Some Insights Into The Emergency Services Communication Systems
August 14, 2014
One of my best friends from school, Jason, recently advanced from EMT to paramedic after quite a few years of intensive training. I had met him on several occasions during his EMT and paramedic training as he had some questions about wireless communication equipment, and he know what kind of a geek I am in that department. I was more than happy to look through his training materials on the emergency services’ radio communications and help him out to understand some of the technicalities.
One important part of EMT training was the wireless communication between the ambulances, emergency responders, ambulance base and the hospitals. While the communications devices in ambulances are designed to be relatively easy to use, EMTs have to be aware of how they work and to an extent know how to troubleshoot any problems.
Jason has been in the emergency services for about 9 years now and he started out his EMT training in NJ somewhere (I’ll double check with him the next time I talk to him). I like talking to him about some the technological advances he has encountered. One area that doesn’t seem to have changed that much though is the radio communication in the ambulances. This is kind of strange to me because there have been so many advances that could be used, but I guess there is a lot of security to take into account as well.
The basic principle of the EMS comm system is very similar to ham radio in that it is a two way system, but it does have some extras built in. First of all it uses a frequency that is only allowed to be used by emergency and police services. It also a backup/redundant capability system for each vehicle, so that if one system fails another can take over
The system is set up so that EMTs and paramedics can easily communicate with hospitals, ambulance bases and very importantly with other emergency services like the police and fire departments. One thing that has evolved a bit is quality of the mobile on person radio devices that emergency responders carry. Jason had in the past complained about how difficult it could be to get a clear message across and there were often misunderstandings even with a code and terminology set that was supposed to avoid misunderstandings.
I know this very well from my own radio equipment, that the smaller a device the more difficult it is to get a good reception. But I am glad to hear that medical professionals like Jason have received better equipment as it can mean a big difference between a patient living or dying.
One of the most important lines of communication is between the 999 operators and emergency department dispatching services to the ambulance. In some circumstances information is relayed, but it can also happen that a 999 operator is directly patched through to an ambulance crew to pass on vital information about a scene of accident for example.
Because the radio system being used today has become so reliable it is still the favored system and emergency crews quickly adapt to an audio quality that can often be of fluctuating quality. I guess it is sometimes better the devil you know.
Wireless Technology Is Everywhere
August 1, 2014
My aim for this blog has always been wireless communication and technology, but obviously there is only that much you can write about Ham radio and the really nerdy stuff. So, I have started branching out a bit and my inquisitive nature has led me to look for wireless communication in all sorts of hidden places. Bluetooth is one of the latest technologies that has really started appearing almost everywhere. Everything from cell phones to speakers and notebooks have all sorts of features that utilize Bluetooth. In this post I want to highlight some of the more interesting items and gadgets I have encountered.
Heart Rate Monitors
First note, I’m not big into running but my brother is a triathlete and like myself he loves technology and gadgets. When I met him last he just returned from a run and I saw him take off a weird strap from around his chest. At first I was worried as it looked like some sort of medical device, but in fact it was a heart rate monitor that he uses for training.
The way it works is that the chest strap measures his heart rate and sends it via Bluetooth to his iPhone. The heart monitor app on the iPhone then displays the heart rate and indicates whether he needs to train harder or ease off a bit. He told me that a similar set up 3 years ago would have cost him over $400, but for $65 he now has a fantastic Bluetooth based heart rate monitor hooked up to a free app on the phone.
I’ve seen some commercials for keyless car entry, and usually they have been on luxury cars. But Bluetooth has now also created a market for keyless home entry. At first I thought that this was just stupid, who could possibly be that lazy to not use a key. But there are some advantages, like for example it is a lot more difficult to “pick” a digital lock, so it is safer. Also, it is a very handy system for people with disabilities who may struggle with a standard key.
I am very opposed to drink driving and think people should be a lot more aware of the dangers. I often see people that are probably on a verge of having had a few too many sips. I think if more people had a relatively inexpensive device then they would be more aware. BACtrack has a Bluetooth device that does just that and also sends that info to your phone. Now imagine having a car that only unlocks if you have passed your breathalyser, would that be a great feature?
Let me know what kind of Bluetooth gadgets you have encountered. I just love where all this wireless tech is appearing these days.
