One sector that Coronavirus won't change, but rather likely will prompt it to dramatically improve and prosper is communication. One company has long prepared for just that.
When global companies; airlines, hotels, banks, restaurants, event companies and many others; are struggling to stay afloat during this Coronavirus pandemic, one company is overwhelmed with work — Airbus. Its core business is critical communications that are highly needed by different organizations such as healthcare and police forces that are on the front line of fighting Covid-19.
No, not the aircraft builder. Rather its business unit called Secure Land Communications (SLC).
SLC offers advanced communication and collaboration solutions with a portfolio tailored to the needs Public Safety, Transport, Utility and Industry (TUI) professionals.
Today with hospitals seeing an influx of patients, and emergency cases piling on top of typical patient inflows, communication is playing a huge role. “We are very supportive of hospitals and safety measures related to the Coronavirus,” Walid Lahoud, Head of Sales MENA, SLC, told AMEinfo in an exclusive interview.
“Our teams are on the field 24/7 in support of existing networks and we now face the challenge of the need to install additional support for the people on ground, in order to deal with ambulatory events and other critical moments.”
It’s also the case for other critical sectors SLC is servicing.
SLC offering B2B services
SLC is a market leader in Europe, with a solid presence in the Middle East. It creates advanced communication for professionals and provides a platform of intelligence sharing between users.
“We address professionals in public safety, transport, and utilities on a B2B basis. Our top 3 sectors are Public Safety, Oil and Gas, and Transport,” stated Lahoud.
“These are heavy duty sectors and important customers for us”. He added.
Public safety clients include firefighters, police, and army. The technology is used among soldiers on the field, for example, with communication that needs to be 100% secure, encrypted, and very reliable at all time.
“This is not just about a phone call, and waiting for someone to answer. The devices are push to talk and speak to entire groups immediately, securely, spontaneously,” said Lahoud.
Oil & Gas- Utilities
With Oil & Gas, the company prides itself for having the largest corporation in the world, Saudi Aramco, as its main user.
“They are using our technology to cover communications along the pipelines, the refineries and offices. But we also address ADNOC, a very important client, for similar purposes,” explained Lahoud.
SLC additionally addresses Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) in Saudi Arabia, a company responsible for desalination of seawater producing power, and its distribution, one of a chorus of utility companies it serves in the region.
The company tackles shipping, aviation and land transport.
“We serve the major airports of the region, like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, and Riyadh, to a certain extent, and we are present in Beirut Airport doing work with the general security there,” said Lahoud.
Airport services include the public safety of the airport, airport customs, general security, airline counters, and welcome desks at airports.
The impressive portfolio of clients also includes Dubai Metro, “and soon, a major metro in the region.”
Could it be Riyadh Metro? We don’t know the answer to that yet.
What is the underlying technology?
It’s Tetra. It’s a standard and a name that many in the secure communication business are very familiar with. The Tetra technology has its roots in the early 90s providing secure voice communication on narrowband networks.
Today, this is changing.
“Today, the mission critical technology is moving towards broadband which includes data and data transmission, and it also needs to be accompanied by secure communication,” said Lahoud.
He added “We propose our base station TB4, where we provide narrowband on the voice, and broadband on data and data transmission.”
The TB4 is a hybrid solution and the very latest innovation in the evolution of Tetra towards 4G/5G technology used on the same hardware platform, in one device.
Professional Communication Corporation – Nedaa, Dubai Government’s security networks provider, is the first customer for this solution.
What’s new in Voice technology?
The proven 2G voice service on Tetra is still the most reliable on the company platform, according to Lahoud.
But last October, Airbus demonstrated Dabat Hybrid Roaming, its latest development which combines the power of secure communications with innovative technology.
Dabat Hybrid Roaming, is a unique association between Airbus’ Tactilon Dabat hybrid terminal, and the Tactilon Agnet 800 Solution. It is designed to bring ease and simplicity to daily operations with state-of-the-art seamless switchover technology which ensures high network resilience and secure operations.
The Airbus Tactilon Dabat hybrid terminal combines both Tetra and LTE (wireless broadband) radio technologies in one unique terminal. The end users can perform their daily tasks without being restricted solely to the Tetra radio coverage available.
Tactilon Agnet 800 is an app for smart devices such as the Tactilon Dabat. It enables the use of features such as push-to-talk, status notifications, data transmission, text messaging, image sending and emergency calls on the Tactilon Dabat. Group communication with other device carriers and the control room is also possible.
“So now you have a Tetra network and broadband network with a seamless collaboration between both,” said Lahoud.
A good example
Lahoud explains: “Before, when using Tetra in a rescue mission, first responders would call and say: ‘There is an accident in front of me, with a car burning and an oil spill, etc.’
That would be it.
“Today, He/she can send a photo to the control room. The emergency workers can immediately work on the picture to first locate the area, send people for rescue, and contact police patrols. The picture engages all around the rescue mission. The tech allows all of this to happen today.”
Ok, but the cost is?
According to Lahoud, the cost depends on the features, just like with a smartphone.
“It is used for mission critical activities, does not scratch, and the screen does not break. It’s heavy duty and fully encrypted, and the price is around that of a high-end android phone,” said Lahoud.
A move towards automation
SLC is using automation on a ratio of 50/50. Today Tactilon Agnet features an app which allows automatic licence plate recognition. Whenever the app recognises the plate, it automatically sends immediate information on the car and owner. Should the owner be an outlaw, or the car stolen, human intervention will occur to create a report or inquiry to engage other people to intervene.
Events: Another top client
Lahoud said Airbus has been supporting events which use Tetra from the very beginning. Events like Formula 1 races, World Cups, the Olympic Games, and even Royal weddings have been covered by Airbus.
Should the Expo 2020 not be delayed a year because of Corona, SLC and its work with Nedaa will ensure that the company services will be used for secure communications for this event which has several organizations participating including the police, civil defence, hospitals, and 30,000 volunteers who all need to talk to each other.
“People think we are providing talkies-walkies. What we are in fact providing, is the base station, antenna, network, switch and the terminals, which look like phones. Tetra is a separate network from the commercial one. It’s completely closed and secure.”