Virtual Reality Coming to Your In-Flight Entertainment?

2016 was the year of the Virtual reality headset, we are seeing the first versions of a technology that can, and possibly will, change our lives, much like the smart phone has. VR has the potential to improve our Games, TV programmes and Movies and allow us to experience things and places better. This article is about how your in-flight might be improved by a VR headsets.

No one likes flying during the holidays. Between having to leave two hours ahead of time and getting through security, just getting to your flight feels like a trip in itself. And then you get on the plane and have nothing to do for three hours except watch reruns of Friends on the little TV in front of you.

That’s probably about to change, thanks to VR. For a little while, of course, passengers can plug into their own Samsung Gear VR sets and tune out, but airlines might be offering their own complimentary variety so you can forget you’re stuck on an airplane.

A French start-up, SkyLights, is developing the tech. It’s a headset with a six-hour battery life, and it comes with noise-cancelling headphones. The headset looks pretty sleek and simple, because they’re made to be: There’s none of the neater interactions you get with an Oculus or Samsung headset. It really is just a movie beamed right into your face. You’ll be able to watch the newest 2D and 3D movies, and the set comes with 128 GB of storage — about 40 movies. Weighing only slightly more than half a pound, it’s easy to visualize the headset propped on the back of the seat in front of you, and after paying the fee, you can flip it on and enjoy hi-def movies right in front of your face.

The headsets are being tested in France right now: XL Airways became the first headset to offer a commercial version of the headset to passengers last week, for $16 per flight. SkyLights has also partnered with AirFrance and Airbus. Content-wise, there are partnerships in the works with 20th Century Fox and Dreamworks.

The general lack of viable in-flight entertainment has been plaguing the airline industry for a while; broadband Internet is an extra cost (roughly $10 per flight, depending on your airline), and the movies and TV they show are typically outdated.

It wasn’t until recently that airlines began attempting to match the broadband speed you’d find on the ground. (As of last year, you’d get speeds of around 3.1Mbps, as opposed to the roughly 30Mbps that smartphones on the ground are capable of). Since so many people use their own devices for entertainment, airlines are in desperate need of upping their Wi-Fi speed. But they also need ways to entertain their customers in an inexpensive manner, without the heavy screens and cables that come with TVs. Virtual-reality headsets — light, not-too-costly, and wireless — could offer a way for airlines to draw their customer base back in. But there are challenges: VR headsets are a relatively new and untested technology.

“Airlines are difficult players to deal with because they are risk-averse and slow to innovate,” David Dicko, SkyLight’s CEO, told the Times.

One potential problem for in-flight VR in your face is the nausea it causes. VR (even if it’s just a film) can be very disorienting, and it’s not hard to imagine people getting sick from it on a moving plane. Oculus’ health and safety documentation is a laundry list of potential concerns, from warnings of dizziness and nausea to seizures and sweating.

Another potential issue could be that hundreds of folks tuned out to a VR movie with noise-cancelling headphones have, at the least, limited awareness of the outside world. That means slowness to react in plane emergencies — another potential lawsuit on an airline’s hands.

For now, we’re skeptical that VR headsets will take off as in-flight entertainment in the U.S. anytime soon. Early adopters might be eager to try them — but they also have their own headsets that they can use for free. Customers would have to pay over the price of a movie ticket, the technology is unstudied when it comes to users’ health, and everyone has their own phone or tablet to entertain themselves. We love the idea, but, as Dicko noted, the airlines are a pretty risk-averse industry. They should prioritize Wi-Fi bandwidth first (and make it at least cheaper), which is what the majority of customers undoubtedly want.

Anyway, it’s hard to imagine a more Black Mirror–esque image than a hundred people, arranged into rows, their heads leaning back, eyes hidden behind a headset, plugged in to a world that isn’t there.

The arrival of 5G, cognitive radio and the future of connectivity

We are very excited about 5G, we have already reported on how the UK emergency services are moving over to a LTE network, and inevitably 5G is the next step for better, faster and more capable communications.  Not planned to be deployed until the next decade, we believe that 5G will allow us to communicate better with our Walkie talkies. The original article can be found here.

With faster and more reliable connections, we look at what the next generation of communications could mean for business

From smart cities to the internet of things (IoT), virtually every aspect of the modern world is becoming closely connected.

The extent to which we rely on our devices and the exchange of information means new systems are needed that not only handle far greater bandwidth, but that are capable of being deployed to cover areas that were previously unreachable.

The potential benefits for business are huge, with faster and more reliable connectivity not only enhancing how firms interact with customers and each other, but also lending itself to greater flexible working among staff.

The arrival of 5G

One development that many industry observers believe could be revolutionary is 5G. Following on from 4G, the fifth-generation mobile network is in its early stages of development and is expected to be rolled out between 2020–25.

