A professional push-to-talk app has to deliver certain things which a generic PTT app cannot deliver at all. When choosing a PTT app for professional use, what should you look for? We look at 17 must-haves for a professional PTT app.
When an app offers Push-to-talk, or PTT, the speaker simply presses the PTT button to talk to the group – and keeps the button pressed while they are speaking. The PTT key is familiar for traditional radio users: a PTT call is the best, quickest way for a group of people to communicate together.
You will have seen PTT applications claiming to “turn your smartphone into a walkie-talkie”. These are generic PTT apps and they seem to promise much: near-instant communications with a push of a button, group calling, and even priorities and emergency calls. Yet, they deliver very little, certainly nowhere near what a professional user needs.
Don’t be fooled by smartphone walkie-talkie apps. A strong PTT app does much more to keep you safe. Make sure you get an app that does deliver on the key requirements and lets you do these 17 vital things. You can also download a handy checklist to use before you decide on your PTT app!
17 vital capabilities
1. Talk to a group without looking at the device: Your finger should find the PTT button or key easily, even when your eyes are on the action. It should also be easy to keep it pressed for as long as you need it.
2. Instant connection: Connecting everyone into the group call should take less than 0.5 seconds. Any longer than that, and the beginning of your sentence could be cut off. Just think about the difference between “Don’t start the engines” and “- start the engines” or “Don’t shoot” and “- shoot”!
3. Keep your place in the queue: If you can’t speak straight away because someone else is speaking, you need an app that lets you queue for your turn to speak.
4. Talk to one person as well: A professional push-to-talk app will allow you to PTT call a single person (with an individual or one-to-one call). You don’t want to have to close the app to make a phone call.
5. Make sure you don’t miss important communications: If you can’t make a one-to-one call within the PTT app, you will miss group communications while you are on the phone. Your best choice would be a push-to-talk app which not only lets you make a one-to-one call, but can also invite you to a group call so you don’t miss a thing.
6. Ensure you don’t miss important communications: The so-called Late Entry feature is a must. It means that a user who has just switched on the device, or has just finished another call will be invited into an ongoing group call if he/she is a member of that group.
7. No false recipients: A strong PTT app will have reliable, controlled user and group management. You can trust that the members in your conversation group are as they should. This way, you won’t have information leaks.
8. Get help – fast: If your work takes you into dangerous situations, you need a PTT app that lets you call for help with a special emergency call. But make sure it won’t let you make one accidentally. And if you are unable to make the call, the app should do it for you –
9. Detect a “man-down” and send an alarm: A strong PTT app can monitor your movements and send an alarm to a predefined list of recipients when you remain stationary for too long, for example.
10. Does the PTT app include an emergency call or a “red key call”? Then check it also meets the following criteria:
11. You shouldn’t have to select a number to call in an emergency – not even 112 or 911. The app should automatically send the emergency call to the right place.
12. The app should allow the emergency call to go anywhere that your organization needs it to go – to your dispatcher, your team mate, or a group of people. And, if your first choice of recipient doesn’t answer, will the call go to someone else? It should!
13. Do more than talk: Push-to-talk is of course associated with speaking, but a strong push-to-talk app is mission critical - a MCPTT app - and can deliver more. You can talk, and as easily and securely send text and share documents, multimedia information and streaming video within the app, for example – to a group or to one person, and at the push of a single button or key. You can also share your screen with your team(s) to better support them in their missions.
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Do you have questions about MCPTT? Learn more from the blog post "Answered: 23 of your most burning questions about push-to-talk and mission critical PTT".
14. Take advantage of more than one app: A strong PTT app can be complemented with other special apps, and together, they will deliver even more oomph.
15. Keep track of where everyone is: Can the PTT app track the devices’ location? Wouldn’t it be handy if your exact location indoors and outdoors could be tracked, with no need for GPS or any fixed infrastructure? You would be able to see a display of your team members’ locations, and the app would put the same overview on the dispatcher’s screen as well, keeping you all safer.
16. Keep your communications private: Are the PTT app communications – both voice and data – encrypted?
17. Complement your current radios: A strong PTT app will let smartphone-carrying people communicate smoothly with radio-carrying teams. Ideally, PTT app users would be able to join existing talk groups and communicate with radios and with the control room.
In other words, people vital to an operation would be connected even when they use different devices and technologies.
Joining PMR/LMR group calls with the smartphone PTT app
Does your organization need the PTT apps to work with radio communications? It can be done. Smartphones with a strong PTT app can join the established PMR/LMR groups for easy, yet controlled communication.
Using the PTT app seamlessly with TETRA
Ideally, smartphones with a strong PTT app will be able to join the same established talk groups that are used in TETRA radios. Users can rely on easy and secure communication both with radios and smartphones as with the control room.
How to make sure your PTT app works as needed
To gain the full capabilities of professional PTT technology, several key requirements need to be met.
Security and control
Setting up the PTT application needs to be professionally managed. Downloading a commercial (often free) app from a generic app store does not meet this requirement. These apps may be alright for off-duty purposes, but they don’t hack it for professional use.
Instead, you need to adopt apps in a controlled and systematic way. This way, the app won’t be a novelty used only by a few staff. Instead, it can support the goals of your whole organization. Even when opting for controlled adoption, you should prefer an app that is easy to set up in your devices. Set-up over a remote connection will make your life a lot easier!
For smooth communication in working teams, you need talk groups. Once again, ad hoc groups are fine for off duty time, but professionals need a controlled solution. If users can set up their talk (chat) groups themselves, one mis-typed phone number could mean the group communications becoming open to outsiders.
In contrast, setting up talk groups according to an organizational hierarchy should be easy. You will also appreciate it if the PTT app can handle location-based groups and allocate people into groups according to their location – in other words, include them in group communications when they are within a certain geographical area.
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Want to know more about professional apps - push-to-talk as well as others? Learn what are the latest trends in professional apps, what users look for in professional apps, how they use apps, and the biggest concerns that they have. Download now: Fingertip access to the latest trends in professional apps - report on Airbus' annual survey 2020
Need to compare your options?
When looking at PTT apps for professional use, don’t settle just for turning your smartphone into a simple walkie-talkie! (This is one of the most important tips for buying a professional app.) A strong push-to-talk app could do so much more.
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A strong push-to-talk app can deliver - and it can even save you money. Here's an eBook that tells you how: download the eBook "5 ways that strong PTT services can save you money".
You may also be asking, does such an app actually exist? Is there one that meets all these needs? The answer is yes – it’s called Tactilon Agnet.
Editor's note: This blog post was published in October 2019 and has since been updated to include links to new, helpful content.