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New Moto radio could help save your life one day
By Anna Marie Kukec | Daily Herald Columnist

Motorola's new APX 7000XE radio has been designed for firefighters with high-impact construction and noise-reduction plus a glove-friendly grip and oversized buttons.

 

Courtesy of Motorola Inc.

Motorola's new APX 7000XE radio has been designed specifically for firefighters by firefighters, including input from the Elgin Fire Department.

 

Courtesy of Motorola Inc.

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Published: 8/27/2010 12:01 AM

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As Schaumburg-based Motorola Inc. rolls out a two-way radio designed just for firefighters, it might not sound as sexy as its Droid line for consumers.

But it is - since it could help to save your life one day. And the Elgin Fire Department played a vital role in its new technology and features.

The new device, called APX 7000XE, will be displayed today and Saturday at Motorola's booth at the International Association of Fire Chiefs Conference at McCormick Place in Chicago. It's the first time in more than 50 years that the firefighters have gathered in Chicago. "We've already used it while fighting fires," said Lt. David Hudik, a paramedic and firefighter with Elgin and the liaison with Motorola. "Normally, we'd go into a fire and need to turn our radios up full blast. But we don't have to that with this new radio."

That's because the APX 7000XE is part of a portfolio of devices just for fire and police use. The Elgin firefighters asked for louder and better sound quality, noise reduction to provide better voice clarity, bigger buttons so they can operate it while wearing gloves, and other features.

Elgin started working with Motorola on the radio about four years ago. Motorola wanted to get firsthand experience on how the firefighters used the phone and what they needed, Hudik said.

"The biggest thing was the digital modulation," Hudik said. "Others had bad digital sound."

Also, while firefighters are in the midst of fighting a blaze, the sound of the fire can be deafening. So eliminating the background noise was vital so they can hear each other while trying to save lives.

The APX radio also has a push-to-talk feature, a two-microphone system (instead of one), along with a T-grip design deemed very "glovable." The radio is built with high-temperature polycarbonate plastic that's also high-impact resistant.

Such products are being used in such extreme circumstances that input from the firefighters was important, said Bruce Claxton, senior director of innovation and design for Motorola Solutions, based in Plantation, Fla. He led the design team for the radio.

"We went out in the field with them, riding on the trucks, and working closely with the Elgin firefighters and others," said Claxton. "We had to learn more about what happens to our cognitive abilities when under extreme stress."

While the Elgin firefighters are already using some of the new phones, Motorola said it will start shipping the new radios later this year to other departments. But they are pricey.

Depending on the needed features, some of the radios could cost between $5,000 and $7,000 with service. Hudik said he'd like to buy 130 more for his department, but given the tough economy, that likely won't happen right now.

"But Motorola has been continuing to ask us for our input," Hudik said. "We're able to say 'What if we did this?' or "Could we add something else?' There's always someone to talk to at Motorola."

• Follow Anna Marie Kukec on Facebook and LinkedIn and as AMKukec on Twitter.