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Camera! Action! TETRA! Fox Talbot and Robert Peel smile down as police radios get photos capability

TETRA, used to be called Trans-European Trunked Radio in the days before the standard was taken-up by the police, security and emergency services some 120 different countries around the world and became Terrestrial Trunked Radio.

TETRA employes TDMA technology with four user channels on one radio carrier and 25 kHz band guard protection between carriers. Both point-to-point and point-to-multipoint transfer is available as is digital data transmission but this comes at a minimal, very slow data rate of just 2KBit/s.

The new Motorola Soltions handset, which hits the market with the snappy designation of the MTP6750 rather than the more memorable "Percy Plod's Photo Phone" is the first device to exploit the capabilities of the TEDS (TETRA Enhanced Data Services).

This is a new standard capable of sending digital data ten time more quickly than is possible with the extant SSPD system. The new handset also come with audio and signal enhancement technology that increases device coverage by 14 per cent.

However, it seems unlikely that the police will use the the (somewhat faster) technology to send stills photos over the ether but will upload them to a computer system later on back at the station house.

The MTP6750 was unveiled at a Motorola Solutions event in London on Friday afternoon last and uses the company's Photograph and Intelligence Communications System (PICS) image management solution to help police to capture evidence on camera at the scene of a crime or other incident.

Motorola says that it's "research" shows that police officers do not want to carry yet another encumbering device on a belt or elsewhere on their already over-festooned and increasingly heavy and cumbersome uniforms (in the US ordinary police officers seem more like Robocop with every passing day and even in the rural UK they increasingly look more like unapproachable cyborgs than your now almost mythical friendly "bobby on the beat") and so the company came up with the astonishingly radical notion of tacking a five-megapixel camera on to the shoulder-mounted radio.

During that same research period it became evident that for the the public, the legal system and the courts are to have trust in the production of digital photographic evidence obtained via a TETRA handset and put forward in a prosecution, it will be necessary to ensure that such evidence could in any way have been tampered with or manipulated.

To obviate such a possibility or claims a series of meta-data will be linked to each image. This so-called "unique digital fingerprint" includes a time stamp; GPS location; the TETRA cell site ID; the radio ID; the user’s ID and to whom the user talking when the photograph was taken.

The photograph is transmitted to a police comms and computer network via an algorithm that creates a 256 character number. Motorola Solutions claims that if even just one pixel is tampered with the photograph will not correlate with its digital fingerprint and will thus provide irrefutable evidence to back up an law enforcement officer's report.

In the first instance, Motorola Solutions is focusing the new handset on police agencies but it is expected they will have equal utility for emergency such as fire brigades and ambulance deployments. Later on, even commercial organisations, such as insurance companies, may want to use the handsets to provide unimpeachable evidence of liability, compliance and so on.

As might be expected, in a time of austerity and with m national and municipal budgets stretched to breaking-point, another attraction to the bean counters is that Motorola Solutions claims that the new system will save money.

That said, Motorola is, as usual, maintaining radio silence on the cost of the new handsets to customers. Tom Quirke, VP and General Manager, Global TETRA Organisation at Motorola Solutions said that the new handsets and system is "competitively priced" but conspicuously provided no yardstick by which to measure the claim.

All he would say is, "We feel the solution we have is unique and that it offers a lot of value. We think it will pay for itself very quickly and that what it offers will help justify the cost of upgrading, as users will be able to show the return on their investment."

Mind you, much the same was said of the Sinclair C5. Want a laugh? Look it up.


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