Firefighters talked and Motorola aimed to listen. Unveiling its first radio designed for firefighters at Fire-Rescue International, the communications company outlined how members of the fire service were closely involved in the design.
The APX 7000XE works to address the key issues faced in extreme situations of loud fireground conditions, large fire gloves that may restrict use of radio controls and distractions stemming from limited screen visibility.
"We considered firefighters to be an extension of our design team," said Bruce Claxton, senior director of design integration at Motorola. "They were involved in the process from start to finish.
One of the first visually noticeable things about the APX 7000XE is its distinctive large knobs, created to make changing channels and adjusting volume as simple as possible with gloves on. In addition the large top display has been designed with ease of viewing in mind.
Among the features of the newest addition to the APX P25 mission critical two-way radio series are a T-grip design that aims to provide a wider control top with exaggerated controls and knobs that can be easily differentiated by touch alone, as well as distinct channel knob "clicks" and a volume knob that has a "high resistance feel" to assure users they are using the correct knob.
In addition, Claxton said the APX 7000XE has the largest and most accessible emergency button on the market, which is located at the base of the antenna.
Following its appearance at FRI in Chicago, Claxton said work began on the radio with Motorola sending design and engineering teams to the Illinois Fire Service Institute and at a fire academy in Malaysia.
"We wanted to better understand what it was like in extreme conditions when using communications gear," he said. "We came back with all sorts of ideas of what we could do better."
The teams from Motorola donned turnouts and took part in training scenarios in smoke-filled rooms to see first-hand the challenges firefighters face.
"We found out how to use radios in those scenarios, so when we got back we knew what firefighters went through on a daily basis," Claxton said.
"The idea with this radio is to make life easier for the firefighter so they almost don't have to think when they use it."
A distinctive feature of the APX 7000XE, according to Claxton, is its noise suppression dual-microphone. "The sound of fire is just deafening so it's vital to have better audio," he said. "When you talk into the radio, it suppresses all the background noise, even a PASS device that is going off.
"In addition, in an extreme environment where you can't see and could be talking into the wrong side of the radio, with this radio it doesn't matter. Both sides have a noise suppression microphone, which is quite a technological feat."