Harris recently announced that its XL family of LMR radios can be integrated with self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) solutions from 3M Scott Fire and Safety to provide better audio quality to firefighters and other first responders.

Harris is leveraging the Bluetooth 4.0 capability on its XL-200P and XL-185P radios to establish a wireless link to the EPIC 3 radio direct interface (RDI) that acts as a voice amplifier for the 3M Scott Fire and Safety SCBA masks, according to Eric Makovsky, Harris’ product manager for radio portfolio feature development.

“We’ve now integrated to [the Scott Safety RDI,] and we’ve got a mute feature and a volume-control feature that are part of that package,” Makovsky said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “Basically, … we’re eliminating that use case where a firefighter would have to shout through his mask to get to his remote speaker mic on his shoulder.

“What the Scott Safety RDI has is a microphone built inside the mask, and the Bluetooth pushes that audio back and forth between the radio, … so you’re routing that audio back and forth with the XL. The audio is communicated back to the firefighter from the radio via the Bluetooth stack and then played back on the RDI speaker itself and/or the fire speaker mic on his shoulder.”

Makovsky said the Harris radios could be paired with the Scott Safety RDI before, but the latest iteration—benefiting from software revisions by both Harris and Scott Safety—marks the first time the Bluetooth link has supported full functionality.

“We could pair before. Unfortunately, the limitation was that the receive audio and the PTT [push-to-talk functionality] didn’t communicate properly—the Bluetooth stack needed some additional commands to make those commands work,” Makovsky said. “When you PTT’d on the radio, the RDI wasn’t able to transmit that audio. That’s what the development effort was, to make that package work, and that payload now is there.

“I like where we’re at now. A firefighter can go up and down on the volume [of the radio], and the RDI will follow that logically … We worked through those details with [the Scott Safety] R&D team, and now you have a volume-control capability on the radio, as well with the amplifier following those volume prompt.”

Scott Garmon, Scott Safety’s global product manager for communications solutions, said the revamped pairing of the RDI and the Harris XL series radios lets a firefighter transmit clear audio simply by pressing the PTT button on the remote speaker microphone (RSM).

“What’s transmitting out of the facepiece is the firefighter’s voice directly speaking into the facepiece through the microphone on our voice amp and then wirelessly directly into the XL radio,” Garmon said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

“When you have the facepiece on and it’s pressurized, you have a complete airtight seal, and no external noise can penetrate that barrier of the facepiece. So, you get very clear two-way communications—outband and inbound—using the system, because basically you’re mechanically suppressing all of the external noise. You can have an operator stand next to somebody using a chainsaw … You don’t hear any external noise, so you get really clear two-way communications to and from the firefighter.”