Setting Up A VOIP System Using A Standard Cordless Phone
May 7, 2014
One question I have often got from friends and family is about setting up VOIP and what kind of phone is needed. Many people have the misconception that they will have to buy a new IP phone and hook it up to expensive and difficult to configure systems before they can get going with VOIP. But this is far from my experiences with some of the latest technologies available. So there really is no need for you to be spending more money than necessary on your phone bills.
The first thing to note is that you can set up an inexpensive VOIP system and this will not require you to replace your existing phone, as long as it is a touch tone or digital phone. As long as you don’t have an old dial phone (apparently they still exist) you should be good to go.
Before you go off and buy some random equipment I would suggest first checking some deals for broadband internet connection. Most people have their internet set up over the phone line, but this will most likely still mean that you have to pay for line rental. This is something you can avoid and it will save you a lot of money.
Two alternatives would be to check out any cable or wireless internet deals available in your area. Connection charges are usually very reasonable and you will not have to pay for line rental. Once you are all set up with your Internet connection you will be ready to go for the VOIP system.
First things first. Contact your internet provider and tell them that you want to set up a VOIP phone system, which will mean that they have to make some adjustments at their end to ensure that it works. Essentially you will be assigned a designated IP address so that all calls get routed to the right place.
The next thing you need is VOIP converter, which is a small box that is hooked up to your broadband router. Obi have a very reasonably priced system and for less than $40 you can be up and running. The settings are also quite easy to modify, so you will not need an IT degree to get going.
Next, you will need to sign up with a VOIP provider and there are literally dozens to choose from. Some offer better rates for cell phone calls, others are better for international calls, so it may take a little research to get the one that suits you. Once you have your account details you are ready to set up you VOIP box, which is a quick and simple process.
Finally the good part. You will only need to connect your cordless phone to the Obi device and you are ready to go. Of course it may make sense to upgrade your phone if you haven’t done so in a while and you will find some great advice about the best cordless phones currently available over at bestcordlessphoneguide.net. They have full reviews of some of the best cordless phone systems giving you a great deal of choice to suite your budget.
Once your cordless or corded phone is connected the Obi converter will essentially take over and your incoming calls will be forwarded to your home phone. Your VOIP provider will also supply you with a phone number that other people can dial in order to contact you, so to everyone including yourself, the whole system will work just like it did before.
This is the beauty of the modern and cheap setup available now. It is not some convoluted configuration that resembles a phone system, but rather is a simple device that mimics a system that has been around for decades.
I hope this article was helpful and I invite any comments below with your own experiences.
Basics of Cell Phone Technology
December 29, 2014
First of all I would like to apologize for not having posted in quite a while. Unfortunately my day job got very busy and I simply did not have the time to dedicate to writing decent content. I simply do not believe that writing an article just for the sake of it and I like to make sure I get everything fully researched before I post anything. So, it basically took a while and for me to find the time since I last posted about a VoIP system I was involved in setting up.
Anyway, back to cell phone technology. In essence, a cell phone is very similar to a radio and at its core it functions exactly like a ham radio, by sending and receiving radio frequencies that at each end are converted into sound. In many ways it surprises me that reliable cell phone technology took so long to become available to the masses. Wired phones and radios were invented in the 19th century, but not until the 90s did we see everyone jump on this technology.
The problem with radio technology was always the distances that needed to be bridged. In order to communicate over longer distances, transmitters need to be very powerful which mean that portable devices simply aren’t that viable. What cell phone technology innovated was the segmenting of an area into cells with antennae spaced out at much smaller distances.
This means that at any given time you are not that far from a cell tower and you do not need a hugely powerful transmitter. But this opened up other problems, not least how to handle a phone that moves from one cell to another without dropping calls.
Another great innovations from this set up was that adjacent cells can have overlapping frequencies as individual phones are only connected to one cell at a time. This meant that carriers were able to take much better advantage of limited frequencies, which is essential since there are now more cell phones than people.
To cope with the movement from cell to cell, each phone has a unique and special code assigned to it which helps identify the owner, the phone and the service provider. All this identification happens in the background and all you really care about is that you have a cell connection and can make and take calls.
The main difference between CB or ham radio and cell phones is the way the communication happens. With CB radio the connection is from point to point. While for cell phones, the connection is to a tower and then towers are interlinked to provide the connection. The great advantage of this is that you can literally connect to anyone anywhere in the world and the audio quality is great.
With CB radio you are limited by your range and the further you are away from the other persion and the more obstacles are in the way the lower the audio quality is. But it is amazing how great cell technology works considering that at its core it is a simple ham radio.