Any tech that contributes towards the next phase of mobile connectivity is covered by the term 5G. And although there are still no set standards or specifications, the GSMA – a trade body that represents global mobile operators – has outlined eight key criteria, stipulating minimum requirements for speed, capacity and energy in order for something to be considered 5G.

According to Ofcom, once operational 5G could provide between 10–50 Gbps (gigabit per seconds) in download speeds (as compared to the 5–12 Gbps of 4G), and although most experts expect it to be at the lower end of the range, that would still mean you could download an HD movie in seconds.

But rather than simply being faster than the current 4G, it will also allow more devices to access the web – an essential requirement if the IoT is to take off – meaning it could be transformative for business.

Raj Sivalingam, executive director of telecoms for techUK, the trade association for the tech sector, says: “The potential of the IoT, particularly in the enterprise environment, has been hugely debated but its impact is almost certainly still undervalued.

“Mass deployment across sectors will boost efficiency and safety with pre-emptive fault correction; enable automatic reporting of accidents and allow real-time asset tracking, reducing crime and increasing productivity, to name just a few benefits.”

One potential bottleneck for 5G is spectrum availability – or lack of it. Radio frequencies for both 3G and 4G are already overcrowded. The provision of a new bandwidth will require widespread cooperation between operators, manufacturers and governments.

Infrastructure is also an issue, says Sivalingam. “Making the leap to 5G mobile services and getting more fibre into the fixed telecommunications networks will require substantial amounts of investment.

“We need the government and industry stakeholders to work to shift the UK from good levels of connectivity to great levels so that we continue to attract investors and startups, and to foster innovation from within the UK.”

Cognitive radio

One possible solution is cognitive radio. An adaptive radio and network technology, it can sense and respond to its operating environment and automatically tune itself to the best available frequencies, this makes it more reliable in extreme locations where signals are weak, potentially providing dependable, robust connections that are not hampered by interference or geography.

Finland-based KNL Networks has developed a system using the technology that uses short wave radio to transmit internet access to sites in remote locations ranging from oil rigs to polar research stations. KNL Networks CEO Toni Linden says: “We can provide similar connectivity to those from satellites but with a terrestrial radio system. Our radios receive the whole spectrum all the time, so rather than scanning, real-time broadband receiving is going on. Thus we can see and measure everything that’s going on in the spectrum and we can maintain the network connectivity that way.”

The tech opens up the possibility of providing seamless connectivity anywhere, giving business reliable online access to markets in parts of the world that have otherwise been unreachable. It could also enable media and other companies to broadcast without the need for expensive satellites.

Quantum key distribution

It’s not just data transmission, speeds and connectivity that pose challenges in the future, but the safety of that data too. Cybercrime is ranked alongside terrorism as among the most serious threats to the UK [pdf], and with data now the lifeblood of modern business, securing that data is of paramount concern. One technology that could provide the answer is quantum communications.

Conventional encryption relies on sending a decryption key alongside your secret data. The receiver then uses that key to decode your secret information. But problems arise because hackers can also copy this key and steal your data.

Quantum key distribution (QKD) is different because it encodes this key on light particles called photons, and an underlying principle of quantum mechanics means that a hacker trying to read or copy such a key would automatically alter its state, effectively leaving a hacker fingerprint so the sender and receiver know their information security had been breached.

China recently launched a quantum satellite to further research into this technology, with the hope of developing an uncrackable communications network.

In the UK, the Quantum Communications Hub is part of a national network of four hubs led by the universities of Birmingham, Glasgow, Oxford and York. Director Tim Spiller says: “We are developing quantum communications technologies along a number of different directions, notably short-range free space QKD, where the transmitter could be in future mobile phones, and chip-to-chip QKD through optical fibre, where the chips could be in future computers and other devices.”

With two thirds of British business falling victim to cybercrime in the past year the need for better encryption is clear.

Several companies currently offer commercial quantum key distribution systems include ID Quantique, MagiQ Technologies, QuintessenceLabs, SeQureNet and Toshiba, although its high cost and limited range means mainly banks and governments are its main users, with mainstream adoption still some way off.

Spiller added: “Certainly it would be desirable to improve the size, weight, power and cost points of current technologies and our work in the hub and elsewhere is addressing all these factors.”

Paul Lee, head of technology, media, and telecommunications research at Deloitte, highlighted a number of improvements which he expected to see coming down the line, including improved mobile antennae and base stations, as well as improvements to fixed networks such as G.fast that would enable copper cable to operate at much higher speeds.

“As they get steadily faster, new services emerge to exploit these greater speeds, which then requires the deployment of even faster networks. This tail chasing has been going on for decades and won’t stop in 2017.”

