Being an amateur ration licence holder means I am very interested in radio. I saw the benefits using UHF radios when volunteering with Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue, but being a Community Responder there is a great interest in Airwaves radios as they use a far superior network, with better coverage and Geo-location on the system. I have been through the journey of two app’s for iTunes myself and I am always impressed (and envious) when I see a good job and want to share a good app if it’s free!
While we aren’t supported (CFR’s) with the Airwaves network that Police, Fire and Rescue and Ambulance service are provided with, the PTT over the internet option does interest me. With Airwaves, you are connected to the mobile phone network and a bridge to the internet and as long as you have a phone/radio signal; you are on the network. Airwaves radios also have a small ‘stubby’ external Ariel and get better gain for a better send and receive signal over standard phones.
The Zello app is one of the many that I have tried that I have bothered using, sharing and promoting as Zello actually works really well. If you want to speak to one person, you should call them by dialling in the normal way of course. But what if you wanted to ask a general question, set up a rendezvous with many people or have an open dialogue or debate with more than one person? PTT app’s are very good and behave in a similar way to the Airwaves system with groups, peer-to-peer and password channels.
So why do I use it?
I have two friends down in Kent and we are always collaborating on stuff, going down, meeting them out and about and arranging events and projects. Sometimes we need 3 or 4 of us to chip in and have an answer. Only one person can speak at a time and distance is not a limitation so a PTT type conversation is perfect if you have 3G or WiFi. We have our own channel set up on Zello, just for the four of us, that I monitor and can see if they’re logged in or not, or set to ‘busy’ so I know they might not answer if I call.
This morning, I spoke to a fellow Community Responder over in the next Village about who is going to be on call today. If another Responder fancied doing it, he/she could have chipped in and offered to do the afternoon slot for us. We can also arrange swapping over kit and talk about consumables used. We have two new members that are starting calls next week and they can have the Zello App on, calling us if they are waiting at home on call or when they get back home from a job for a de-brief and support. We can all listen in and offer support, even messaging each other, or turn the channel off if we are sleeping or don’t want to be disturbed. (We do have a password on the channel and do not share any sensitive information). You can also have more than one channel open/monitored at a time.
Using it for work or safety.
While I don’t see a use for call-outs from Ambulance Control, as the signal is poor in rural communities and it wouldn’t be adopted by the East Anglian Ambulance Trust as it’s not secure or robust, one of my friends does use it commercially for his business. Zello do have a commercial subscription service for business but the free download does all you would need. My friend has one office in Kent and another in Suffolk and all of the staff are now connected in an open way, as if they are in the next room without the limitation of distance. Staff that wouldn’t normally collaborate are now sharing resources and saving costs. You might say that someone could approach Zello and ask them for a version adapted for Community Responders? They have already done the work, have the technology and resources but it’s that Airwaves Radio, with great connection and an external Ariel and made specifically for the job that ensures your transmission makes the trip.
If you’re planning a trip, from many parts of the country all travelling down to the same place, setting up an event with people or just fancy messing around I would recommend the Zello app as it really works well. You can also listen back over conversations you have had in the past, if you missed some critical information. It works!
Give it a try and call me up! – search for Prockie in Zello. https://zello.com/