Cisco announces emergency communications integration system

This week both ComputerWorld and NetworkWorld carried the story about Cisco announcing their IPICS product. Unfortunatly, the headlines, if not the articles, are misleading or at least confusing in their description of the product.

Ever since September 11 there has been a big discussion in the emergency services community about the need for communications interoperability. Out of this discussion the APCO Project 25 standard for public safety digital voice systems emerged. The big downside is that this requires the (expensive) replacement of radio equipment in the service area. While many states have started statewide P25 programs (such as the ARMER project in Minnesota) full capabilities are still a long way off.

With the recent natural disasters there has been an increased awareness of the challenges faced by communications interoperability. My understanding of the Cisco product is that it is a server and gateway product designed not to create a new communications system (a la Project 25) but to tie existing Nextel talkgroups, cell phones, VoIP systems and radio systems together for emergency communications. Think of it like an autopatch on steroids. It’s certainly a big undertaking, especially when you consider how reliable and easy to use it needs to be in emergency situations. It’s pretty tough to explain the server going down and cutting off communications in these situations. It will be interesting to see how Cisco fares in the public safety market which is decidedly different from areas they’ve been in before. For more information on the IPICS system check out the Cisco product annoucement and get it straight from the horse’s mouth.


  1. Interesting that CISCO decided to come to market with a inter-operable product that joins together existing technology, rather then Motorola’s gotta-sell-more-newer-radios approach.