LeBlanc: Protect your hearing it is irreplaceable

This is an excellent story about how hearing protection is sometimes be essential, and when you’re on the shooting range it has to be vital. But it is important to get the right set of headphones that will protect your hearing sufficiently. Lessons can be learnt from this excellent case study.

There is no doubt that we all take our senses of sight, smell, and hearing for granted as long as we are strong and healthy and everything is working well. When we are young we tend to believe that we are indestructible and readily adopt the idea that “it will never happen to me.” Consequently, we can develop some bad habits and be a little loose when it comes to preventative measures for almost anything.

I know because that was my attitude at thirty years old when my eye doctor made a comment in passing that my eyes were perfect, but the chances are I would be needing reading glasses by the time I was 50. I scoffed, but you could almost have set your watch by it because by the time I was in my late 40’s my arms started to get shorter when it came to reading, tying on fishing lures and other things that required scrutiny up close. At 50 I was wearing reading glasses.

Growing up I never bothered too much about wearing ear protection. When I was plinking it was with a .22 rifle that only put out a little noise if you were the shooter so the thought of hearing protections seemed ludicrous. When hunting I do not know if I have ever heard my firearm discharge and beside that unless I was dove hunting I seldom shot too many shots anyway.

The change of heart came when I started shooting on an indoor range, while in the Air Force. I noticed after shooting a few rounds with my .22 caliber, Ruger Single Six that my ears would ring for a while afterward. One night a grizzled old Master Sargent suggested I wear ear protectors or take a chance of damaging my hearing. I took the recommendation to heart and have been wearing them ever since. The result has been that after many years of shooting .22’s, large caliber handguns, rifles and shotguns my hearing is still intact and working well.

Shooting is not the only activity that can cause hearing problem as any loud noise can damage your hearing. The intense vibration caused by loud noises can injure or destroy the hair cells inside the cochlea, so they no longer function to transmit nerve impulses to the brain. If that happens, you will experience hearing changes.

Hearing protection is needed anytime one is exposed to sounds above 80 decibels (dB). Normal human conversation runs about 30 to 35 dB. At its peak level, the sound of a 12-gauge shotgun is about 140 dB. 9mm runs around 159 dB and a .38 special with a six-inch barrel is about 156 dB, a .22 LR pistol with the same length barrel 140, an M-16 is about 154, a .45 ACP pistol is 155, and a .357 Magnum revolver is 164. All of them are around double the safe sound level. Just to be on the safe side I used to wear muff type hearing protectors and usually ear plugs also when on the range.

For range use today there is an array of muff style hearing protectors. The new style that I now use have not only hearing protection, but also hearing enhancement. The controls on each ear can be tuned to match your individual optimum hearing and increase the volume up to eight times normal. So when the range master gives a command or when you are speaking with a companion on the shooting line you can speak in a normal voice and hear them as well or better than without the power muffs. Yet when you shoot the sound activated compression circuit reduces the sound from the shot to a noise reduction rate of 24dB.

This is very important on a shooting range because I have missed range commands in the past from the range master simply because I could not hear them through my hearing protection.

The new muffs I use are from Walker’s but they offer many other styles in their Game Ear series. These are unlike the muff style protectors as the bulk of the unit fits behind your ear with an earpiece that fits inside your ear, the unit weighs less than one fourth of an ounce and can be used with or without glasses. These too can be fine-tuned to your specific hearing, allow you to turn the volume up to magnify sounds from five to seven times and still reduce the sound of the shots to a rating of 29dB.

The ability to custom tune the devise to your hearing as well as adjust the volume up on these models will enable the hunter to more readily pickup games sounds in the woods. Sounds like a squirrel jumping through the trees or when their belly slaps a tree when they jump from one to another. It will help the hunter pick up the minutest sound of a deer brushing by limbs or the whisper of them walking through leaves or disturbing a rock.

So now there is really no acceptable reason not to wear hearing protector and if you get a good set it may even enhance your chances of bagging some more game.

Hytera Awarded Multi Million Dollar Contracts in Dominican Republic

Hytera are the fastest growing radio country this year, they have opened offices all over the world and are taking market share from Motorola. When you look at their Hytera accessories, Chargers, repeaters, hand portables and base units they are of an excellent standard and quality. That is probably why the Dominican Republic was persuaded to use them for two big projects.

Hytera, a world leading solution provider of Professional Mobile Radio communications, was awarded two projects by the Ministry of the Presidency of Dominican Republic. In order to establish a nationwide emergency response network for National Emergency Care System and Security 9-1-1 (Sistema Nacional de Atención a Emergencias y Seguridad), Dominican Republic government selected TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) technology for mission critical communications, and launched two public tenders at the end of 2015; one is to cover two cities, Haina and San Cristobal, adjacent to the capital city Santo Domingo, with 5 sites and 528 terminals, while the other is to cover Santiago, the second largest city of the country, with 30 sites and 2,155 terminals.

