876 words – MR
Motorola goes extreme
by Tom Rataj
Motorola Solutions introduced its newest Extreme (XE) line of digital portable radios and remote speaker microphones (RSMs) in March.
Based extensively on the existing APX 8000 portable two-way radios and RSMs, the new APX 8000XE radio and APX XE500 RSMs again up the ruggedness ante. Many new features make the equipment easier to use and more durable against the hazards of extreme environments. These are the third-generation of the extra-rugged “XE” portable radios.
The product line was developed after extensive hands-on research with firefighters and other professional users.
While firefighters are the primary target users, other professionals who routinely work in harsh environments will also benefit from the rich feature-set. Specialised police units such as marine, K9, mounted and tactical would also appreciate the new features.
The new XE radio is part of Motorola’s Project 25 (P25) digital radios series, which operate in both analog or digital modes across the 700/800 MHz, VHF and UHF range 1 and 2 bands.
Encryption, voice and data communication, GPS/GLONASS (for outdoor location tracking) and most of the typical features found in high-end radios are included. There are several optional features, including a man-down sensor.
One of the most significant features is that both the new radio and RSM are water submersion-resistant to 2m (6’6″) of water for up to four hours. The RSM is also rated to withstand heat of up to 260°C (500°F) for five minutes.
To overcome communication challenges in noisy environments, both the radio and RSM include extra microphones (three on the radio and five on the RSM) that listen to the entire soundscape. The state-of-the-art adaptive audio-engine software then suppresses and filters-out virtually all sounds other than the operator’s voice.
The asymmetrically shaped RSM is designed for maximum user comfort so it will work flawlessly in any orientation or location on the user. A control knob allows users to change radio channels from the RSM without having to reach for the radio. Built-in voice announcements tell them in plain language what channel they have dialed-to. The standard messages can be customised by the user’s agency. There’s also a volume-toggle, protected emergency button and two LED status lights.
The radio and RSM features best-in-class (3-watt and 2-watt respectively) speakers so users are more-likely to clearly hear every transmission.
The XE radio features a larger top display with larger fonts than the regular APX8000, making it easier to read. The top-display contents can also be oriented to face the front or back of the radio.
Larger oversized control knobs are designed to work better with gloved hands. The volume on/off control is shorter, wider and canted to the right, while the channel-select knob, located in the centre of the top, is taller, narrower and perfectly upright, allowing the user to easily distinguish between them by touch alone.
A larger emergency button is placed flush into the top of the radio, closer to the base of the antenna to better shield it from accidental activation. The remaining top-panel switches have been reorganized and the multi-coloured status light has been relocated for better visibility.
The outside perimeter of the top of the radio also features a guard-bumper, further protecting against accidentally rotating the top controls. Increased rotation tension also reduces unintended activation of both knobs.
The side of the radio body features a larger textured push-to-talk (PTT) button, again designed for better functionality when used with a gloved hand.
For future proofing, the radios have encrypted Bluetooth wireless communication, allowing them to connect wirelessly with facemasks such as Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), and potentially with police gas masks.
As with the regular APX 8000 radios, both displays (model dependant) are protected with tempered glass (instead of softer polycarbonate plastic) which is also readable by users wearing polarised sunglasses.
The mid and high range models (2.5 and 3.5) also feature full bitmapped colour LCD displays for enhanced clarity. All displays can be back-lit. The model 2.5 and 3.5 have back-lit keypads on the face of the radio and additional operational capabilities that come with the keypads.
One of the challenges of deploying a large number of portable radios is managing them both physically and electronically. Occasional updates to firmware, software and custom or special programming normally needs to be done by a technician and requires physical access to each radio.
With Motorola’s option Wi-Fi functionality in the APX8000XE, this can all now be done automatically and without any user intervention. The radio management system takes over and applies any and all updates as soon as the radio is recognised by and connected to its secure Wi-Fi network. This will be a huge time and labour saving feature, especially for agencies with large numbers of radios.
The standard housing colour is black on black, with options for black on “public safety yellow” or black on “high-impact green.” The RSM comes in black or high-impact green.
The APX 8000 XE radio and APX XE 500 RSM are scheduled for availability in North America in June 2016. Depending on features, the single unit price should be in the US$5,000-$6,000 range and the RSM’s in the US$400-$500 range.
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