Enhancing Radio Systems at Georgia Aquarium
Located in downtown Atlanta, the aquarium’s campus contains more than ten million gallons of water. It’s home to thousands of animals, including bottle-nose dolphins, beluga whales, and the only manta rays and whale sharks in captivity in North America. The entertainment and educational value this organization brings to the public is only a part of what they do to make an impact on our world. The main mission of the Georgia Aquarium is to research and study marine animals, whether in their care or in the wild.
For these efforts, the aquarium has formed many partnerships across the U.S. and abroad to aid in animal research and rehabilitation efforts, such as with SANCCOB (South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds), where the Georgia Aquarium began its work with the fan favorite, African penguin.
They have also worked with 18 universities and academic organizations that assist with research efforts in the Yucatan Peninsula and at the Georgia Aquarium’s Conservation Field Station in Florida. The aquarium also partners with the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), where their researchers continue to extensively study the beluga whales in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
With such a widespread reach and the vastly different tasks performed across the organization, reliable communication has always been the key to safe and efficient operations at the Aquarium. However, their 12-year-old analog radio system wasn’t able to keep up with their fast growth and increasing demands.
The best solution for Georgia Aquarium’s two-way radio communication problems was to upgrade its system from analog to digital technologies with Motorola MOTOTRBO™ Capacity Plus system technology.
This system would provide the coverage and clarity improvements needed while giving them options for emergency alerting, radio management, site linking, and over-the-air programmable updates, guest services, and marine biological research.
Challenge | Improving Coverage, Clarity, and Capacity
The Georgia Aquarium had some major obstacles and needed to accommodate their growth and goals. They needed improved two-way radio coverage and clarity in a large 550,000 square foot building that contains uncommonly thick concrete walls, miles of piping, dozens of water pumps and millions of gallons of water. All of these are necessary for a facility of their size and purpose but are also some of the largest obstacles that a two-way radio system can face.
Some other goals for the upgrade included:
- Update the radio system to handle future growth by expanding the coverage area and increasing system capacity for additional staff.
- Utilize ruggedized devices and waterproof equipment to support their work within salt-water environments.
- Keep and use existing antenna infrastructure from the original analog system with the new equipment.
- Keep costs manageable with financing options in order to implement improvements within the desired time frame.
Solution | MOTOTRBO™ Capacity Plus Trunking System and Ally Software
Our expert MCA team determined the ideal solution for the Georgia Aquarium would be a Motorola MOTOTRBO™ Capacity Plus Trunking system. The solution we engineered featured three Motorola SLR 8000 Repeaters, 350 Motorola XPR 7550e Portable Radios, and a uni ed incident management system. Their new system allowed for emergency alerts, all-call, radio management, Wi-Fi updates, and more. The new system provided an extra talk group, and MCA was able to restructure their existing talk groups to improve radio communication among staff members. This made it quicker and easier for them to move between groups and reach specific personnel as needed. MCA renewed and updated their FCC License before the new system was implemented.
Previously, they were using three separate programs for maintaining incident reports, operational data entry, and logging lost and found items. They needed an all-in-one technology solution that would allow them to consolidate into a single application.
Ally software was the perfect fit because it enabled them to utilize one program to house all of their operational information in one database. Switching to Ally was not only cost effective, but it allowed their security department to function more efficiently and increase overall productivity. The incident reporting and dispatch CAD have been extremely helpful on a day-to-day basis in tracking all activities in and around the building.
After receiving the portables and repeaters, MCA’s Tucker, GA location programmed and staged the system for a quick installation. They were able to utilize the original antenna infrastructure at the aquarium, as requested, and installed and launched the new radio system, overnight. The MCA team took down the Georgia Aquarium’s old radio system one evening after closing and had their brand new MOTOTRBO™ system up and running by the time the aquarium opened the next morning, preventing any downtime.
Results | Improved Clarity and Coverage
The MOTOTRBO™ Capacity Plus system has not only met, but exceeded, all expectations of the GA staff. All major clarity and coverage issues have been completely resolved. There are no longer dead spots, dropped calls or static interruptions. These upgrades were extremely important, as the aquarium is always looking to expand its facilities & operations. With the new radio system in place, they will not have to plan that aspect of any project. The MOTOTRBO™ system already reaches well past the original coverage area and has ample capacity to add the new users that will be brought on once the expansion is opened and operational.
A New Feature Set for Enhanced Safety & Security
The GA is very excited about the additional features and benefits of MOTOTRBO™ technology. They have already set up Emergency Alerting in their talk-group structures with All-Call features to broadcast urgent messages to all users, enabling emergency transmissions to go out instantly and without interruption. Their new systems Wi-Fi capabilities will reduce their downtime immensely when radio updates are required, via its’ Over-the-Air programming feature.
An Improved Infrastructure for Improved Communication
With newly structured talk groups, MCA was able to split the major users between Zoo and Standard Operations. This has made radio communications much easier and smoother among all staff members, letting them reach needed personnel faster to improve visitor, staff, and animal safety.
Looking Forward | A Future-Ready System
GA staff are very excited about the additional technologies and applications their updated systems can support. Their solution comes with multiple benefits that could further enhance safety and help manage future growth.
Indoor GPS tracking could help monitor staff members that are interacting with larger, more aggressive animals or assist with dispatching staff members to handle guest service requests, animal care issues, or maintenance problems.
Radio Management is a feature that can be enabled to help track all 350 portables and monitor radios and repeaters at all times. This feature delivers regular reports on radio status, battery life and programming updates, helping their team to keep the new MOTOTRBO™ radio system operating at peak performance.
Site-linking is another feature their staff will benefit from in the future. With an ever-expanding research department and new partnerships forming regularly, the GA is moving toward having multiple facilities that will expand their global footprint. Their new Capacity Plus system can handle linking between locations. Because of this, they can connect their primary offices with the Atlanta aquarium, with the Conservation Field Station in Marineland, Florida, and any future planned facilities using their instant push-to-talk voice communications enabled by the Motorola two-way radio system.
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For over 30 years, MCA has provided expertly tailored communications solutions to organizations of all sizes needing two-way radios, job-site connectivity, and wireless signal enhancement systems. Our team offers top-tier support for every aspect of your business and mission-critical communications projects from start to finish. Our engineers assess your needs, design custom solutions, and install systems that fit your organization’s exact requirements.