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First responders have a better way to communicate in high-stress situations–this Motorola executive is behind it.

How Motorola’s Paul Steinberg designed a better walkie-talkie for first responders.

First responders have a better way to communicate in high-stress situations–this Motorola executive is behind it.
[Illustration: Erick Davila]
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When first responders call for backup, they don’t use a smartphone, and for good reason. They need knobs they can turn using muscle memory and radio connections that work when cell towers go down. Motorola’s new APX Next, launched in October 2019 and available to public safety workers, is a hybrid of a classic, tactile walkie-talkie and a touchscreen Android device with a voice-operated virtual assistant. As SVP of technology for Motorola Solutions, Paul Steinberg began working on APX Next three years ago, shortly after he led Motorola’s prescient investment in natural language processing. To get the details right, such as the location for the button that activates voice commands, Steinberg’s team didn’t just interview first responders; they went on ride-alongs with cops and trained with incoming firefighters. “When you go into a building that’s full of smoke and can’t see the hand in front of your face, you get the idea of what [a high-stress situation] really means,” he says.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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