Analog two-way radios have helped keep warehouse personnel connected for decades. The question on a lot of facility managers’ minds these days is whether they need to upgrade their radios to digital technology.
If you’re one of those managers, the answer is probably all around you already. Distribution facilities are at the forefront of wireless technologies for connecting inventory-control devices to a WLAN and constantly monitoring every product at every point on the distribution chain. Analyzing that data is essential to making facilities more efficient.
Digital radios communicate in much the same ways as those handheld inventory-control devices: Software delivers packets of data over an Internet Protocol, or IP, network. The only difference with a radio is that it translates the human voice into data packets for transmission to other digital radios.
That means if you already have a WLAN in your distribution center, you’re already using digital radios in the form of wireless access points. Portable digital two-away radios are, in effect, network-computing devices with IP addresses that can communicate with any other network-connected device that has voice capability.
WLAN technology gives a digital radio global range, so engineers at the main office can consult with a technician on the shop floor hundreds or thousands of miles away. Digital radios also can be programmed to perform basic functions like turning on security cameras and opening front gates.
Some digital radios have GPS tracking that allows managers to instantly locate their workers. Others have keypads and LCD screens for instant messaging and fetching phone numbers, addresses and other bits of vital data.
Digital radios generate data like any other networked device, and that data can be analyzed to further improve a facility’s efficiency. That can help distribution centers recover some of the cost of their investment in digital radios.
Considerations for upgrading radios in distribution centers
Digital two-way radios immediately become part of your IP infrastructure, and optimal integration may require assistance from a manufacturer or dealer with broad experience in sophisticated wireless networks.