May 12, 2009 By Corey McKenna
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office for Interoperability and Compatibility approved eight laboratories for testing and evaluation of radios to ensure compliance with the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials Project 25 (P25) interoperability standards. The laboratories' goals are to give first responders a consistent and traceable way of gathering P25 compliance information on radios purchased.
There is no open, verifiable way to test the compliance of radio equipment with the P25 standard, said Luke Berndt, P25 Compliance Assessment Program (CAP) manager. Testing data is maintained by manufacturers but is not openly available on the Web.
The data to be made publicly available from the labs will include a summary of the tests performed, whether the product passed or failed, and a certification from the testing lab that the test was performed properly.
The DHS's Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) will oversee program management of the P25 CAP and verify such things as whether a certain lab is part of the program and certified to perform the test in question, and if tests are done by qualified people. It also will conduct basic error checking on reports generated from the tests.
The Project 25 CAP is a joint effort between DHS S&T and the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) which is working on the development of testing standards. DHS S&T and NIST will also do some anonymous testing of radios to verify lab-certified radios do indeed meet P25 standards, Berndt said.
The establishment of these labs is a major step toward achieving communications interoperability. "Recognized labs are essential to the success of the P25 CAP program," said David Boyd, director of the Command, Control and Interoperability Division within the DHS S&T, in a statement. "[The] P25 CAP will, for the first time, allow the emergency response community to be confident that the equipment they purchase is, in fact, interoperable."
There are two independent labs -- Flom Test Lab and Timco Engineering Inc. -- and six labs associated with equipment manufacturers. Three Motorola labs have received certification under the program, as well as one Tyco Electronics lab, a Tait Electronics lab and another run by EF Johnson Technologies.
These labs have been certified by NIST to be independent and objective when evaluating products from their corporate parents, Berndt said.
Berndt said having a marketplace for testing will be good. For example, having multiple labs will enable each lab to leverage the unique capabilities of the others and not have to build-out expensive infrastructure if another lab already possesses it.