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Microlab Demonstrates New Smart Coupler Technology for Real-Time Public Safety Wireless System Monitoring

SMART Coupler

Microlab today demonstrated the world’s first radio frequency (RF) coupler with embedded signal monitoring intelligence.  The patent-pending smart coupler capitalizes on Internet of Things (IoT) technology for remote sensing and reporting.  Designed for in-building public safety wireless networks, the smart coupler will be revolutionary in terms of monitoring a passive communications network of RF coaxial cables, components, and antennas.  The technology will enable public safety authorities, building owners, and system’s integrators the ability to continuously supervise in real-time their emergency first responder, in-building network’s performance.

"Our smart coupler technology demonstrated real-time monitoring of a passive coaxial system in our lab experiments," said Dino Giordano, VP of Product for Microlab. "Service antenna failures were detected through multiple nodes and alarms were relayed within the coaxial network then collected at the head-end gateway. The alarms were reported both remotely via Ethernet interface and locally on the gateway. System failures captured in our experiments would often go undetected in a real-world deployment without the monitoring the smart coupler technology provides."

Unlike commercial wireless cellular systems, conventional two-way, push-to-talk, public safety radio systems do not have constant network traffic, as these critical communication systems are only used during an emergency event.  Radio coverage of public safety systems are typically certified only at the time of a building’s initial testing and then only undergo periodic grid testing, as required by International Fire Code (IFC) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) building codes.  But connectivity issues may not be found until the next yearly test or, at worst, during an emergency. A network which includes smart coupler technology will give building owners and first responders confidence that the communications systems are continuously operational.

The smart coupler replaces the required tappers and couplers that are typical in DAS networks with all power, diagnostics, and control signaling sent from and received to each coupler from a single rack unit, headend gateway, over the RF coaxial transmission lines.  The gateway node provides local and remote TCP/IP based alarming connectivity to a convenient GUI dashboard with e-mail, SMS, and SNMP protocols. These units together enable continuous monitoring of an entire passive DAS system giving system integrators and operators visibility deep into a building from the head-end’s RF source.  Systems integrators can provide a value-added service through their network operations center (NOC) providing faster restoration in the event of an outage.  It will also reduce troubleshooting time, as faults can be pinpointed to specific locations in the passive network.

Microlab plans to introduce products with smart coupler technology in 2019 to its broad portfolio of RF components for in-building public safety wireless networks.