Mall of America (MOA) is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. Minutes from Minneapolis and St. Paul, it is the biggest mall in the U.S. with 520 stores, 50-plus restaurants and
attractions galore, including the nation’s largest indoor theme park.
Over 40 million visitors pass through its doors each year – almost eight times the population of the entire state of Minnesota. At 96 acres, the size of seven Yankee baseball stadiums, and over 12,000 employees, the scale of MOA presents significant communication challenges. Like many operations with older analog radio systems, MOA was experiencing persistent coverage and frequency issues. Employees were interrupted by interference and loud static blasts over their analog radios. This was particularly annoying for team members who wore earpieces. Certain areas of the massive mall were punctuated by dead zones, forcing employees to walk to another location to communicate on their radios or use personal cell phones.
MOTOTRBO Digital: A Perfect Fit For Diverse Demands After investigating and testing a variety of radio systems, MOA worked with Infinity Wireless to upgrade their existing non-Motorola radios to Motorola’s MOTOTRBO digital communications. Chad Martin, a 16-year veteran of MOA Security, notes that the mall’s size and the number of visitors and events make communications operations-critical. “Motorola is a trusted name in the public safety industry and cutting edge. If we’re going to be cutting edge and grow, we need a partner who will grow with us,” he says. MOTOTRBO XPR 7550 and SL 7500 digital radios were distributed to employees in a number of departments, from security to attractions, maintenance to housekeeping. “A portion of our security and other personnel prefer the slim, lightweight SL 7550 portables. They’re great for anyone who doesn’t want to carry a bigger radio. Many of our other teams use the Motorola XPR 7550. For their daily physical demands, these rugged radios are ideal,” says Martin. “I’ve seen them dropped and they work just fine. It’s important they can take abuse.”
Key Features And Operations-Critical Capabilities
In the hustle and bustle of the nation’s largest mall, communications must be clear, continuous and always available, both for everyday efficiency and emergency response. As Martin describes, one of the greatest benefits of MOTOTRBO is the added capabilities that weren’t possible before.
“The caller ID seems like a small feature, but it really does makes a difference,” he says. “Previously when our dispatchers communicated with multiple departments with analog radios, they may not have known who was calling. Because the MOTOTRBO digital system identifies the radio user, it definitely improves our response and efficiency.” MOTOTRBO’s transmit interrupt is a critical feature MOA relies on to send out priority transmissions. If someone is talking, they can immediately break into radio traffic and convey information instantly. Group calling is of real benefit for reaching the right personnel at the right moment.
“Our security teams operate on several different channels and there are times where we want to talk to them all at once,” says Martin. “We can flip to a channel and broadcast a description or send out important information to a specific group and not do a fleetwide announcement to every radio.”
Clear, Efficient, Always Available Communications
From outdoor parking lots to indoor service corridors, MOTOTRBO digital radios are connecting personnel with real-time communications so they can collaborate more safely and efficiently. “We’ve eliminated the random static blasts and radio interference,” says Julian Powers of Infinity Wireless.
Before MOTOTRBO, interference problems made it difficult for MOA’s dispatch to know who was calling or understand the message. “We would hear something over the radio that sounded important, and if we followed up and no one responded, we had no idea who it was,” explains Martin. “Now we can look at the radio ID and know where the call emanated from – such as an exterior maintenance vehicle, security officer or housekeeper. When you are responsible for all these people, knowing who and where they are is absolutely critical.”
From an administrative standpoint, MOTOTRBO has been a major improvement whether MOA is using over-the-air battery fleet management or remotely disabling a lost radio. “I really appreciate the over-the-air programming,” says Martin. “Being able to sit at my desk, log into my computer and make changes to hundreds of radios at once is efficient versus having people bring in individual radios.”
Seamless Scalability As The Mall Expands
With plans underway for a second multi-million dollar expansion of the mall – including a water park, major hotel, and office buildings – the flexibility of the MOTOTRBO system is invaluable. Not only can applications be easily added to radios as deployment continues, but capacity can be enlarged to accommodate many more new users.
“Because our staff responsibility grows with the physical expansion of the mall, our radio system has to be expandable,” says Chad Martin. “As new structures and areas open, our radio communications must be seamless, wherever personnel are. It is very important to have a scalable system like MOTOTRBO that can grow with our needs.”