My talk on Monday went just fine. It was fun to see people that I’d met in Hancock County again, and the hard work I’d put in to the supporting documentation paid off. I saw several people reading my report.
One interesting thing was that though everyone was dressed in suits
to show proper respect for the proceedings, some people were “suits”,
and some people were just “in suits”. There were a whole lot of
vendors there with their hands out trying to sell something. Everyone
could tell within the first few words our of their mouth. What kept it interesting was that both on the panel, and of the invited speakers, there was at least 30%, maybe more, who were just “in suits”. They were people like me who had real-world experience, didn’t care for meetings, or having their time wasted, or getting sales pitches. They were there to make things better, and they didn’t have a lot of patience with people who weren’t there for the same reason. Very inspiring.
The talk went very well. I easily had time, and participated a bit in
the discussion afterwards.
In virtually every panel, people were talking about interoperability.
The resuce workers want it, the vendors keep saying, “we’ll have it as soon as you upgrade your entire networks to all use our new fancy radios”. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so sad. I realized we’d already showed interopability when we’d taken laptops from first responders from all over the nation and let them connect over VPNs back to their home office and do email with each other. I pointed this out in my talk, and said, “IP stands for internet protocol, but it might as well stand for Interoperability Protocol”. That quote got picked up by the next speaker down the table, and it clearly resonated with the crowd.
Another thing that was really meaningful to me was when Sheriff Kevin Beary of Orange County Police Department spoke up. He told me that the work my team had done was the kind of hands on problem solving and lesson learning that we needed and that he was proud of the initiative it showed. I don’t remember his words exactly, but the undercurrent was, “people like you make the difference, not expensive systems from the sales guys”.
In response to a pointed question by a fire chief about “when will your system and motorola’s system work together”, a vendor danced around it and gave an unconvincing argument (I think it was MA/Com). I decided to open a can of whopass on the vendors and spoke up. I said, “Look, you don’t have to wait for moto or ma/com to deliver interoperability to you. You need to find an independent consultant, get their help to choose commodity parts that use IP, and build your network just like we built ours. You can have interoperability today. Stop waiting for the vendors to solve your problems, and show them that the marketplace is only buying open systems.”
Another cool thing is that Commissioner Deborah Tate was there for
much of the discussion. She gave a little speech when she had to
leave, listing lessons she’d heard that she was going to take back to
DC. There were 10 or 15, but two I’d mentioned made the cut: education for emergency responders on the benefits of unlicensed spectrum and IP = interoperability. (She didn’t use my quote, but she clearly got the idea, because it had been hit by so many people, including me.)
So, it was a trip well worth making!