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Digital two way radios for facilities management?

Date Added 13.11.19

Facilities management presents a significant challenge for workers and managers when it comes to communication. 

With many employees working over large remote areas and others spread out over multiple smaller areas the ability to communicate clearly, monitor the safety of employees, and respond quickly to issues is critical. 

Analogue radios and mobile phones do not meet the complex challenges presented by facilities management for a number of reasons, be it the lack of team wide communication or lack of coverage and the potential for blackspots. 

Digital two way radios on the other hand offer everything facilities managers need from a wide coverage network, clear communications with noise cancelling technology and safety features like “Man Down” and “Lone Worker” to help protect staff. 

Eliminating blackspots with digital two way radios 

Due to the nature of many facilities (either larger single areas or multiple areas spread over large distance) it is common for workers to experience coverage blackspots where they are no longer able to send or receive communications. 

This is particularly prevalent with operations using analogue devices. In a poll published by Facilities Management Journal more than 40% of respondents said they experienced issues with blackspots with their analogue radios. 

The same goes for operations relying on mobile phones, which obviously need to be within proximity of a phone mast to pick up a signal. 

Digital two way radios are able to cover much larger distances to ensure that employees can always contact each other when they need to. 

Improving safety and security  

With employees spread out over large areas, and some working alone in remote locations the ability to monitor safety is essential but is also challenging when using analogue radios. 

This is because it requires employees to actively engage with a device when they are in trouble, which they might not be able to do. 

Safety features like Man Down and Lone Worker that are enabled in digital two way radios can send automatic alerts at set periods if an employee fails to signal that they are ok. 

The addition of GPS ensures that if managers do have to send help to an employee in the field they know exactly where to send it. In the same vein indoor tracking systems can use strategically placed beacons to identify where remote workers are in a facility. 

Digital two way radios can also be integrated with building management systems, like fire alarms and access control. For example, if a fire alarm is activated a text message is sent from the alarm panel to the first designated responder. This notifies them of the location of the fire and they can then determine whether it’s a false alarm and if to follow the correct protocol.  

Battery efficiency in digital two way radios 

When you’re working in a remote location you last thing you want to worry about is that your radio’s battery runs out and you are left with no way of calling for help if need be. 

Sadly, this is all too often the case when using analogue radios. 

Battery efficiency in digital two way radios can be better managed with the use of smart management tools which can learn and adapt a battery’s optimal performance and maintenance cycle to ensure it works when its needed. 

It is also the case that batteries in digital two way radios last longer than those in analogue radios. 

Enhancing productivity 

As facilities management teams are comprised of several smaller teams – porters, security, estates and housekeeping, technicians, IT – ensuring they have the right communication tools for their jobs is essential.  

Digital two way radios provide several sophisticated applications to make their jobs easier, including work ticket management for job assignment, e-mail for non-priority communications, and SMS messaging (which helps where hybrid infrastructure is concerned). All of these functions can be deployed across the operation, ensuring everyone is able to work as efficiently as possible.  

Why aren’t facilities management making the most of digital two way radios? 

Despite the benefits of digital two way radios research by Hytera has found that many operations are failing to take advantage of the technology and were either relying on outdated analogue devices, or a hybrid of analogue radios and mobile phones. 

In the survey, 45% of facilities managers said staff had experienced a failing in digital two way radio batteries while employees were on shift, more than 40% said their devices weren’t robust enough to survive being used during a full shift, and nearly 40% said employees often struggled with poor sound quality. 

Even those using digital two way radios were found to be under using their devices. 

For instance, only 23% of managers said they had installed the Man Down feature in their device while only 33% were using Lone Worker. 

From a health and safety standpoint, just 10% of managers said they used GPS tracking in their devices – which is a worry to employees.

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