Cognitive-radio vendor Shared Spectrum this week announced that that it has been awarded funds from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to develop a multi-band cognitive radio system designed for public-safety use.

Traditional radios used by public safety operate only in a given frequency band; when that frequency band is used to its capacity—something that is most likely to occur during a large-scale incident—the radios cannot function. In such a scenario, cognitive radios are designed to sense available spectrum in various spectrum bands and use those airwaves to deliver communications.

As part of the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Next Generation (XG) Radio Program, Shared Spectrum has demonstrated that its cognitive technology can sense and relocate radio communications. With the NIJ funding, Shared Spectrum plans to develop policy-based software that will allow its cognitive radios to function smoothly in a public-safety environment, Shared Spectrum Vice President Peter Tenhula said.

“Basically, we’re going to be building off what we’re doing with the XG program, but we’ll be customizing the command-and-control aspects of that for public safety,” Tenhula said during an interview with MRT. “What we’re trying to do is give public-safety officials from various jurisdictions adequate control and, most importantly, trust in cognitive-radio devices.”

To achieve this, Shared Spectrum plans to use the NIJ funding to create a management subsystem that automatically executes various location-based policies that impact public safety, from FCC rules regarding which spectrum can be used to mutual-aid agreements between jurisdictions, Tenhula said.

Shared Spectrum hopes to demonstrate in a lab environment that its cognitive system will work to public-safety specifications during the first half of 2008, Tenhula said. If enough additional funding can be secured, Shared Spectrum would like to conduct field tests of the technology by the end of 2008, he said.

Key public-safety communications experts assisting Shared Spectrum on the project include Nancy Jesuale, director of public-safety networks for the city of Portland, and Thera Bradshaw, former chief information officer for the city of Los Angeles and past president of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO).

Also supporting the effort is Dale Hatfield, a former FCC official who is now an adjunct professor in the University of Colorado’s interdisciplinary telecommunications program.