The existing TETRA network in the Santo Domingo area was delivered also by Hytera as a result of a contract awarded by Dominican Republic’s Ministry of the Presidency in 2013. The project includes several components: the 911 system, a camera surveillance system and the communications infrastructure with its respective terminals which was awarded to Hytera. “The system in Santo Domingo offers reliable communication services to the public safety forces, and it is a very good testimony of Hytera’s solutions and supports,” said Fernando Camelo, regional director of Hytera international business.

“Dominican Republic government officials have spent a lot effort to choose the right technologies for its public safety forces. Obviously, TETRA has been widely adopted and proved. We are proud to be part of the initiative of building a united nationwide mission critical communication system for the country,” commented Ming Kam Wong, deputy general manager of Hytera international business.

The TETRA digital standard as a global open protocol provides secure, encrypted communications for mission critical operations as well as promoting a more efficient use of spectrum. More than 750 interoperability (IOP) certificates have been awarded to more than two dozen manufacturers by the TETRA + Critical Communications Association (TCCA), the governing body, globally, for the TETRA standard.

Source – http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160912005706/en/Hytera-Awarded-Multi-Million-Dollar-Contracts-Dominican

What exactly is a walkie talkie headset

A Walkie Talkie is a handheld receiver or portable radio. Walkie talkies come in a pair and they communicate quietly with one another using radio waves, on a single shared frequency band.

Almost all of us grew up with walkie talkies. As children, and especially before the age of mobile phones and technology, we all had a pair and played with them in our gardens.

Walkie talkies have made a comeback. Or maybe they never really went out of style but now they’re sophisticated.

Each unit is battery powered and has an antenna for sending and receiving radio wave message. There is a transmitter / receiver and a loudspeaker. The loudspeaker doubles up as a microphone. There is a button that you push to talk, pretty much the same way that an intercom works. Some more sophisticated walkie talkies have separate loudspeakers and microphones; it just depends on what you need the walkie talkie for.

Walkie Talkies with noise cancelling headsets

Technology has changed so much and become so much more sophisticated. In the old days, think of the crackles that came with walkie talkies. It was often very difficult to hear what the other person was saying. But a pair of noise cancelling walkie talkie headsets will reduce or remove any unwanted sounds by using active noise control. Note that this is very different from passive headphones which use technique such as soundproofing. Noise cancelling is not soundproofing.

Our worlds are busy and we become bombarded and overwhelmed by everything around us. We need to listen to some things, but we want to cut out others. Noise Cancelling allows us to do this, while still allowing us to listen to the things we want to listen to at the volume we want them.

Pros of a walkie talkie headset?

Remember when we used to listen to music really loud so we could block out all the other external noise? You don’t need to do this anymore. walkie talkie headsets will block out most excess or excessive sound, or the ones you want blocked out anyway. You can now listen to your music at the volume you want, which does not need to be crazy, and the other external sounds (baby crying, man snoring next to you) will be blocked out anyway. Finally, you can listen to and enjoy music in the way you want to enjoy it, at a natural volume. You can hear the fabulous music, have a rich listening experience, and still not be disturbed by chatter around you.

Noise cancelling headphones are fabulous for when you travel or commute. You may be the kind of person who gets on a plane and train and chats to everyone around you. But you may be more solitary and want to sit down and zone out. You can do this easily with a walkie talkie headset. The beauty is that on a plane you won’t hear the noise of the aircraft or its passengers, but you will still hear the safety announcements.

It’s really easy to work in a noisy environment with noise cancelling headphones. You can focus easily without being disturbed and can make use of any space, productively. You can even go and study your history while at a party or in a restaurant. It is also a good idea to use them at home, while studying for exams or so; they cut out the excess noise and you can focus totally on your work.

Students used to turn up the volume of their earphones in order to cut out the outside world’. But with a walkie talkie headset they are finding it is easier to study when music is at a lower volume and when the outside distractions have been eliminated.

Cons to noise cancelling headphones?

There are always cons to everything. Some parents may say they would prefer no headphones at all. They like their children to be available and to engage more and talk more, but we know this is the way of the world. Everyone uses headphones; parents included/ Use them in moderation of course, but still be sociable and take time out in the day, be headphone free, and engage.

Noise cancelling headphones are not very cheap and are in fact possibly even ten times more expensive than ordinary headphones. However, like anything that costs money, they will last for a long time and are super reliable. They may cost more money but will ultimately give a much better noise-free experience.

