No-fail communication systems are, by their nature, crucial. Whether you're NASA communicating with spacecraft or a police officer calling for backup, "no-fail" means it has to work or there can be major consequences. New technologies, such as indoor positioning systems used by campuses and hospitals, are emerging in communication systems engineering to help make these systems more effective.
Perhaps in no situation is reliable communications more important than in emergency management and response. Police, fire, and ambulances need a robust communications system that is nimble, dependable, and immediate. Emergency circumstances require the coordination of personnel from within and among departments, and response teams from multiple units often must work in concert to resolve difficult and dangerous situations. Communication systems are needed to ensure resources are in place to perform the correct tasks and to maintain the safety of all individuals involved.
Creating a fool-proof, powerful communications system that can meet these challenges often requires equally powerful firmware engineering. Typically a new system must be built from the ground up, or, in some environments, modified from available sources. In either situation, the finished product must meet several criteria in order to be effective:
The system has to be reliable and accessible for users wherever they are -- however they need to communicate. The system has to integrate with existing equipment and meet requirements for frequencies and bandwidth. Tecnova worked with one client in the emergency response field in designing a wireless communications system consisting of a custom-designed transceiver, repeater, and receiver-only devices. As part of our advanced firmware engineering and product development, we specified the system architecture and designed and integrated the electronics, enclosures, firmware, and PC software. The solution maximizes the use of Texas Instruments integrated radio and microcontroller system-on-chip (SoC) components, PCB level antennae, and lithium-polymer batteries.
We also took steps to ensure communications were secure by way of encoding and a proprietary frequency bandwidth allocation. To broadcast a message, the user enters the message into the PC software, where it is conveyed via USB to the transmitter. The transmitter sends the secure, proprietary RF signal to the repeater and receiver units in range. After receiving the RF signal and verifying the validity of the message, the repeater units then repeat the message and display it on the devices. Optional light, vibration, sound, and display alerts can be programmed specific to each type of message.
Finally, an effective communications system, especially one used in emergency response, has to work every time. In designing the solution here, we ensured the rechargeable battery in the receiver units could provide over a week of operation. In addition, we employed a sophisticated system engineering approach to integrate the hardware and firmware to best minimize the power draw from the battery and still maintain the communications goals.The key to ensuring an effective level of capability, security, and dependability requires advanced firmware engineering that can integrate electronics, embedded firmware, mechanics, PC software, and system engineering. Advanced firmware development can provide value across industries in multiple applications from emergency management, to student response systems and personal security.
For more information about how firmware engineering can benefit operations and processes at your organization, contact Tecnova for a free project consultation.