F
IRST LOOK
New Product Reviews
The Revolution Has Begun:
The Uniden HomePatrol-1TM
By Larry Van Horn, N5FPW, MT Review Editor
"W
e left a lot
of people behind in today's
scanner market and we know
it," said Paul Opitz, Uniden
America's Product Manager,
during a recent interview with Monitoring
Times magazine.
Opitz was referring to all the people
who would like to own and listen to scanners, but who have been locked out due
to the complexity of the current crop of
scanning radios. “These are people who
hear the sirens going off in their neighborhood
and they want to find out right now what is happening,” Opitz said. The convoluted procedures
required for modern scanner operation are a
direct cause of diminishing scanner sales over
the past several years.
For Uniden, while the lower scanner sales
figures were easy to compile, fixing the problem was not so easy. As Bill Dorr, a Senior Vice
President at Uniden America, recently said,
“Simplicity is hard to achieve.”
“That is why we have taken a hard look
at how we could get them [the hobbyists left
behind] back, and our answer was the HomePatrol-1,” Opitz said.
❖ Why are scanners so
complex to program?
Many years ago, with the advent of
trunking radio systems, P25 digital voice, and
other technological advances, communications
crossed a technological threshold beyond which
many scanner hobbyists never dared venture,
not even to continue listening to their local
public safety agencies. Gone from the vocabulary of the radio hobbyist were terms such as
channels, banks, and “enter” key; nor could
they just punch in a frequency, hit the ENTER button and listen to local public safety communications.
Because the communications had gone
high tech, the radio monitoring hobby unfortunately had to go high tech as well. In order
to stay in the game, we’ve had to wrestle with
programming concepts such as GRE’s Object
Oriented programming and Uniden’s Dynamic
Memory Allocation (DMA) scanners. We’ve
had to learn about Motorola, EDACS and LTR
trunk radio systems (3600 baud/9600 baud/
ESK, etc.), P25 digital modulation, talk groups,
NAC/DCS and PL tones, and all sorts of things
that confuse and discourage many radio hobby-
66
MONITORING TIMES
October 2010
ner communications (conventional and
trunked, analog and digital). No other
operator interface is needed and it is
truly just that simple.
If you don’t know the ZIP code of the
location you want to monitor, you can
also punch in the city and state on the
touch screen. In addition to these two
methods, there are currently two more
ways to program the HomePatrol-1:
more on that below.
ists.
But, the most common complaint that
radio hobbyists voice about modern scanner
technology is that “They are ‘way too complicated to program and operate for the average
Joe,” and, “You darn near need a college degree
just to hear the local dog catcher!”
This dilemma has been borne out in MT as
well. I know many readers have lamented the
difficulty of operating scanner equipment and
have felt left behind in the wake. In review after
review of scanners in MT, we have documented
that setting them up and operating these radios
isn’t easy. We always recommend that you spent
a lot of time with the owner’s manual, and that
you practice programming the examples from
the manuals to become familiar with using these
technological marvels.
❖ So why is the
HomePatrol-1 a
revolution?
What is so revolutionary about this new
scanner? To take a page from Bill Dorr’s play
book, Uniden has finally achieved simplicity in
programming with this scanner. There has never
been a scanner like it before. Saying that it will
be easy to program by the user is actually an
understatement.
While there are several ways you can program a HomePatrol-1, the easiest way is by just
punching in five numbers and pressing Enter on
the touch screen (well, actually the ACCEPT
button). That ought to make a few of you old
timers a little more comfortable already.
At its most basic level, the only thing you
will need to know to program a HomePatrol
scanner is – the ZIP code where you are currently located! Yes, punch in your five digit ZIP
code on the LCD touch screen, press ACCEPT,
and the scanner loads your local frequencies
from a database stored within the unit. After
that is done, you should hear your local scan-
❖ Where do the
frequencies come
from?
The engine that drives this little scanning
marvel is the RadioReference.com website.
Unless you have been living on another planet
for the last few years, most scanner enthusiasts with Internet access are familiar with
RadioReference. They are the world’s largest
radio communications data provider, featuring
a complete frequency database, trunked radio
system information, and FCC license data.
A couple of years ago, the administrators
at RadioReference embarked on a project to
assign specific location information (known
as a geotag) to all radio systems/frequencies in
their online database. A geotag consists of latitude, longitude, and range. This tag describes
a circle centered at the latitude/longitude that
fully encompasses the political entity (i.e. city,
town, state, etc.) served by that radio system.
Each of these circles in the RadioRef database
also includes all the radio system information
(frequencies, descriptions, tags indicating how
each channel is used, etc).
By punching in your ZIP code HomePatrol‑1 sets your location somewhere within 10
miles of the center of that ZIP code. While that
is not very precise, it will be good enough to
catch local communications. HomePatrol‑1 will
then select channels from its online database
stored on a 2 GB micro SD card for all of the
radio systems that overlap your approximate
location.
But, using the ZIP code is not the only
method of getting information loaded into
HomePatrol-1. Each method for selecting your
location uses a different sized circle. In addition
to the 10‑mile Zip Code radius, HomePatrol‑1
is able to use the following circle sizes:
• 20‑miles radius from the center of a city when
using city selection.
• 30‑miles radius from the location of the dis-
covered radio tower when using Auto Locate.
• Zero mile radius if you connect a GPS or
manually enter your latitude or longitude.
