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Cisco debuts latest version of its IPICS integrated communications system

Cisco's dispatch console

Cisco Systems, Inc., a longtime pioneer in integrating disparate systems along an Internet Protocol (IP) backbone, is making a new push in the realm of physical security products to bring smoother integration to a government or law enforcement agency’s use of video surveillance, access control and notification systems.

 On March 10, Cisco introduced the latest version of what it calls its “IP Interoperability and Collaborative System,” or IPICS, which helps connect an agency’s VHF and UHF radios, cells phones, push-to-talk phones, laptops and Voice over IP (VoIP) phones.

 A key element of Cisco’s announcement is the introduction of its new dispatch console, which provides unified command-and-control communications on a software-based platform, rather than relying on the more typical hardware-based approach to such dispatch consoles.

 “Cisco is the first and only company to deliver such a networked solution for public safety, including incident response and unified dispatch, along with video surveillance and access control,” said Bill Stuntz, vice president and general manager of Cisco’s physical security business unit. “With IPICS 4.0, we sought to harness the power of live streaming video and put it right in the hands of first responders via a device as ubiquitous as the mobile phone.”

 By shifting from a hardware console to a software-based console, Cisco says it was able to lower its price to its customer. Craig Cotton, a senior director of product marketing at Cisco, told GSN that the integrated product formerly had a starting price of approximately $100,000, but the company has been able to bring that price down to about $25,000. “For local governments, that $100,000 price point was a barrier,” he added. “But we’ve cut the initial pricing by 75 percent.”

 “Hardware consoles are typically quite expensive and not portable,” Cotton noted.

 Another feature that was highlighted in Cisco’s announcement was the fact that the IPICS can empower a law enforcement agency to transmit audio and video across the IP backbone to handheld IPhones that are being carried more frequently these days by law enforcement officers. An officer at an incident scene involving a burning building, for example, could capture the imagery on the video camera built into his or her IPhone and transmit those images to dozens of other officers -- back at their headquarters or out in the field -- onto their individual IPhones.

 “I’m not suggesting that police departments across the country will start using IPhones and stop carrying their police radios,” said Cotton, “but we’re seeing the beginning of a trend here.”

 IPICS is already enjoying a wide range of applications.

 “We are extensively using Cisco IPICS to secure the Arlbergtunnel, Europe’s longest road tunnel, and the solution has proven its worth,” said Rene List, director of Maut Service GmbH’s systems operations department, ASFINAG. “We look forward to rolling out the system nationwide to help generate savings on the integration of radio networks and to speed up emergency communication on a broader scale.”


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