QinetiQ technology to improve emergency services communications

25 Apr 2007

Thorcom licences secure multi-bearer routing software

An agreement between QinetiQ and Thorcom has been signed that will enable the emergency services to tackle a number of current data communications issues. Thorcom, a leading provider of mission critical wireless data systems to the emergency services, has licensed QinetiQ technology that addresses bandwidth limitations on the existing TETRA communications network by using other networks without compromising security.

TETRA is the primary bearer for secure and resilient communications for the emergency services and has the advantage of being dedicated to the emergency services community and a select group of additional users, such as the Highways Agency. In times of crisis, when other networks face increases in private sector traffic, emergency services users can rely on the availability of the dedicated network.

However, because of the bandwidth of the TETRA network, even with high levels of compression, there are limitations on the volume of data traffic which can be transmitted. Some emergency services providers have implemented solutions using other networks but by doing so lose the benefit of security and availability. This could have particular impact at times of national crisis when demands on other networks will be high.

QinetiQ has developed multi-bearer routing technology which allows data from emergency services applications to be securely and selectively routed across different bearers. Based on patents developed for naval applications, the technology allows highly confidential data to always be routed over the TETRA bearer, while simultaneously routing less sensitive high bandwidth data, such as still photographs, video or CCTV images, over other high capacity bearers. If one of these bearers is lost, the application routes seamlessly over an alternative bearer, with no need for user intervention and no interruption to the service.

One major concern in linking bearers in this way is possible compromise of the secure TETRA bearer via the alternative or ‘untrusted’ bearers. QinetiQ, with its in-depth understanding of accreditation and secure communications, has created a software engine which is designed in an inherently secure manner. QinetiQ will provide additional accreditation consultancy as the software is migrated onto the Thorcom VR2000 product platform. This will ensure that Thorcom incorporates the QinetiQ routing software in such a way that the security of the TETRA bearer will not be compromised, and will create the emergency service industry’s first accreditable multi-bearer routing product.

Simon Clifton, Thorcom sales director, said: “Our customers in the emergency services demand network availability and security from their communications providers and this deal with QinetiQ allows us to provide that. I am excited by the potential of the QinetiQ software to contribute positively to services relied on by the British public, particularly in times of crisis when demands on emergency networks are greatest."

Richard Davis, managing director of QinetiQ's communications division, said: "The agreement with Thorcom represents a great example of the insertion of leading QinetiQ technology into the products of an established industry supplier. We are delighted to be working alongside Thorcom and look forward to delivering benefit to an important group of customers."

Thorcom’s products are currently deployed with ambulance, police and fire service customers throughout the UK. The VR2000 is a vehicle-based multi-bearer routing platform. It includes the Thorcom ‘SMG’ short message switch software as standard, but this software is not capable of providing IP streaming. QinetiQ’s software brings IP routing capability and inherent security and accreditability to the Thorcom platform. Integrating the QinetiQ software with the Thorcom platform is a relatively straightforward task because both have been built using the Linux operating system.

Link to Thorcom website

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QinetiQ technology to improve emergency services communications