On the heels of several new acquisitions and product announcements in recent months, Motorola Solutions is announcing a new radio equipped with a voice assistant, which the company says is the first of its kind.
The public safety radio is called APX NEXT, building upon the company’s prior APX two-way radios, and the virtual assistant that controls it has been dubbed ViQi (pronounced “Vicky”). The company’s news release said the radio is FirstNet-ready, built with LTE connectivity, and is the first APX radio to feature a touchscreen, designed for field use including with rain or gloves.
Motorola Solutions Chief Technology Officer Mahesh Saptharishi said that besides being able to control the radio, the virtual assistant responds to commands like “ViQi, run a license plate,” and can also look up driver’s license information and vehicle identification numbers. He said other functions will come with future updates.
“The core objective here is to save time for first responders, in every task that they do. That’s the central metric that we use for everything that we do from a design standpoint,” he said. “We want the first responders to have their eyes up and their hands free. We want them to have full situational awareness, and we want them to be able to react to whatever comes their way.”
It’s not the first time a tech vendor has sought to bring AI assistants to the world of government. NIC and other companies have worked with state and local governments to make information and services available through Amazon Alexa.
In keeping with the industry trend toward device interconnectivity and data reception, APX NEXT automatically switches to LTE broadband when LMR (land mobile radio) signal is low, transmits its user’s location to a dispatcher’s mapping console and allows for broadband software updates.
“In the future … we also want to deliver things like video data to this device,” Saptharishi said. “We want it to be able to support other query types, such as foreign-language translation, taking notes and being able to automate record updates.”
Saptharishi said APX NEXT was beta tested with five customers, then modified based on their feedback.
A spokeswoman for Motorola Solutions said none of them were available for an interview, but she shared an emailed statement from Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security.
“A radio is a first responder’s lifeline when 100 percent of their attention needs to be on the people and events around them,” Arnold’s statement read. “Motorola Solutions worked closely with our public safety team, who is nationally recognized for their technology leadership, to build a radio that goes far beyond what we thought possible. APX NEXT and ViQi allow our first responders to keep their eyes on what’s happening, while obtaining the critical information they need to help protect our community.”
Motorola Solutions has scheduled product demonstrations of APX NEXT and ViQi at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference, Oct. 27-29 at McCormick Place West in Chicago.
The company’s marketing push for its new touchscreen, voice-activated two-way radios coincides with heavy investment in recent years to build or acquire new technology for law enforcement and first responders. A regulatory filing from February 2019 indicates Motorola Solutions has acquired at least nine companies since February 2016, most recently including a body-camera maker in July, a dispatch provider in March and a license-plate-reading company in January. Motorola Solutions also announced data collecting enhancements to its CommandCentral Aware platform in April.
Motorola’s expansion in this sector is likely to continue, as international investors with Silver Lake extended their billion-dollar partnership with the company in September.