Featured solutions

TETRA and smartphones join forces

Tactilon Dabat is the first device to combine a PMR radio and a smartphone in one, it is set to rewrite the rules of professional communications. But how was it developed? What was behind it and what did users ask for?

Mika Myllymäki explains the facts about Tactilon Dabat

Mika Myllymäki reveals the story behind Tactilon Dabat:

I try to visit customers as often as I can - they talk a lot about TETRA radios and what they want.

One of things I have discussed with them is the use of smartphones. This is a growing trend, with police officers in countries such as Finland, France, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and the UK already using smartphones in their work. They are taking advantage of broadband and high-resolution video.

Increasingly, the same people use both a TETRA radio and a smartphone, but they do not work well together – two different devices means different procedures and different functions. Carrying two devices is also not ideal.

We asked the question, should we combine TETRA radios with a smartphone?

One solution we tried was a sort of hybrid phone. The first mock-ups of this were introduced to selected customers a few years ago. The devices were still big and bulky and frankly, were rejected by customers out of hand.

Halfway house not ideal

So it was back to the drawing board. Another route is to use software to bring TETRA features to a standard smartphone, most notably the Push to Talk, or PTT function.

We built an app that put a PTT button on the smartphone screen. Some smartphone models we tested even had a physical button that could be dedicated to the PTT function.

Our R&D team tried and tested several smartphone models. The PTT button was implemented into the touch-screen and some smartphone models have even had a button/key for the purpose.

Even though an app isn’t as secure or as reliably available as TETRA communication, it can be great. For example, it is great for volunteers or part time staff who need to connect with professional talk groups using their smartphones.

Yet the truth is, an app in a commercial smartphone is not good for prolonged use. It is fine for people who do not have to continuously work with it in a full 7-8-hour shift. But if the work entails talking with groups pretty much throughout the working shift, no available smartphone was good enough.

The natural way to use the device and its PTT key is to hold the device in one hand and operate the key with one finger of that same hand. If the screen gets bigger, the device is also bigger and the “key” in the app won’t be comfortable to operate. On the other hand, a smaller screen is not the best for using apps.

The combination of current smartphone and professional, prolonged use of PTT just did not work for full time professionals in the field who need to use TETRA communication constantly.

Our R&D people thought this problematic, to say the least! But they are, above all, problem-solvers and so took a new look at the hybrid idea. Their solution was to bring full TETRA radio functionality into a smartphone that is specially designed for professional, every day, all-the-time use.

Use how you want to

It has a touch-screen to use apps, but is also designed to allow voice communication without touching the screen. And if you do need to touch the screen – for example to send a message – it works while wearing gloves.

The new device is optimised for speech, not music as are many smartphones. It cuts background noise that many professional users struggle with. It also has extended battery life, twice that of a standard smartphone.

The new device is the Tactilon Dabat, a radio that rewrites the rules of what a professional mobile device should be. Discover more about it at www.dabat.com