Videoconferencing for emergencies

Norwegian-based company Tandberg LLC today is unveiling two new briefcase-size videoconferencing units geared for field use by civilian emergency workers and military personnel.

Based on open architecture, the highly secure Tandberg Tactical 6000 and 2500 systems include a 15-inch screen, headset, camera, microphone and speakers. The rugged units are enclosed in heavy-duty aluminum cases and measure 18 by 21 by 8 inches.

The company says both systems contain the highest level of standards-based encryption — Advanced Encryption Standard and Data Encryption Standard with the ability to integrate Type 1 encryption devices. Both can connect to satellite, leased-line or other external networks and both work on multiple network protocols, such as IP or ISDN.

The 2500 system can perform up to speeds of up to 384 kilobits/sec with ISDN service and 768 kilobits/sec with IP service. The 6000 system has bandwidth of up to 2 megabits/sec for ISDN and 3 megabits/sec for IP.

Cost ranges from $21,490 to $34,490 per unit.

Robert Widlandky, Tandberg's director of product marketing, said the units could help at onsite briefings during emergencies. For example, police, fire and emergency medical workers could use it to relay pictures of earthquake damage in real time. In military training exercises out in the field, officials could use it for routine communication or to display maps.

In the past, the company has sold the "guts and intelligence" of the unit, he said, but never as a whole package. Users had to integrate other components, such as a screen or camera. This marks the first time, a standalone, all-integrated unit is available.

Widlandky said while videoconferencing has been prevalent in military and intelligence circles, state and local agencies are only now starting to learn more about such communication devices.

"We're seeing a lot more interest than we have in the past," he said. Such systems have become more affordable with the use of IP, he said, adding that state and local organizations are realizing the benefits of such systems. He said cutting down on travel costs is a driver, but not a main one. Many are using videoconferencing for training as well.

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