Small organizations that manage a mobile workforce rely on the clear communication of instructions and information. The ubiquitous smartphone may be popular and offer the convenience of easy person-to-person contact, but falls short as a multi-channel communication device to combine security and reliability in all conditions. Cell phones and push-to-talk technology has often been likened to comparing apples with oranges because of the significant differences in performance, application and sustainability.
Comparing Technologies: Understanding the Nuts and Bolts
Cellular phones are a type of radio that relies on low-power transmitters that create radio frequency “cells” within which the phone can operate—hence their name. All cell phones require access to a base tower, which transmits and receives voice, data, and control instructions through channels that are accessible to multiple users.
By contrast, a push-to-talk radio relies on a single or multiple transceivers and operates on frequencies that may not be available to cellular phones. Radios are simplex devices with a specified number of secure channels that operate in a small area, where only one person speaks at a time.
The Advantages of Push-to-Talk Radio for a Workforce
Security — Security is of paramount importance when dealing with a mobile workforce. Using a push-to-talk radio system eliminates the risk of secure information concerning shipments and confidential instructions being intercepted by unauthorized users. Unfortunately, even the most secure cell phone networks have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cyber criminals. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has reported a staggering 185% increase in the number of malicious software-based attacks on cell phones because of the inadequacy of the security protocols governing such devices. PTT systems offer ironclad security and access to specific frequencies based on a confidential radio frequency allocation system.
Clarity — One of the key aspects of effective workforce management is the clear, unambiguous communication of instructions, responses, and information. By design, cell phones are duplex devices, allowing the simultaneous transmission and receipt of information. Overlapping conversations can cause instructions to be misunderstood or misinterpreted. In an emergency, even a simple misunderstanding may be the difference between life and death. Industries such as logistics and airlines that run extremely time-sensitive operations stand to lose millions of dollars from incorrect communication. PTT radios hold a distinct advantage over cell phones in being turn-based communication devices. PTT protocol also requires both parties to deliver a message clearly and to acknowledge the receipt of a message. Consequently, PTT radio encourages and improves the clarity of transmission, resulting in fewer misinterpretations.
Connectivity — PTT communications offer instant connectivity with the press of a button. This feature becomes crucial in an emergency or hazardous environments where instructions and information must be relayed quickly—such as between the control center and safety crew of a power plant. Cell phones are limited in this area because of the time taken by the device to connect to the network and for the network to establish a connection to another user.
Reliability and Durability — During a natural disaster or adverse environmental conditions, cell phone towers are usually out of operations, robbing users of the ability to communicate. PTT radio is a reliable channel used by emergency services and the authorities to maintain contact with headquarters. In the context of a workforce, PTT radio continues to function in areas beyond the range of cell phone towers, offering a boost in reliability to companies who have workers traveling to and from remote regions. PTT radio devices are far more durable than conventional cell phones and are designed to withstand impact, high levels of dust, humidity and electrical fields and operate efficiently in environments where cell phones cease to function.
Human Safety — Even the most conservative cell phone plan usually provides access to the Internet or to non-business communications such as SMS. When misused, the cost of non-business communication over a cell phone can have an adverse impact on the profitability of a small business. Using PTT radio, a control center or can restrict and monitor communications within the PTT network. Some PTT devices even offer text messaging services within a closed group. Group networks allow command and control centers to reach all employees who may be scattered across the coverage area without worrying about expensive cell phone charges. PTT is compliant with on-road communication standards for operations in a moving vehicle while the use of a cellular phone in a car or truck severely compromises the user’s ability to concentrate on the road.
Push-to-talk remains the cornerstone of effective, efficient and economical communication for small organizations with workforces spread over a wide area of operations. Their ironclad security, clarity, connectivity, reliability and durability help answer the question of why radios vs cell phones for small businesses and make these devices an essential tool for the modern mobile workforce. Compatibility with automated work order management solutions represents the next step in PTT-based efficiency where a local workforce can use the operational versatility of PTT to ensure better turnarounds, less rework, and improved cost effectiveness. This compatibility can ensure that a mobile workforce can communicate easily and troubleshoot operations even from remote locations.
Despite advancements in cellular technology, PTT platforms exhibit the robustness, scalability and uptime required by emergency workers, police, logistics, and other time-sensitive and mission-critical operations. PTT remains the go-to technology in hazardous environmental conditions and in areas where conventional cellular services are not operational. Today, the broad functions of PTT are being replicated by smartphone apps, but the core utility of the technology remains irreplaceable.