Lots of research has gone into the design of these special noise cancelling headphones. Each set consists of inner components that cancel out the disturbing external sounds. Ordinary headphones do not have these components, i.e., you cannot cut out the outside sounds. It is quite obvious then, why noise cancelling headphones are more expensive.

These internal components also use up a lot of power. The power can come from internal replaceable batteries or they can be rechargeable. The walkie talkie headset that carry their own power supply means they are heavier than ordinary headphones. Not all sets carry their own power supply. The ones that are rechargeable are lighter, but they can drain the devices they need to plug into for power.

The quality of sound when can be compromised. It is unusual though and it is only the most sensitive of ears that would pick this up. There have been very few complaints of a tinny almost mechanical sound, but these complaints are few and far between.

Not all sounds are blocked out by a walkie talkie headset, although we did mention this under pros as well. It is never possible to cancel out all external sounds, but we still need to be able to hear police sirens, pilot announcements or the high pitched screaming of your next door neighbor. All every day external sounds though are muffled and definitely much quieter, and the sounds that you don’t need to hear, are gone.

Intel Made A VR Headset And It’s Totally Cord-Free

Intel just announced its own virtual reality headset called Project Alloy, a VR competitor to the Oculus Rift,HTC Vive and the forthcoming PlayStation VR headsets. But what separates the Alloy from the pack is that it’s completely wireless (the wire above is for capturing video for the demo) and it should give you complete spatial awareness without all the dongles the Rift and Vive currently require.

It does this using two of Intel’s RealSense cameras to continuously map your environment. It can even map your hands.

Intel calls the idea “Merged Reality”, essentially combining inputs from cameras around your environment into a virtual world. And Intel was able to pack everything — the processor, sensors and controllers — into one cord-free headset.

During Intel’s demo, however, the RealSense camera didn’t seem quite as fluid as you’d hope, especially if it’s your primary means of reacting to the digital world around you. Intel says that its hardware will be open source in the second half of 2017 (ugh), so the headset won’t be available anytime soon. Intel is also working with Microsoft so Alloy can run Windows Holographic, the software which powers Hololens, according to Microsoft’s Terry Myerson. Microsoft says that Windows Holographic will also be released in an update for all Windows 10 PCs next year.

Source – http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2016/08/intel-made-a-vr-headset-and-its-totally-cord-free/

Army to Launch Another Competition for New Soldier Radio

In the modern world the army has to have perfect communications, from coordinating attacks to communicating with other platoons, on the battlefield it really could mean the difference between life and death. This article plans to find the next Military radio.

U.S. Army tactical radio officials plan to launch a competition for a new handheld radio next year that would give soldiers twice the capability of the current Rifleman Radio.

The Army currently uses the single-channel AN/PRC 154A Rifleman Radio as its soldier handheld data radio. It runs the Soldier Radio Waveform, which small-unit leaders use to download and transmit maps, images and texts to fellow infantry soldiers in a tactical environment.

If they want to talk to each other, they often rely on another single-channel handheld — the AN/PRC 148 MultiBand Inter/Intra Team Radio, or MBITR, which runs the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio, or SINCGARS, for voice communications.

The Army plans to release a request-for-proposal in 2017 for a two-channel radio that will allow soldiers to run the Soldier Radio Waveform, or SRW, for data and SINCGARS for voice on one radio, according to Col. James P. Ross, who runs Project Manager Tactical Radios.

The change will mean that soldiers will no longer need the 148 MBITR and be able to rely on the new, two-channel radio for both data and voice communications, Ross said.

“We know industry can meet our requirements. … We know it’s achievable,” he said.

The move represents a change in strategy for the Army since the service awarded contracts in 2015 to Harris Corporation and Thales for a next-generation version of the Rifleman Radio.

“We went out with a competition for the next generation of the [Rifleman Radio]. Two companies, Harris and Thales, competed,” Ross said. “We went through testing, and we were on the verge of being able to buy more of them when the Army said, ‘Our strategy now is two-channel.’ ”

The Army had planned an initial buy of about 4,000 Thales AN/PRC-154B(V)1 radios and Harris AN/PRC-159(V)1 radios, according to Army program documents for fiscal 2015.

“We will not be taking action on those,” Ross said.

The current Rifleman Radio was developed as part of the Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit, or HMS program. HMS radios are designed around the Army’s tactical network strategy to create secure tactical networks without the logistical nightmare of a tower-based antenna infrastructure.

It’s also a key part of the Army’s Nett Warrior system. It hooks into an Android-based smartphone and gives soldiers in infantry brigade combat teams the ability to send and receive emails, view maps and watch icons on a digital map that represent the locations of their fellow soldiers. The concept came out of the Army’s long-gestating Land Warrior program.

