Arinc’s P25 Lab Tests Real-World Scenarios
September 21, 2011
Systems integrator Arinc, which targets public-safety interoperable communications, developed a test and demonstration lab to “go beyond Project 25 (P25) Compliance Assessment Program (CAP) testing,” said Dave Chapman, product manager for Arinc. “CAP lab testing can be in a sterile environment; we try and test products in real-world environments to see how they perform.”
The Annapolis, Md., Arinc Interoperability Test and Demonstration Center (ITDC) partners with vendors to test performance characteristics and evaluate the interoperability of radio systems. The latest company to partner with ITDC
is Relm Wireless. Additional partners include Cassidian Communications, Zetron, Exacom, Cisco Systems, EF Johnson Technologies, Tait Radio Communications and Twisted Pair Solutions.
“We use the lab to test products before we propose them to customers and also to demonstrate products and multivendor solutions to potential customers,” Chapman said. “With the P25 market now starting to have niche products from multiple vendors — such as companies that only make radios, but don’t make infrastructure or consoles — there is a value an integrator can provide by delivering a pre-tested, pre-configured multivendor system.”
For example, with a vendor’s multisite system in the demo lab, the radio switches from one site to the other. The way the frequencies are laid out or the channels are planned may cause the user to lose information in transition from site A to site B. “You don’t have that in a CAP lab environment, and by testing those types of real-world scenarios, we can then determine whether the product will still work.”
The P25 CAP is a voluntary program that allows P25 equipment suppliers to formally demonstrate their product's compliance with a select group of requirements within the suite of P25 standards.
Testing in a neutral environment is important because most users have multivendor solutions. “And they need to know what will work with what,” Chapman said. Much of the testing at the lab is practical and focuses on how first responders will use products. For example: Does the audio sound crisp and clear? Are the radio controls easy to operate? Can a radio from vendor A communicate with a console from vendor B? Is the form factor acceptable? What are the differences in how various features are implemented among vendors?
And on the administrative side, the tests ask: Are the radios easy to program? Is a console interface customizable? Does the system have the right amount of redundancy? How efficiently does it use the network? How much space and power does the back-room equipment use? How hard is it to maintain?
“Each of the vendors that we have equipment from get unbiased, confidential feedback from our team,” Chapman said. “Many of the vendors come to the lab to test new releases or new products. It’s an environment that isn’t as pristine or controlled as their lab, but doesn’t have the risk of being a production system. It’s also just a different configuration to test in, which has value by itself to them.”
For example, a vendor might want to test new code. “Those test results — successes and failures — if done at a CAP lab would be made public,” he said. “When they come here, it’s a neutral site and their results are private, making it a safe environment to test new code without making those results public.
“This is an advantage to us, because we can coach these vendors by giving them both positive and negative feedback about how they are doing things to help them improve their product. It’s to our benefit and our customers’ for these vendors to deliver a better product,” Chapman said.
Lindsay A. Gross is managing editor of MissionCritical Communications.