Cisco brings public safety communications capabilities to the private sector

Company launches new version of its IPICS solution


Cisco on Monday officially launched a new version of its IP Interoperability and Collaboration System solution known as IPICS, which enables interoperability between communication devices such as cell phones and IP-based phones and radios across an enterprise.

According to Greg Carter, director of connected physical security solutions for Cisco, until now, the IPICS platform has been heavily focused on the public safety environment, but the company is looking to extend the communication capabilities of this solution into other industries.

Specifically, Carter said this new version of IPICS is ideal for organizations in the energy sector (electric utilities, oil and gas producers), as well as manufacturing and mining facilities where there needs to be collaboration between people in the field, inside the company’s command center or potentially at headquarters.

"All of those industries have similar characteristics when it comes to having audio collaboration," Carter said. "You can imagine a case where an incident is detected through an access control application, those alerts come ringing into the safety and command center and they can use IPICS technology to communicate with a guard onsite."

Dan O’Malley, senior product manager for Cisco’s Physical Security Business Unit, said that there were several things the company wanted to accomplish with the new version of IPICS including; extending unified communications (UC) to include two-way radio users; send video surveillance feeds to iPads; improve operations through automatic ticket response collaboration; make radio-over-IP accessible to users without the need for expensive radios; and, extend incident mobility.

"Radio is moving over to IP, so you’re seeing the merging of voice-over-IP with radio-over-IP. Over the next several years, when people start upgrading dispatch (centers), they will be able to do so much, much more cheaply," O’Malley explained.

In addition, O’Malley said that the solution runs over a secure voice network and that the IPICS server authenticates all of the users. Another element of the new IPICS release that differentiates the platform from other competitors, according to O’Malley, is its ability to integrate with third-party dispatch consoles, which he said is a rarity in this market.

New features supported in IPICS 4.6 include:

  • Support for Inter RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI), Console Sub-System Interface (CSSI) and TIA P25 Digital Fixed Station Interface (DFSI) standards. Cisco provides full support and implementation of TIA102-BACA and TIA102-BAHA standards and allows for arbitration of CSSI, DFSI and encryption, so customers can operate multiple communications consoles on one talk group. This relieves customers of struggles when provided with partial implementation from existing vendors.
  • Integration with Cisco Video Surveillance (VSM) Manager 7, available for IPICS 4.6, allows users to integrate video surveillance into live incidents. Dispatchers can drag and drop video surveillance cameras directly into incident communications channel providing voice, video, and data collaboration directly to the field personnel.
  • Encrypted keysets can securely be sent to the endpoints for end-to-end P25 encrypted calls and allow customers to change over their keys.
  • Dispatchers can now tear away parts of their graphical user interface moving their dispatching environment to multiple screens and folders for improved usability.
  • The full IPICS 4.6 solution is extended as a virtualized application of the Cisco Unified Computing System (Cisco UCS) platform, the UCS E-Series.

Carter believes that this evolution of IPICS technology is going to help businesses in the private sector and their workers communicate on a much broader scale than is currently possible.

"The bigger message is that this is allowing us to extend the collaborative environment outside the office to these more industrialized, ruggedized environments."