that, in a half-hour period, the Motorola trunked system rejected at least 43 attempted communications by firefighters, some of them because 22 agencies and 75 nonparticipants monitoring the event tied up space on the system.

Broxterman’s parents, Donald and Arlene Zang, sued Motorola but lost.

The Zang’s did not sue on the premise that Motorola’s digital trunked system was defective, but that digital trunked systems in general are inferior to analog systems for firefighting.

While the court did not rule on Zang’s argument that a digital system is inferior to analog, the court reasoned that Motorola cannot be held liable for supplying an inferior product, since it was in compliance with what the buyer, Hamilton County, wanted.

More Problems in Ontario, Orlando, Houston

Closer to home, the Niagara Regional Police in Ontario, which converted from analog to a Motorola digital system, had problems with dispatch failures in 2012 and, after repeated failures, the Ministry of Labour had to intervene demanding the department identify the problem for the immediate safety of workers.

In Orlando Fla, for years digital garbling and unintelligible transmissions made the Fire Department’s Motorola digital system worthless.

Firefighters continued to use their old analog radios.

Ultimately, according to Deputy Chief Greg Hoggatt, the digital system was righted and the department is now 100 percent digital.

But problems in other cities continue.

Jeff Caynon, the president of Houston’s firefighters’ union, said problems with Motorola’s $140 million digital system, completed in 2013, forced rescuers to resort during a blaze in May 2013 to use “hand and arm signals and cell phones as a reliable way to communicate.”

As recently as January, Houston’s Fire Department was still having problems with Motorola digital radios – having to frequently discard useless but expensive Motorola digital 2-way radios.

“It compromises the safety of firefighters at emergency incidents,” Captain Ruy Lozano, of the Houston Fire Department, told ABC News in January 2015.

Which brings us back to Niagara County.

Will Niagara County’s Motorola digital system work?

There are certainly cases where Motorola digital systems do work.

Although the successes seem to be a little harder to find on internet searches.

Motorola has Checkered Dealings with Local Governments

So how did it come about that a system with a track record of flaws was pushed through with hardly a word of discussion?

This is a topic that should be explored in depth.

Motorola secured a contract for Niagara County’s digital 2-way business in a way that parallels what the company did in dozens of other municipalities and several states.

In Chicago, Dallas, the San Francisco Bay Area and on statewide systems in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Washington, Motorola has been accused of irregularities or of winning contracts through government favoritism.

In the San Francisco Bay Area a $50 million deal imploded when investigators for the Commerce Department’s inspector general’s office concluded that a grant application had  “significant misrepresentations.”

A McClatchy survey of the largest cities in America show that Motorola won 20 of 22 contracts – about half of the time these were no bid awards.

In some municipalities Motorola has been accused of deploying sales staff whose primary tasks is to counsel government officials on how to skirt public bidding laws, something Motorola spokesmen have denied.

Similarities Between Niagara County and Other Municipalities and Motorola

Ironically Niagara County sought to hand Motorola a no bid contract.

The Republican majority on the legislature was ready to vote on a $22 million no bid Motorola contract until it was scuttled, at the 11th hour, not by the savvy resolve of cost conscious legislators but through dumb luck.

Only Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso called for an RFP and open bidding, but he was ignored.

In many localities Motorola has been accused of winning RFP’s through the aid of friendly government officials and their hired consultants who craft the RFP’s to ensure Motorola wins.

In Niagara County, after several strokes of the most extraordinary dumb luck, to be detailed in a subsequent story, an  RFP was crafted by the county’s consultant and bids were solicited,  much to the credit of certain elected officials – whose desire for the public good, as opposed to Motorola’s, was evident.

But there were some who were ostensibly working, or contracted to work, for the county who, for reasons to be examined, appeared to be working behind the scenes to aid Motorola.

As readers will see next week, Niagara County was accused of writing an RFP that not only favored Motorola but literally excluded any competitor from having a chance at winning the contract, and this, we submit, is based on standards that, once reviewed by competent experts, will reveal themselves for what they were intended to be.

Source - http://www.niagarafallsreporter.com/Stories/2015/MAY12/Motorolai.html