The Army purchased about 21,000 Rifleman Radios under low-rate initial production between 2012 and 2015.

Army officials maintain that are enough single-channel, handheld radios already produced under the low rate initial production that are sitting waiting to be fielded. The service plans to field another two brigade combat teams per year with the single-channel Rifleman Radios through 2019.

The Army will conduct testing of two-channel radios in 2017 and early 2018 and then down-select to one or two vendors sometime in 2018, Ross said. Operational testing is scheduled for 2019 and fielding will begin in 2020 if all goes as planned, he added.

For now, the Army intends to field four BCTs a year with two-channel handheld radios, Ross said.

Small-unit leaders would then be able to retire the MBITR radio from their kit — a weight savings of about three pounds, according to Army officials at Program Executive Office Soldier.

“One thing the PEO Soldier is very passionate about is weight — driving that weight down that the soldier carries,” said Lt. Col. Derek Bird, product manager for Ground Soldier Systems, which helps oversee the Nett Warrior program.

“If we can cut three pounds off a soldier by taking two radios and shrinking it to one … that is a big deal.”

Introducing Ursa Straps – the Perfect Addition to the Radio Microphone Box

Now it’s not the usual field that we cover, but it hit our radar. How many times have you seen an enthusiastic presenter or an excited contestant on TV drop their radio mic and crawl around on the floor, trying to pick it up! Well when a costume designer and a sound man get together then things get designed, and why this hasn’t be invented before is beyond us, but it looks like an idea that could take off. Read the full article here.

Sound recordist Simon Bysshe and costumier Laura Smith have combined their knowledge and expertise to create URSA Straps, a unique range of low profile body worn straps designed to conceal radio microphone transmitters.

Introducing Ursa Straps – the Perfect Addition to the Radio Microphone Box

Officially launched this month and now available in the UK and Europe, URSA Straps are made from a specially developed bonded fabric that is ultra-slim and provides excellent stretch, comfort and breathability. Each strap incorporates a pouch to keep the transmitter locked in place and a cable pocket for managing excess microphone cable. URSA Straps are available in black, beige and brown skin tone colours and can be worn around the ankle, thigh or waist.

Bysshe and Smith developed URSA Straps after listening to numerous artists express discomfort while wearing radio mic straps. Traditional thick neoprene or elastic straps can irritate the skin, become soaked in sweat and are often impossible to disguise under figure hugging costumes.

“It was obvious that a better way of discreetly securing transmitters was required,” Simon Bysshe explains. “As a boom operator I had worked with many artists who disliked wearing transmitter packs because their associated straps could restrict movement and become uncomfortable. In some cases they had simply refused to wear them.”

Laura Smith’s knowledge of costume making proved invaluable as she was able to construct prototypes and identify the exact fabrics required to suit the needs of costume, artists and sound departments.

“After many months of research we decided to create our own unique hybrid fabric by fusing two stretch fabrics together,” Bysshe explains. “This resulting fabric is just 1mm thick and much lighter and softer than any other fabric of its kind. Crucially we incorporated a hook Velcro compatible outer surface that allows the straps to be securely attached to themselves at any point.”

Introducing Ursa Straps – the Perfect Addition to the Radio Microphone Box

Bysshe tested the new straps while working on the second series of Sky Atlantic’s The Tunnel. Lead actress Clémence Poésy was an immediate convert and provided valuable feedback to help develop the product. Bysshe has subsequently used URSA Straps on the third series of Peaky Blinders. The USRA Thigh straps were particularly popular with the cast members who found them secure, light and comfortable. The fact they can be worn around the thigh as opposed to the waist made them invaluable for use with the period costumes.

“With URSA Straps we have created such a comfortable low-profile solution that artists often forget that they are wearing them. Now we have to make sure that actors remember to take them off before they leave!” Bysshe adds. “The straps can be washed and re-used every day for many months. Our Thigh straps are particularly popular as they are designed to not slip down the leg. We achieved this by bonding on a strips of Polyurethane gripper to the inside of the straps.”

Outside film and television, URSA Straps are also proving popular with dancers who need to receive audio cues during a live performance. Using waist or thigh straps the sound team can easily conceal a receiver pack on their bodies without restricting movement or compromising the look of their costumes. URSA Straps have also developed a Double-Pack strap allowing artists to wear two packs on one strap.

Oscar-winning production sound mixer Simon Hayes was an early adopter of URSA Straps and describes them as a total game changer for his team.

“URSA Straps allow us to rig radio mics on costumes previously thought to be unmicable. Tight dresses, sportswear, stunt harnesses – they can all be easily miked using low profile URSA Straps. These straps are so popular with the actresses I work with that many have asked to keep theirs at the end of the production.”

