vector-logo-large-bThe Situation

VECTOR was started in 1998 as a non-profit amateur radio organization that would provide volunteer support for operations in Vancouver, and works in concert with both the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department when needed. As an internal initiative, VECTOR decided to test out the capabilities of the CommandWear system and how well it would work with the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS), a radio communications system used to transmit the locations of mobile radio users.
 
hcol-logo-sliderThe Honda Celebration of Light is a major international fireworks competition that takes place in Vancouver. Over 400,000 people gather along the waterfront to watch 30-minute long firework shows created by teams from China, Brazil, and Canada. VECTOR provides 30-40 radio operators each night who travel in pairs along the Kitsilano Beach and English Bay waterfronts. As the large crowd can cause capacity issues on the cellular network, VECTOR’s radio communications services are useful to pass information to local agencies about missing children, medical emergencies, and other safety issues.
 
 

VECTOR COL - ChinaThe Trial

 
The trial was intended to demonstrate the CommandWear situational awareness platform with a third-party data feed; in this case, positional data transmitted over VHF radio in the APRS packet format and made available on the internet through a network of APRS-IS servers. An experimental integration software package was written by CommandWear to integrate the APRS data feed with CommandWear’s secure cloud server.
 
Each beach was divided into four or five sections with a 2-person team assigned to each section and another pair assigned as logistics leads for each beach. A Net Control operator moderated voice communications on the channel with additional radio operators at the medical/volunteer incident command post and emergency operations centre to liaise with other agencies. A KML (map layer) file depicting the various section boundaries, first aid stations and landmarks, was loaded into the CommandWear situational awareness system to provide supplemental information.
 
By being able to view the positions of all responders in real-time, VECTOR enabled their command operators to respond more efficiently and safely in the event of an emergency.
 
 

HondaCOL_0208_img186The Results

 
During one notable incident, a volunteer stated their location multiple times over the radio. By checking the user’s position with CommandWear, operators at the Incident Command Post (ICP) saw that the volunteer’s position was actually three blocks away from their reported location. Command was then able to verify the proper location and dispatch the required emergency services to the correct place.
 
While the APRS data updates were transmitted less frequently than CommandWear’s Communicator app for smartphones, which updates every 10 seconds, the integration provided valuable information about the locations of operators while voice communications were taking place. This enabled VECTOR to monitor the positions of its volunteers, verify that they were operating in assigned areas at all times and, importantly, ensured the safety of the volunteers.
 

Conclusion

APRS

CommandWear was able to quickly integrate existing radio technology into it’s software platform and combine that with other personnel gps locations and pictures/video being sent from smartphones (iPhone, Android) and smartwatches. This data can then be shared with other crisis management or dispatch systems through CommandWear’s “Connector” – a multi-agency common operating picture was produced quickly, at low cost and with existing devices and systems.  This test proved that CommandWear can effectively act as an integration platform for multiple, disparate devices used in the field by both first responders and the volunteers that support them.