This study focused on the design and formative usability evaluation of a public safety cognitive radio (PSCR) prototype that used an Android platform interface.
Complex integration is required for various first responders (fire, police, medical, military) who use organizational protocols that differ. Technical communication systems are the foundation of effective emergency management and should be designed for usability and interoperability. A potential technology solution to these challenges is public safety cognitive radio (PSCR). PSCR is software-defined radio based on artificial intelligence. The radio senses, learns, and adapts to the environment and supports interoperability across frequencies, waveforms, and organizational units. Such an advanced technology with few precursor technologies requires a rigorous user-centered design approach. First responders performed 16 benchmark tasks in three modes: Scan, Talk, and Gateway; engaged in a concurrent think aloud and completed a questionnaire regarding overall usability. Thirty-four critical incidents were identified from video and verbal protocol analysis. Button layouts, display sequences, and terms and labels received relatively low usability ratings. Five of the 16 benchmark tasks did not meet the performance criterion (80%). Overall, participants reported the phone platform and user interface as highly acceptable. Suggestions for the PSCR interface design are discussed. (Published abstract provided)