What Is DECT Wireless Phone Technology
July 28, 2014
In a recent post I talked about how I was involved in setting up a wireless internet system including VoIP and it has been a pretty popular post. The undying nerd in me was drawn to the cordless phone technology, especially because I have a huge interest in wireless communications technology. Over the past couple of weeks I have researched more about the wireless phone technology and decided to write it up in a post here.
The technology is called DECT. Technically it’s not really a technology, but rather an industry standard that originated in Europe. Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT for short) has been adopted all over Europe, Australia, North America and the USA. It took a while longer in the US as there were problems with the frequencies used. So in reality, there is a slightly different standard implemented in America which you will often see referenced as DECT 6.0. Getting the frequency range right is important, and you should make sure that you do not use a European DECT phone in the US and vice versa.
The great thing about DECT is that it can be used for homes, small businesses and even large corporate settings. Because of the large frequency range and the way large phone systems can communicate it is a great way to have a flexible system. As you require more phones you just add them to the system and you are ready to go.
What really stands out as well is that there is a built in security control providing encryption through the DECT Standard Cipher. This means that communications between a handset and the base or central station are encrypted making it very difficult to eavesdrop in on conversations. All the devices I have looked at during my nerd adventure have pretty good encryption built in, meaning that your cordless phone is probably more difficult to listen in on than a regular corded phone.
The frequency band used by DECT is 1880 to 1900 MHz with defined channels. By implementing Frequency hopping spread spec on 12 duplex voice channels which all helps in making sure that a lot of different devices can be implemented in one area without interfering with each other.
Ham Radio Starter Kit
May 3, 2014
When you go shopping for a starter kit there are several things to keep in mind and there essentially is not one right answer. A lot will depend on your budget and what you want to achieve in the first weeks and months. The great thing is that you can gradually expand your communications system over time as you gain more experience and build up a bigger budget.
The first thing you need to do is understand the basics of frequency bands. Your choice of equipment will most depend on what kind of wireless frequencies you want to get started in. The more frequencies you want the better the equipment you will need.
The next thing you need to consider is where you want to be using the radio; just at home or on the go as well? I generally would recommend getting started at home as the gear is less intricate and it helps to get a broad understanding first. While the basics are the same, home equipment is bigger and easier to figure out.
You will also have to figure out where your nearest repeater is. Check out these websites for more information:
When operating from within your house you can get started with an antenna in your room, but you will encounter limitations. With a bit of planning you can get an antenna installed on your roof, which give you much better performance. There will be an extra cost but this is a once off, you can extend your in house equipment and still use the same antenna.
For the connection to the antenna I would recommend in spending some extra for high quality coax cables with low loss per foot. This will pay off for years to come and will save you time and money when your system grows and enhances.
When you get started you will not need a big space, but this can quickly change if like me you become addicted to wireless communications technology. Once you understand the systems you will quickly want to experiment with building your own pieces from scratch, which will require a decent worktable. As this stuff can quickly become a bit messy you might want to consider setting up in a garage or designated room where you can shut the door. This can keep other family members and partners happy, as they will not have to trip over cables and boxes.
Stay tuned for some further posts on different starter kits.
How To Integrate VOIP At Home
April 30, 2014
Until just a few years ago, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), was an expensive technology that wasn’t readily accessible to the average home user. There were different services like Skype that work on the same principle, but this left people using their computer and just a handful of handsets that were compatible.
Anyway, enough about the past. As with all technology, VOIP has advanced and it is now fully available for home users and also at a very reasonable price. If you are like me then having a home phone is still something that has importance. My cell phone gets used a lot, but for work and private reasons I like to have a phone line that is more reliable than the periodic problems with cell phone reception. It can be both annoying and costly when I encounter bad phone reception, so when it is important I prefer using a more traditional phone.
All you essentially need is:
1) Broadband Internet connection
2) VOIP adapter
3) Standard corded or cordless phone
It really is that simple and all of the above are available to the average home user. Until recently it was item number two that was still prohibitively expensive, but this has drastically changed. One device that I have set up for several friends and family is the entry level one from OBiHai, which essentially is a small box that plugs directly into your broadband router.
Once connected, all you need to do is set up an account with one of the countless VOIP providers, including Google Voice. Those account details are then entered in the Obi software and then all you need to do is connect your phone.
And this is where the great advantage comes; you do not need a new phone as long as your existing one is a touch tone one. A decent cordless phone will put you back les than $30 these days, so there are loads of options.
