Solving the Interoperability Riddle

By Matthew Harwood

When former British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited the Foothill-De Anza Community College District in the heart of Silicon Valley for a three-night speaking engagement last March, a security contingent made up of federal agencies and Scotland Yard needed to coordinate their efforts to keep him safe. There was legitimate cause for concern. In 2005, former Secretary of State Colin Powell visited De Anza College and was met by violent protesters angered over his role in selling the Iraq War.

As incident commander, it was Foothill-De Anza Chief of Police Ron Levine’s job to manage the interagency security operation. His biggest challenge was that each agency used a different radio system—a potential communications nightmare. But a new software platform and application that the Foothill-De Anza Community College District Police Department was beta testing solved the problem. It allowed different agencies to seamlessly share encrypted voice, text, video, and location information across smartphones over commercial wireless networks—the holy grail of interoperable communications since 9-11.

The software application, called Alert and Respond, was developed by Covia Labs. First responders simply need to download the Connector software platform and Alert and Respond application onto their device. Device integration is as easy as an administrator sending operation partners an e-mail or text message invite with the needed hyperlink to the Web site where they can download the Connector platform and the Alert and Respond application. Devices must run on iOS, Android, or Windows Mobile operating systems for smartphones and Windows, Linux, and OS/X operating systems for computers, to work properly.

Without Covia’s software, Levine would have had to pass out radios to his partners, and he would have had to dial a London number to speak with Scotland Yard officials who were within eyesight.

“We will assimilate you; resistance is futile,” jokes Covia Labs CEO David Kahn, dropping a Star Trek reference to explain the software. “All devices become part of a collective whole with awesome aggregate power.”



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