Before you decide to buy a two-way radio , it’s important to have a good idea of the features available and what they can do for you.
The best business-class radios have features to keep your people safe, provide conveniences to make your operation more efficient, and keep your communications private and secure. Here’s a look a the key features in each of these categories:
Industrial-strength radios are designed with danger in mind — specifically, to summon assistance if the user is injured or threatened. Features to look for:
Emergency alert — Some radios have a built-in “panic button” the user can push to tell nearby users something is amiss. Others use a programmable button to perform this function.
Lone worker — Typically this feature has a clock and requires the user to check in within a specific time frame. If the user does not check in, an alert goes out.
Man down — A sensor can sound an alarm when the radio tilts beyond a specific angle for a certain period of time. This adds an extra layer of protection for radios with lone-worker alarms.
Intrinsically safe — In extreme environments such as refineries and chemical plants, sparks from electronic devices can trigger explosions. Intrinsically safe radios are sealed tight to prevent this.
Some radios also can alert users when they have lost a connection, and can monitor the connection status of nearby radios.
These are more than “nice to have” goodies you can jettison to hold costs down. Many can perform vital business functions.
Dual analog/digital modes — Allows the latest high-tech digital radios to communicate with older analog radios, so users can upgrade at their own pace and keep using radios that still have a few years left in them.
Text messaging — Available in digital radios, text-messaging can be an immense boon to businesses and agencies that need to store and send information like product numbers, street addresses and phone numbers.
Audio message recording — Radios also can record short voice messages that can be sent to numerous users simultaneously, so managers don’t have to call people individually. This feature is not limited to digital radios; it also can work in analog models.
Hands-free support — With the right accessory headsets, users can perform manual tasks while staying in constant communication with co-workers.
View screens and keypads — An LCD screen allows users to view channels, call up stored information and navigate through the radio’s features. Keypads add text capabilities; some models use this to connect to standard phone networks.
While digital technology is enabling many of these features, analog radios can have more convenience features than you might expect.
Radios use public airwaves, so anyone can listen in on your conversations. However there are ways to protect yourself from snoopers.
Digital encryption — This is the highest security standard. Most digital radios have encryption built in because they already translate the human voice into digital data; it’s just a matter of having software encrypt and decrypt it.
Voice inversion encryption — This “scrambling” works on analog radios but is not nearly as secure as digital encryption.
Finding the right feature mix
There are, of course, many more features available than we can list here. To make sure you’re getting all the ones you need — and not paying for capabilities that you don’t — pick a dealer with experience with your industry and a broad selection of radios from which to choose.