Sunday, May 23, 2010

APX 7000 with Bluetooth Data Connectivity. Technological marvel or modern day Edsel?

A recent Urgent Communications on-line article relating to enhanced features for interoperable communications is worthy of comment. If you missed the article, you can check it out by clicking here.

In essence, this article references Motorola’s development of an advanced Bluetooth option for the highly touted APX 7000 multi band radio. The comments of Thomas Quirk, director of solutions marketing, leave this reader questioning the basis of his logic. In describing a soon to be available “Mission Critical” Bluetooth option, presumably known as an enterprise digital assistant, Mr. Quirk stated that these devices would allow a police officer to scan fingerprint information over the agency’s LMR network if the cellular data network went down. Mr. Quirke added that any data transfers that occur after the devices have been paired will happen in about 15 milliseconds, which will be imperceptible to the user. That sounds just wonderful, but…..

The idea of using overpriced back-to-back double stacked radios as a multi-band interoperable solution is a flawed concept from the beginning that simply becomes more impractical with the addition of a proprietary (bound to be expensive) alternative to cellular data networks. The fact is that APX 7000 is not an advancement in technology. It is a very poor substitute for a real Software Defined Radio (SDR) such as those available from Harris, Thales, and others. In reality, the APX 7000 is a bridge to 800 MHz Astro 25 systems for VHF users, and presumably UHF users at a later date at a horrific price, reported to be in the four to six thousand dollar per radio range depending on where it is purchased and from whom.

Rather than making the Astro 25 systems compatible with standard P25 trunking systems which use radios costing less than half the cost of a Astro 25 radio, Motorola has chosen to offer an inefficient alternative and then load it up with useless options like a proprietary Bluetooth system.

The fact is that in every area served by Astro 25 systems, there are multiple network data providers offering technologies and redundancy far beyond the capabilities of private trunked 800 MHz systems. To suggest using a VHF or UHF narrow band radio for efficient transmission of high speed pictorial data is absolutely absurd!

Mr. Quirk states that “any data transfers that occur after the devices have been paired will happen in about 15 milliseconds, which will be imperceptible to the user”. That may be true for the connection time, but data being transferred at 9600 or even 19,200 bps is simply unacceptable unless we want to dumb down our technology to 1980’s standards.

The bottom line is that the APX 7000 is a solution to a problem that should not exist, available at a ridiculous price, and soon to be available with a totally antiquated data transfer option. As one commenter noted on one of the User Forums, “The radio cost too much but as long as the taxpayer is buying them I will use it off and on”

I, for one, am one of those “taxpayers” and I am sick and tired of funding “technology” that solves no problems or makes my country safer. The only benefit I can see is producing profits for a company that can’t make it in the cellular industry who mostly manufacturers overseas. Click here for additional information.

The unfortunate truth is that the APX 7000 was designed and produced for a single customer – recipients of US federal grant dollars. No commercial, export, or even military buyer would seriously consider such a product when better, less expensive products and services are readily available. That means prices will stay high because of high production costs coupled with limited distribution and US taxpayer again takes it on the chin.

In reality, a single three thousand dollar bridge coupled to a pair of twenty five hundred dollar radios (total cost – eight thousand dollars) can provide VHF/Astro 25 interoperable communications for two complete user FLEETS!

Summing it all up – I am not impressed, either with the APX 7000 or the new proprietary “Mission Critical” Bluetooth option. Shame on you Motorola – you can do better!