Essential services the world over are learning to adapt to new ways of working in the COVID-19 economy. For the transportation, manufacturing, and construction industries, this means ensuring that key communication lines remain open, even when dispatchers who normally work in a central office are instead working from home. At first glance, this may not sound complicated. After all, a driver on the road is by definition pretty well socially distanced from a dispatcher, right?
Yes, but dispatchers normally work in close quarters with one another. If they rely solely on radio communication, moving their operations to their separate homes presents a number of complications.
First, let’s recall that the infrastructure underlying radio communication is expensive. Because of that, many dispatch centers have employees trade push-to-talk walkie talkies at the end of a shift, rather than receiving their own. That’s a big “don’t” with a virus circulating, and it’s not even possible when dispatchers are working from their separate homes.
Then there are the coverage issues. Let’s say you run a delivery service. To have good radio coverage, you need to build repeaters around your service area, which often requires renting space from building owners so you can put up antennas, and then you’ll pay to power them. Alternatively, you can rent radios and pay for channel space from a company that has its own digital network.
Not only does all of this cost a lot (have we mentioned how much all of this costs? It’s a lot), but the whole plan goes into the bin when dispatchers are required to operate from their homes in, say, the suburbs, well away from where you’ve invested in digital radio infrastructure.
Now take all of the same issues and apply them to the manufacturing industry. Here you’d funnel your investment to ensuring good radio coverage within the plant, but that’s not something key personnel in the communications line will be able to access if they’re working from home.
The key to dispatching from home is actually pretty simple: don’t rely exclusively on radio. Don’t get us wrong: radio can still be a part of the solution, but it’s important to augment it with cell phone and PC-based solutions that any dispatcher can access wherever their home base may be. With Zello, dispatchers, office workers, superintendents, and really, anyone who communicates with a frontline worker but is not a frontline worker him or herself can work through the Zello app from their personal device while quarantined or socially distanced.
There are two ways to do this. The first is app-to-app communication. Frontline workers—drivers, construction workers, line workers, and so on—can communicate using Zello on their own personal devices. The Zello Dispatch Hub makes things easy for dispatchers, allowing for talk groups, which enable employees that are relevant to critical tasks to talk to one another without extra, distracting radio chatter. Even simpler: any personal device that an employee may have instantly becomes a walkie talkie with an intuitive push-to-talk button once Zello is installed.
The second is to set up a radio gateway—a simple box that allows any cell phone or PC with the Zello app installed to communicate on a radio system. Essentially, a radio gateway turns personal devices into a radio. This allows, dispatchers, for instance, to operate from home on their own devices (or, really, from wherever they are in the world), taking advantage of cellular or WiFi networks to operate. This blows away any bandwidth or range limits, at a much cheaper cost than radio can provide. It enables office workers to move their operations home, rather than unnecessarily risking their health or spreading the virus at the office, dispatch center, construction site, or manufacturing plant.
(Image credit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7VLFIDbjaw)