First responders in Brookline, Mass., test new cellphone technology

Police in Brookline, Massachusetts, say they have been testing new cell phone technology called SpiderRadio for use during emergencies; due to the success of the pilot program, they may consider adopting the technology permanently.

The program stems from first responders having difficulty getting cell phone signals during major emergencies like the Boston Marathon bombing. SpiderRadio prioritizes cell phone signals in an emergency, giving preference to first responders and automatically transferring service to other networks that have more capacity to handle calls. This eases the burden on all the networks.

Officer Scott Wilder, director of technology at the Brookline Police Department, is overseeing the program and said this technology is critical in order to keep up with technological trends.

“Society is mobile,” Wilder said. “We’re all carrying smart phones and tablets and relying on databases. All of that data running across networks puts a lot of pressure on them. We take it for granted until something goes wrong.”

SpiderRadio is a low-cost, software-driven cognitive radio prototype that scans the radio spectrum, detecting users or interference on a channel, and switches dynamically to the best available communications channel. Furthermore, SpiderRadio achieves interoperability and optimal performance at a cost that could potentially allow public safety agencies to adopt the technology.

The technology was developed by Stevens Institute of Technology doctoral candidates Vidya Sagar and Adonis Hong, advised by Dr. R. Chandramouli and Dr. K.P. Subbalakshmi of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Wilder said SpiderRadio protects the integrity of the police’s networks.

“The whole idea is seamless network integration,” he said.

The greatest risk to a network going down often occurs during emergencies, such as the Boston Marathon bombing.

“Now, we basically have triple the network capacity we had prior to using SpiderRadio,” Wilder said. “That’s critical because we don’t want the network breaking up on us, especially during an emergency.”

Wilder said he believes adopting the technology full time is a “no brainer.”

“I don’t think this is going to be something that’s going to price anyone out of the market, it’s a worthwhile investment.”

Organizations in this Story

Brookline Police Department Stevens Institute of Technology

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