Halesowen College is a medium-sized general further and higher education college in Halesowen, West Midlands, which operates from three sites close to the centre of the town. The College provides education to over 4,500 learners with approximately 800 pupils studying A-level programmes. Over 80% of learners at the college are full-time students with the vast majority aged between 16 and 18.
The College had an existing licensed two-way radio system with a repeater. It was using a mix of unsuitable portable radios from different manufacturers, which it had bought off the Internet after the initial provider who had sold it the radio system subsequently disappeared. However, the handsets were not providing a good level of coverage across the site, which has a very large footprint of around 2 sq km.
Furthermore, the handsets suffered from various usability issues and in fact, spent more time being repaired than in service, a situation made worse by the difficulty in finding spare parts. This lack of availability of spare parts and the cost of repairs meant the college urgently required a replacement solution to be deployed as fast as possible.
The college requested an expert to come in and look over their equipment and make recommendations as to how it could best modernise the radio fleet and improve site coverage. Suffolk-based Hytera dealer OS Comms offered its services and rapidly identified that the customer needed an upgrade - quickly.
OS Comms undertook a full site survey and recommended that the location of the repeater be moved to provide better coverage. They discovered that the repeater antenna had been mounted under a concrete structure, as if the unit was hiding from the rain. Once the repeater was relocated, the coverage noticeably improved and users were able to gain a lot more functionality out of their new Hytera DMR handsets.
OS Comms recommended HP685 handsets, as the Hytera HP series offered the most feature rich functionality available at the time and the cost was also aligned with the client’s budget.
Another reason for choosing HP685 handsets was that Hytera could supply the required 100-plus devices without any delays allowing the client to meet timescales.
The College also ordered an SMC gateway, which was linked into the fire alarm system and the vulnerable student application via an MD trigger in the Hytera desk-top base station.
The gateway allows fire alarm messages to be sent directly from the fire alarm panel to the HP685 handsets, thereby ensuring a faster response, as the most appropriate people can be alerted immediately. Similarly, vulnerable students can also press a button on their smartphones and the alarm goes straight to the radios of staff specifically assigned to help them.
The radios are working across all departments and are now an integral part of the College’s communication system. The Hytera radios are used by administrative staff, teachers, security staff, cleaners, caretakers and so on, so multiple talk groups are catered for.
The 100-plus handsets are all working well and to their full capacity with the improved coverage described as “amazing” by the users. The HP685 has industry-leading sensitivity, so the improved repeater coverage is further enhanced by the handsets themselves. The radios deliver clear audio even in weak signal areas thanks to cutting-edge AI-based noise cancellation technology. This decreases unwanted background noise and reduces howling when radios are in close proximity.
The HP685 handsets are small and light, which makes them ideal for the range of different job roles within the college and for staff who do not want or need to carry a larger two-way radio. The device is simple and easy to use, so staff can focus on their daily tasks more efficiently.
The devices are highly robust, as they are IP67 rated against dust and moisture ingress, and as they also meet the MIL-STD-810 G standard they are able to withstand a 2-metre drop. The long battery life supports over 20 hours of usage at 5-5-90 as standard, so they will last a full day’s work without the need to replace the battery or charge the radio during the day.
The HP685 handhelds enable the College to operate more efficiently, as it is easier to coordinate and manage all the tasks a busy educational establishment needs to carry out on a daily basis. The radios also help to ensure the College carries out its duty of care to keep students safe, while the vulnerable student alarm app provides an additional level of care to the most vulnerable.
Halesowen College is so pleased with the way the new Hytera radios are working that it is now looking to expand its Hytera solution by including VM780 body cameras as well.