The big savings come in two ways. Firstly you no longer need to pay for phone line rental, which is often ridiculously expensive. Secondly, with the vast selection of VOIP providers you will be spoiled for choice. Some are cheaper for cell phone calls, others for long distance. The only tricky thing will be figuring out which ones best suit you. But even this is simple enough by using online material and to just test them out. The majority do not have a minimum contract period.
As mentioned in a previous post I have been involved in a project for a rural community that involved setting up wireless, radio based broadband connection. This is possible no matter where you live and in urban environments 3G or 4G are some of the best options. You can simply piggyback your phone system over this, but do keep an eye on any data usage restrictions.
I will be posting more about these communications and data solutions with some very specific ideas and setup instructions.
What Is Ham Radio All About?
April 29, 2014
I was about 7 or 8 when I got a birthday present of a set of CB radios, or walkie talkies, and it is the one childhood present I remember to this day. Along with my cousin Tom we spent the entire summer playing with them, and it was not until the bad weather in the fall set in that we started looking at how this stuff actually worked. By the next summer we had actually learned how fix, modify and improve the devices, with the help of a neighbor who was an electrical engineer.
We actually got to a stage where we managed to boost the range so that we could communicate from each other’s homes, and this was a breakthrough in a world before cell phones were even remotely common.
At about age 10 the two of us started to pool our savings to buy bigger and more advanced equipment, and at that stage we were introduced to amateur, aka Ham, Radio. With the help of our neighbor and with endless time spent nerding over books in the library, we started building and making our own equipment. That same equipment still exists, and some of it technically still works and I actually love looking at the stuff we built all those years ago.
So, to answer the question of this post, ham radio is essentially amateur radio that requires a license and therefore is one step up from CB radio. You do have to sit an exam to get the license, but this is not too difficult if you are really interested in this stuff anyway. It uses a designated radio spectrum used for private, non-commercial exchange of messages and data. The radio spectrum used is not used by government, emergency services or any other commercial entity, which makes it ideal for hobbyists and people that like experimenting. Essentially, as long as you understand how radio spectrums work and you know how to configure your equipment you cannot really do things wrong that interfere with any important communications.
It is a very simple form of communicating, but it is this very technology that has led us to the modern days of phone systems and cell phone technology. For my cousin, this early experience eventually led to a career with a large technology company where he spends much of his time on programming equipment and communications protocols for phone systems.
For me, phones are the ultimate fascination. I know how they work, but it never stops amazing me how well they work, and on what scale they do this. In many ways amateur radio enthusiasts have built a communications network that resembles the phone system. Many people in this area have built repeaters into their systems, which essentially allows for a much greater range.
The great thing is that anyone interested can get started with quite a small budget. Start off with some books and online resources that will prepare you for the exam. Once you have a license the sky is the limit. You can gradually build up your home radio equipment and even build it yourself to save money, have fun and really get to understand communications technology.
What This Site Is About
April 28, 2014
Hi, and welcome to g3vfp.org. This site is a blog, which I will try to update regularly about some of the interesting new technologies that emerge in the ham radio, wireless communication and telecoms industry. You could say that I am a bit of a nerd and geek for all this stuff, but it is just something that has fascinated me since I was a kid.
Communication has in so many ways changed and improved over the last 150 years, but fundamentally it has stayed the same. Some, or something, talks and someone else, or something else listens. While amateur radio technology once was the height of advancement, it is today just that for many, a hobby. However, there have been some great inventions that have come out of the hobby sector, and many that enter the hobby sector at a young age, eventually have great success in the industry.
My cousin Peter, who will hopefully comment on this blog some day (hint hint), is such a guy. The two of us started with simple CB radios and advanced to ham radios when we got older. He now works for a large technology company in the research and development of communications protocols for the wireless sector.
The great thing about the hobby radio sector is that you can own and build your own system and also advance it to other wireless technologies used for commercial data exchanges. I have recently been involved in bringing wireless broadband technology to a community that was not able to get a decent enough Internet speed. This was such an interesting project, and with my hobby experience I was able to help out this small community to finally be able to stream Netflix!!!
I will be posting about this project in the coming months, as there is a lot of information to accumulate accurately. Other things that I plan to cover range from communications equipment setup at the beginner and advanced level, software programming, and home phone system setup using only wireless technology.
I would appreciate any and all comments, and if you have ideas about how to improve the site and contact, just shoot me a mail or comment.
Thanks for reading,