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NAIFA Massachusetts Holds Day on the Hill
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Consumer Groups Urge Support of MA Licensure for Certified Professional Midwives
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Oracle and Intel Participate at State House Forum to Urge Computer Science Classes in MA Public Schools
Suffolk Group Client EMD Serono to Add Jobs in Mass
Suffolk Group Associate Krina Patel Elected to Women s Bar Association Board of Directors
Centene Corp Partners With Suffolk Group Client MHM Services To Serve MA State Correctional System
MSPCA Looking to Clarify Animal Cruelty Law
March of Dimes Files Folic Acid Awareness Bill
Association of Developmental Disability Providers Host Legislative Luncheon at State House
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Lt Gov Visits Harris Corp and Juniper Networks
ASM Selects Suffolk Group for Massachusetts Representation
March of Dimes and Rep Haddad host New Legislator Briefing on Infant Health
BBJ Profiles Gary Blumenthal President and CEO of Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers ADDP
Gov Patrick Signs Comprehensive Long Term Care Standards Bill
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Senator Clark Editorial on Passage of Premature Infant Legislation
Gov Patrick Proclaims September Life Insurance Awareness Month
MSPCA Joins Gov Patrick for Signing of Landmark Animal Welfare Legislation
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Suffolk Group Partner Bill Cass to Speak at Boston Bar Association Event on Healthcare Payment Reform Legislation
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SJC Decision Deepens Foreclosure Morass
Gov Patrick Signs Casino Bill Into Law
Gov Signs Proclamation Designating Sep as Life Insurance Awareness Month
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Mass March of Dimes Director Takes Mission Personally
Insurance Agents Gain Support on Beacon Hill
Globe EMD Serono Marks Opening of Billerica Facility
Globe Gov Signs MSPCA Bill Allowing Pet Trusts in Mass
SH News March of Dimes Rep Haddad Host New Legislator Reception at Statehouse
Herald Gov Signs Antifreeze Bill at Suffolk Group Client MSPCA s facility
National Flea Market Association NFMA Announcement that The Suffolk Group Rasky Baerlein to Lead NFMA Federal Public Affairs
Gov PR Gov Signs Safe Driving Legislation
Gov Signs Assault Battery on Correction Officers Bill SB Into Law
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Lowell Wireless Company Harris Corp Looks to be a Market Changer
U S Sen Scott Brown Visits Suffolk Group client Zoll Medical Corp

Lowell Wireless Company Harris Corp Looks to be a Market Changer


Lowell Wireless Company, Harris Corp., Looks to be a Market-Changer

A New Response to Emergency Workers’ Needs

John Vaughan, an MIT-trained scientist, had an epiphany one day on his way to the Massachusetts State House.

“I came up from the Park Street Station and there’s a FedEx truck parked right next to a State Police car,’’ he recalled. “The FedEx truck has one antenna, the State Police car has many.’’

The contrasting images, he thought, explained why police, fire, and other first responders perennially struggle to communicate with one another. “You buy one radio for every system you need to talk to,’’ he noted, as the squad car bristling with antennas demonstrated. “The guy picking up the envelopes in the State Police headquarters had better technology than the police.’’

The little-known company where Vaughan was a vice president, Lowell-based Tyco Wireless Communications, is now at the center of a nationwide effort to connect public safety agencies that use different radio frequencies, as it has done for Pennsylvania and other states. Vaughan stayed on when Florida-based defense giant Harris Corp. purchased the company last summer for nearly $700 million, betting that it could help break the near-monopoly in public safety communications now held by Motorola, which is seeking to solve the same challenges in a market that is widely expected to expand in the coming years.

To that end, Harris, a $5 billion-a-year company that employs 15,000 people in 150 countries, plans to invest significant new money in the Lowell-based operation. One sign that the acquisition of Tyco is already paying off came earlier this month when a radio system designed in Lowell became the first to comply with a new standard set by the US Department of Homeland Security for performance and interoperability.

Dana Mehnert, president of Harris’s RF Communications Division, which now oversees the Lowell facility, said he believes that connecting some of the company’s products, including a family of so-called multiband radios known as Unity, will allow “disparate systems to talk to each other and [provide] an unparalleled level of interoperability.’’ He also said that the location of the Lowell company near Boston gives Harris “access to some of the best technological minds in the country.’’

“We think there is a lot of room for us to grow,’’ Mehnert said predicting Harris’s market share could double in the next three to four years with the addition of the Lowell-based unit.

But the Lowell division of Harris is emerging at what many specialists believe is a crossroads.

Despite billions of dollars in new investments in homeland security, many public safety agencies still can’t talk to one another because many jurisdictions that are comfortable with their current communications systems have resisted buying expensive new hardware. And federal officials say that they are realizing that the best approach going forward may be to connect existing systems through new computer and Internet-based technologies rather than reinvent the wheel.

“We’re over eight years out from 9/11 now - and over four years beyond Hurricane Katrina - and our country is nowhere near where it should be in terms of being prepared for the next great disaster,’’ FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps said recently in opening the first meeting of a new council at the Federal Communications Commission dedicated to interoperability.

The Lowell company, which employs about 200 people in Massachusetts and about 900 at a factory in Lynchburg, Va., has been in the radio business for nearly 80 years, originating as part of General Electric. Over the years, through a series of owners, it has carved out a place as the second leading provider of communications to public safety agencies nationwide. Still, the company remains far behind Motorola, which by some estimates controls about 85 percent of the market.

Now, with Harris behind the company, the industry is watching to see if it will become a formidable competitor to Motorola. In fact, a leading industry magazine, Urgent Communications, recently said that one of the “key questions’’ for 2010 is “Will Harris’s acquisition of Tyco Wireless Systems finally result in a worthy adversary for Motorola?’’

“What Tyco was missing were the resources to challenge Motorola on a number of different fronts,’’ said Andrew Seybold, an industry consultant in California who advises the company.

Even before it was purchased by Harris, the Lowell firm was making noticeable progress in helping public safety agencies solve these interoperability problems, including in Pennsylvania. Thanks in large part to technology provided by the Lowell division, Pennsylvania now has nearly 20,000 radios connected into a single network, including radios at over 100 hospitals, according to Charlie Brennan, Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary for public safety in Harrisburg.

A key element is that Harris’s radio technologies are heavily reliant on Internet-based computer protocols, or IP, to connect systems that otherwise could not share voice or data. For instance, the system that Lowell designers installed in Corporal Mark Leister’s government-issue Ford Expedition, a so-called mobile office that is now standard issue for the Pennsylvania State Police, replete with Internet capability, a fax machine, and secure communications, links to a variety of agencies and government databases.

“In the old days, if you wanted to run something like a driver’s license or a criminal record, you had to call it in on the radio,’’ the state trooper explained one recent morning as he leaned over a small dashboard console. “Now, I can do it all from the vehicle.’’

The premium for these kinds of systems is only expected to grow, as the FCC plans to auction additional radio spectrum for public safety agencies to use broadband technologies to computerize their voice and data communications.

“IP-based communications is one of the most significant drivers of wireless broadband for public safety communications, as it solves one of the fundamental challenges faced in this segment - interoperability,’’ according to a recent analysis by Anirudh S. Srinivasan, a researcher at Frost and Sullivan. “Besides its ability to connect disparate radio systems and frequency bands, the IP platform also enables future technologies to be incorporated as and when required, without getting stuck with a single vendor or protocol.’’

For the Lowell firm, that likely means “it will be a stronger force in the market,’’ said Harlin R. McCewen, a retired deputy assistant director of the FBI and former police chief who is now with the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Bryan Bender can be reached at