Homeland security concerns helped a small Tempebased technology company find a niche by aiding emergency response personnel who operate different types of radios communicate seamlessly with each other in disaster situations.
Interop-Solutions LLC, 2307 W. Fairmont Drive, was formed about a year and a half ago by a group of entrepreneurs and technical experts to help solve the problem of incompatible communications — a situation that often vexes rescue workers from different agencies operating on different radio frequencies.
The problem was brought vividly to public attention on Sept. 11, 2001, when incompatible communications gear used by emergency personnel from different firstresponder agencies hampered rescue efforts at the World Trade Center.
Interop-Solutions has developed a software and management system and produces mobile command centers that allows different communications systems to work together seamlessly, said Gary Ruegg, the company’s chief executive. A patent is pending.
"There are dissimilar radio systems all over the place," he said. "Over the years, agencies have bought their own radios, each getting their best deals. . . . With this system, anyone can talk to anyone else, even if one has a 40-year-old radio and the other has a brand new radio."
So far the company has supplied four mobile command centers — vans with radio equipment inside that link users of different equipment into a single network — to the Arizona Division of Emergency Management, and a fifth is being outfitted.
The firm is also working on a mobile center for Glendale and the Seattle Police Department and has just completed a van for the Tucson Fire Department.
Interop doesn’t make any hardware itself but uses offthe-shelf technology combined with its software system, called Paraclete, to outfit the mobile command centers.
"It does more than just allow the police and fire departments to communicate," Ruegg said. "It covers everything from the tow truck operators to public works agencies that need to shut off gas lines. It will patch to any radio that is needed to save lives."
Judy Kioski, public information officer for the Arizona Division of Emergency Management, said the new command vehicles proved their worth during flooding around the state in December and January, when they were deployed in Littlefield and Punkin Center. She added they will help agencies prepare for fighting any wildfires that erupt this summer.
"The great thing about these vans is they can be on site and provide wireless communications even in these remote locations," she said.
Because the vans have satellite capabilities, users are able to use laptop computers to hook up to the Internet, she said.
The cost of the five vans is $1.57 million, but that is a tiny fraction of what it would cost to re-equip all of the law enforcement and emergency response agencies statewide with common radios, she said.