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Wearable tech: The future of public safety communications

29 Mar 2017 5:00 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

By Greg Albrecht, Co-Founder and CTO of Orion Labs

The realm of wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) is exciting territory for the public safety sector. It can enable real-time monitoring of an officer’s vitals, administer medication to a patient in controlled doses or enable efficient communication across vast distances.

As an EMT and a disaster communications specialist, I know what it’s like to communicate effectively in crisis situations. Many of my colleagues still rely heavily on walkie talkies, a somewhat durable solution, but they haven’t drastically evolved over the years. They have their strengths, but it’s important to keep their limitations in mind.


Range is a severe restraint, especially in a widespread disaster situation. Though many devices work effectively over a few miles, there are several limitations to keep in mind. For example, dust and other particulates, tall buildings, dense vegetation or hilly terrain can severely effect range. In order to enable these systems, agencies have to purchase expensive equipment and radio licenses. Even after these expenses, civilians or cyber attackers may tap into the communications which could prove a danger for them – or for you.

Time to evolve

New and larger disasters are becoming increasingly possible as climate change and an unstable political atmosphere infiltrates countries around the world. It’s time for agencies to begin phasing out walkie talkies in favor of other technologies. Fortunately, this is possible for first responders today through Orion Labs.

In 2013, Orion Labs, announced its new approach to real-time communications for enterprise and government organizations. The founders both serve as fire department and emergency medical volunteers so they understand the need to protect public safety teams while enabling their success in the field.

Orion Labs believes that ground-breaking technology in real-time voice communication will revolutionize the public safety sector. That was part of the promise of traditional walkie talkies and other communications devices, but their time is over. Instead of a large walkie talkie with a shoulder-mounted speaker and dangling cords, Orion Labs envisions simple badges like the Onyx that reduces bulky equipment with a heads-up, eyes-free experience.

New solution for first responders

Orion Labs recently released the Enterprise Voice Platform, enabling secure, real-time communication with teams through Onyx.

Imagine that your team needs a flexible way to communicate within the local hospital while a colleague is working across state lines in the field. Or that dispatch needs to reach officers while protected with FIPS 140-2 compliant, end-to-end encryption. It’s these boots-on-the-ground experiences that really drive the innovation behind the push-to-talk technology.

And, that innovation continues as the team at Orion Labs continues to develop communication tools for all public safety officials.

To learn more about Orion Labs and Onyx, visit  

Author Bio: 

Greg Albrecht co-founded Orion Labs in 2013 and serves as the company’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO). He is a startup veteran with an extensive background in technology infrastructure and software development.

Prior to Orion Labs, Albrecht led the development of Splunk’s first cloud offering. In addition to Albrecht’s technology expertise, he is an active EMT.

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