URSA Straps are suitable for a variety of wireless transmitters including Lectrosonics, Zaxcom, Wisycom MTP40 and Sennheiser 5212. Two different pouch sizes are available to ensure optimum fit. Three different waist sizes are available: small, medium and large.

“Initially Laura and I were making the straps by hand in our garage,” Bysshe says. “When we realised their potential we scaled up production by taking on two experienced manufacturing firms in Leicester. Our launch has been a huge success with orders coming in from all around the world! We are now on our third large production run and expanding our market into Theatre, Concerts and Outside Broadcasts.”

Motorola Solutions Envisions Virtual Reality Transforming Public Safety

Virtual reality and augmented reality will creep into our lives slowly in the next 10 years, it has so many applications from gaming to business. Motorola have been leading the radio industry for many years and are taking the initiative with this technology, While this will take away the need for CCTV, radios, radio earpieces and headsets, it will add a more immersive, structured way of running events and festivals.

Motorola Solutions  is exploring a future where virtual reality will immerse a public safety command center supervisor in an incident scene. By using a combination of virtual reality and eye-interaction technologies to navigate through video and data feeds from multiple sources, incident responses can be quickly coordinated and information shared widely to help guide officers and protect people at the scene.

Motorola Solutions will show live demonstrations of the virtual command center on Aug. 15-16 at the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) 2016, held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. (booth #1337).

The virtual command center proof of concept uses eye-interaction technology from startup company Eyefluence, a Motorola Solutions Venture Capital investment, to envision the future of public safety.

A look at today’s smart public safety solutions

Today’s public safety command centers can integrate the Project 25 (P25) standards-based, interoperable ASTRO® 25 land-mobile radio (LMR) network for mission-critical communications with the power of LTE broadband and the latest in smart public safety solutions to turn data into intelligence.

Since 2009, Lake County, Fla. has been using Motorola Solutions’ ASTRO 25 LMR network as the core network for emergency interoperable communications for several counties across Florida. On Aug. 17, Greg Holcomb, Lake County public safety communications technology manager/E911, will join Motorola Solutions in a managed services panel discussion at APCO entitled “Systems Down: Best Practices for Eliminating this Status from Your Network Performance Logs” (see all Motorola Solutions presentations at APCO 2016 here).

“The Lake County core network and many connected sites on this P25 mission-critical communication system are managed by Motorola Solutions,” said Holcomb. “With their robust managed services offerings, the company ensures 24×7 availability, reduced risks and maximized performance for our public safety network.”

Motorola Solutions’ CommandCentral platform provides real-time intelligence throughout all phases of police work – from planning, to operations, to investigations. CommandCentral Aware aggregates video from several sources, allowing crime center analysts to view multiple feeds on one screen and share high-definition images of suspects, vehicles, license plate numbers and other critical information to responding officers in real time.

“Law enforcement agencies have access to data from multiple sources including 9-1-1 calls, live video feeds, social media activity, nationwide databases and more,” said Jim Mears, senior vice president, Motorola Solutions North America Sales. “Motorola Solutions’ CommandCentral platform captures this information and turns it into real-time intelligence that helps first responders resolve incidents quickly and even prevent them from happening.”

The CommandCentral platform will be showcased at APCO 2016, along with several of the latest mission-critical communication solutions from Motorola Solutions’ Innovation Design Center in Plantation, Fla. This includes the Si500 body worn camera andCommandCentral Vault digital management solutions, which automates and streamlines the processing of video from the point of capture to video management and review, and the LEX L10 LTE handheld device designed for the rigorous demands of real-world, front-line policing.

Introducing new mission-critical solutions at APCO 2016

Motorola Solutions is launching the new APX™ 8500 P25 all-band mobile radio, updated ASTRO 25 network features and the IMPRES 2 energy management system.

APX 8500 P25 all-band mobile radio: With Motorola Solutions’ new APX 8500 P25 all-band mobile radio, first responders can use a single mobile radio to exchange critical voice and data communications – such as text messages and GPS coordinates – with multiple agencies and jurisdictions operating on different radio bands. Radio updates can be made instantly without interrupting voice communications; the radio does not need to be brought to a shop, saving both time and money. When connected to the Motorola Solutions VML750 LTE vehicle modem (now available globally), the APX 8500 frees up radio channels by offloading data to LTE.

APX Personnel Accountability for ASTRO 25 trunked networks: The APX Personnel Accountability solution is now available for ASTRO 25 trunked networks (which enable efficient operation of large systems with a small number of channels) and continues to also be available on ASTRO 25 conventional networks (where users select communication channels).

