A Voice Platform That Welcomes All Networks

by Sean Michael Kerner

Cisco's new system integrates radio, cell, PSTN and VoIP for a converged interoperability for public safety and other markets.

In most cases, public agencies including state, local, federal, fire, police, ambulance and military all use different voice radio networks to communicate.

Similar disparities also exist in commercial environments as well. Cisco's latest IP Interoperability and Collaboration Systems (IPICS) platform, announced today, introduces a new paradigm and allows disparate voice networks to talk to each other.

IPICS uses IP as a base to connect and virtualize different radio networks, allowing for click to talk across networks from a desktop interface.

The IPICS system includes server hardware and software as well as a management interface called the IPICS Push-to-Talk Management Center (PMC). Pulling it all together for messaging is the Cisco IPICS Voice over IP XML Services.

Cisco's IPICS client is an eight-channel push-to-talk radio that runs on a PC. Its aim is to allow organizations to break out of siloed communications protocols so different departments can communicate. This includes networks UHF and VHF frequencies, cell phone networks, PSTN , VoIP , or even Military radio traffic.

Cisco said the system is currently in customer trials and expected to be a full Cisco product release in 2006.

During a Webcast to discuss the product, Charles Giancarlo, Cisco's chief development officer, said the market for radio systems is between $6 billion to $8 billion dollars per year.

He said the IPICS system would give organizations a new option for supporting or expanding their radio communication networks, and getting them to talk to eachother for a lower price.

"It's not just solving a tactical problem. It lays in place an infrastructure that allows them to scale services in a relatively inexpensive way in order to be able to add new services in the future."

Among the new services that IPICS will bringing beyond voice interoperability in the future is an integrated instant messaging component. During the Webcast, Cisco demonstrated an event policy-based IM messaging component of IPICS that converts the text message to speech, which was then transmitted across the interoperable network components.

Security is inherent in the system because it uses all of Cisco's standard security features, Giancarlo added.

Additionally, Cisco is targeting IPICS at private networks (nonpublic Internet) networks). Since the system is IP based, events can all be backed up on a SAN , which also adds a layer of security and compliance.

During the Webcast, the Mayor of Honolulu, Mufi Hannemann, said the city is testing the IPICS system.

"It just seem to be that from 9/11 and Katrina the lessons there are communications, communications, communications and this type of systems allows us to do video, data and voice integration across the board, "Hannemann said. "This is an investment we have to make. We don't want to be able to say could have, would have, should have especially if the opportunity is there."

This article was originally published on Monday Oct 24th 2005