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Uncrossing the Wireless: The U.S. Navy has developed new communications hardware compatible with any wireless system.

Managing communications during the chaos of war or emergency is tough enough without having to juggle a jumble of preset radio frequencies. Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory have developed the first piece of communications hardware-called the Joint Combat Information Terminal-whose software programmability lets it interact with wireless systems past, present or future.

The unit simultaneously receives and transmits voice, data and video signals through eight channels that cover the spectrum from two to 512 megahertz. Received signals are converted to digital data that can then be retransmitted on any other frequency. Chris Herndon, who heads tactical-technology development at the lab, says civilian applications could be seen within two years for jobs such as emergency dispatching and crisis management.

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