Commanders using the APX Personnel Accountability solution can automatically perform tactical notifications and streamline roll call processes via a computer. They can automatically account for staff using APX radios at the scene of an incident. If a team needs to evacuate, commanders can instantly alert them through their radios and receive acknowledgements. Commanders can monitor radio battery life, identify radios and receive radio power down indications. If a radio is on the wrong channel, a commander can remotely switch the channel to the right one and ensure the entire team can communicate with each other.

ASTRO 25 Enhanced Geo Select: Geo Select provides hands free operation of APX radios when entering a defined region, or geofence, and this feature is now available even if the radio is no longer on the network. When entering a geofence, APX radios can automatically take action such as change channels, alert the user and change power levels. No manual intervention is needed.

ASTRO 25 Over-The-Air radio software updates: ASTRO 25 Over-The-Air Programming (OTAP) has been available for radio managers to remotely program APX radios. Now they will also be able to update APX radio software over-the-air for their entire fleet simultaneously over the course of a few days, without disrupting radio function in the field. With this new feature, there is no need to bring radios to the shop for software updates, saving both significant time and money.

IMPRES™ 2 energy system for APX radios: The new IMPRES 2 high-capacity, water-resistant batteries keep APX radios powered longer. When combined with the new IMPRES 2 charger, they deliver 60 percent more charging cycles than traditional lithium-ion batteries. The IMPRES 2 charger’s enhanced diagnostics provide usage data including a battery’s ability to hold a charge, letting users know when it’s time to replace it. The multi-unit chargers also feature customizable charging – batteries in service can be charged at 100 percent while those in storage can be partially charged to optimize battery life.

A giant solar storm nearly triggered a nuclear war in 1967

We all know how important radio communications are and at a time before the internet and even digital communications, governments relied on RF communications that were susceptible to the suns solar storms, if you add that to the cold war nuclear tensions then we could all be living in holes now.

Cold War history is rife with close calls that nearly led to nuclear holocaust.

In September 1983, for example, sunlight reflecting off a patch of clouds fooled a Soviet missile-warning system into detecting the launch of five US intercontinental ballistic missiles that never were. A wary colonel in a bunker ignored the alarm on a 50/50 hunch.

Two months later, US forces staged “Able Archer 83” — a massive nuclear-strike drill on the doorstep of the USSR. Soviet commanders panicked at the show of force and nearly bathed America in thermonuclear energy. Once again, an act of human doubt saved the planet.

Now scientists have one more hair-raising event to add to the books: The “Great Storm” of May 1967.

“The storm made its initial mark with a colossal solar radio burst causing radio interference … and near-simultaneous disruptions of dayside radio communication,” a group of atmospheric scientists and military weather service personnel wrote in a new study, published August 9 in the journalSpace Weather.

Hours later, high frequency communications dropped out near US military installations in and near the Arctic — one of the closest places to station nuclear weapons and launch them at a Cold War-era Soviet Union.

“Such an intense, never-before-observed solar radio burst was interpreted as jamming,” the study authors wrote. “Cold War military commanders viewed full scale jamming of surveillance sensors as a potential act of war.”

A ‘Great Storm’

Earth’s magnetic field protects life on the planet by corralling the sun’s high-energy particles toward the planet’s polar regions.

If the sun happens to launch a cloud of solar particles directly toward Earth during a violent outburst, called a coronal mass ejection, it can trigger powerful geomagnetic storms.

This not only leads to beautiful auroras, but can also scramble wireless communications and disrupt radar systems.

While The Washington Post wrote up a story about the storm as “City Gets Rare Look at Northern Lights,” top US military commanders sounded the alarms in secret.

The Air Weather Service (AWS) — a relatively new branch of the Air Force — had warned military leadership about the possibility of a solar storm, but US commanders believed the Soviet forces were jamming NORAD systems designed to detect threatening planes and missiles.

As the Strategic Air Command warmed up the engines of bombers and taxied toward the runway, the decision to go airborne may have been kicked all the way up to the “highest levels of government,” possibly involving President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“Just in time, military space weather forecasters conveyed information about the solar storm’s potential to disrupt radar and radio communications,” according to a press release from the American Geophysical Union. “The planes remained on the ground and the U.S. avoided a potential nuclear weapon exchange with the Soviet Union.”

And this all happened at the peak of nuclear armament — when a record 31,255 nuclear weapons were deployed around the world. (Today there are roughly 7,200 nuclear armaments at hand.)

“Had it not been for the fact that we had invested very early on in solar and geomagnetic storm observations and forecasting, the impact [of the storm] likely would have been much greater,” study leader and UCAR atmospheric scientist Delores Knipp said in the release.

After the near miss, the researchers say the military learned to listen to its space weather forecasters, improve its abilities to see another looming “Great Storm,” and avert the first and perhaps final global nuclear exchange.

 

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