When looking for new radios, it’s easy to get distracted by all the ‘gee whiz’ features they offer – bright colour screens, voice feedback, sophisticated menus and a host of other technical specifications and abilities.
But do the radios you are considering really offer what you need? The baseline is the people using them in the field – your people. Will a particular radio offer the features they need to work the way they are used to, or need to? What are the simple questions that can help you choose radios that are easy to use?
The Request for Proposals (RFP/RFQ) is your chance to check this out, asking potential vendors the hard questions that will sort out the ‘maybe’ from the ‘yes, that’s the one we need.’
Does the radio support temporary teams?
For example, you may have to set up temporary teams to carry out a specific task. The teams will need to talk together in a team. A temporary talk group meets this need so their radios need to support this. The DGNA feature meets this need in TETRA radios, for example.
Is the radio easy to use without looking?
People working in the field often have their hands full, maybe with a tool, some equipment, or even an apprehended suspect. Can the radios be used when your staff are busy? Which functions can be selected without looking at the screen?
How is the radio display at night?
Then there is night time use. Your radio users want to see the information on screen at a glance, yet the screen should not be so bright that it ruins their ability to see in low light. Can the radio displays be adjusted for night time or working in dark conditions?
Do messages move like a flash?
Text messaging is a great feature but there are times when even this is too slow. You may benefit from messages that appear right on the screen with no need for the user to unlock the keypad and select the message.
Can the radio share its location with another?
It may also be vital for users to know where their colleagues are at all times. To make your choice, you’ll need to know how the radio user can check where their colleagues are - can the radio share its location with another user?
Can the same radio easily work for several people?
You may have thousands of field staff, all of whom need to use a radio. But not everyone is on duty at the same time, so why buy an individual radio for each and every field operative? A feature called aliasing allows anyone to use an available radio. They will simply key in their personal number, and the standard radio will work for them the way they need.
Even though the user may carry one radio today and another tomorrow, it is easy for others to reach them. The caller just dials the personal number and gets straight through to the radio in use.
How quickly can the radio be personalized?
Even if all your users carry a radio of their own, you will also need to know how a spare radio will work for the user. How long will it take to set it up to include the necessary talk groups, for example?
Does the radio support different roles?
The aliasing feature lets the caller easily reach the holder of a certain role. The caller doesn’t need to know who is assigned to a particular role that day. If they need to speak to the ‘driver of car 32’, they get straight through because the radio has been assigned to the person with that role.
Will your current applications and accessories work?
Don’t forget applications and accessories. Will changing your radio model or radio provider mean you will need to re-integrate your applications, or re-tailor your accessories?
These are all important questions when it comes to choosing a radio. Make sure you know how easy the radio will be to use where it matters most – in the field and on the street, helping and protecting your staff.
Learn to write your radio RFP/RFQ so you’ll get what you really need – download the eBook "How to be smarter about buying TETRA radios"