Right now you are probably scratching
your head: zero miles? Yes, that means that
the scanner knows your precise location. So,
in order for a radio system to be selected, that
system would have to provide coverage/service
to the precise location you have entered into the
scanner.
For instance, if you are traveling and you
use a GPS to feed precise location information
into the unit, HomePatrol‑1 will automatically
select and deselect systems as you drive through
each system’s coverage zone. There’s nothing
extra to scan, program in advance, or deselect
as you travel down the highway.
If you want to hear more (or less) than what
the HomePatrol‑1 selected, you can manually
change the range setting to be bigger (to include
more systems) or smaller (to include fewer
systems). This is done from the main screen
by tapping RANGE and adjusting the range up
or down. Just keep in mind that if you are not
using GPS, the range will be from the center of
the ZIP code or city you have entered, or your
closest radio tower location, not your precise
location.
Because there are so many different kinds
of communications going on, you can turn on
specific types of agencies you want to hear and
turn off those you don’t. Maybe you don’t want
to monitor civilian or military air communications, just police, fire and EMS. No problem:
touch the screen to set up what you want to hear
and it is done. Table One has a list of the various
service types that can be selected or deselected
using this unit.
In a nutshell, there are no banks, no systems, no groups, no programming of frequencies to fiddle with; your location is all you need
to get you started.
❖ It’s what’s
under the hood
that counts.
HomePatrol-1 operation
centers around its touch “main
screen.” From this screen you
can select and manage the
transmissions you listen to, as
well as set the framework for
how HomePatrol-1 operates
(volume, backlighting, squelch
levels, etc.).
There are four databases that are stored within the
HomePatrol-1 unit and each
can be updated by the user at
no cost.
• Radio System Database –
provided by www.radioreference.com. This database
contains radio system information including frequencies,
trunked talk groups, and
geographic locations for radio
systems across most of North
America. This database is
stored on the card inside the
unit and is updated regularly
via a computer connected to
the Internet.
• ZIP code Geographic Database – provides geographic
coordinates for every ZIP code
in the U.S. and every postal
code in Canada.
• RadioReference SysID Database – contains system ID and
geographic location information for trunked radio systems
across North America, used
with the Auto Locate feature.
• City Location Database – includes the center point of most
named cities and counties.
Some of the other tools in
HomePatrol‑1’s feature set
include:
TABLE ONE: HOMEPATROL-1 SERVICES TYPES
Note: Not all service types are available in all areas and this list
may change from time to time by Uniden and RadioReference.
Service Type
· Aircraft:
Description
For civilian aircraft and air traffic control operations most typically in the 118‑136 MHZ and
225‑380 MHZ bands in AM mode.
· Business:
Most business related entities not covered by other
tags.
· Corrections: Jail/prison operations and other corrections activities, including federal prisons.
· Emergency Ops: Emergency Operation Centers and similar
emergency management or disaster related
operations.
· EMS Dispatch: Ambulance dispatch, including rescue squads.
· EMS‑Tac:
Ambulance on‑scene communications, tactical
operations and secondary channels.
· EMS‑Talk:
Ambulance talk‑around, car‑to‑car and supervisor
operations.
· Federal:
All federal government operations (except corrections, traditional law enforcement patrol and
fire/EMS operations).
· Fire Dispatch: Fire dispatch, including combined fire/ambulance
dispatch.
· Fire‑Tac:
Fire ground, tactical and on‑scene communications, including combined fire/ambulance operations.
· Fire‑Talk:
Fire talk‑around and car‑to‑car operations, chiefs,
supervisors, etc., including combined fire/ambulance operations.
· Ham:
Any amateur radio assignment.
· Hospital:
Ambulance‑to‑Hospital communications and
patient reports.
· Interop:
Interoperability communications, cross‑agency
communications, mutual aid, etc.
· Law Dispatch Law enforcement dispatch.
· Law‑Tac:
Law enforcement tactical, SWAT, on‑scene, surveillance and specific sub‑agency communications.
· Law Talk:
Law enforcement talk‑around, car‑to‑car and
supervisor operations.
· Media:
Newspapers, television and broadcast radio
operations.
· Military:
Military operations, e.g., range control, air‑to‑air
combat, etc.
· Multi‑Dispatch: Combined law enforcement and fire/ambulance
dispatch.
· Multi‑Tac:
Combined law enforcement and fire/ambulance
tactical and on‑scene communications.
· Multi‑Talk:
Combined law enforcement and fire/ambulance
tactical talk‑around and car‑to‑car operations.
· Public Works: Public agency non‑public safety communications.
This includes any non‑public safety government
services, such as trash, streets, roads, sewer, zoos,
administration, maintenance, animal control,
community initiatives, code compliance, etc.
· Railroad:
All common carrier railroad communications.
· Security:
Non‑law enforcement security operations, including private security companies, noncommissioned
government agency security, school security, etc.
· Schools:
School‑related communications (schools, school
buses, football games, etc.).
· Transportation: Public and private bus, taxi, and public passenger
rail communications.
· Utilities:
Private electric, water, natural gas, phone, cable
TV, etc. operations.
• Radio systems: APCO 25
Digital Trunked and Conventional, Motorola Analog
and Mixed Digital, EDACS
Narrow and Wide, LTR, and
conventional frequencies.
• 2 GB micro SD for storing
favorites lists and recording
transmissions. It is factory
programmed for all known
radio systems in the United
States and Canada.
•
Auto-locate that can
quickly find local systems
even if you don’t know where you are.
•
USB connection to PC for database
and firmware updates through HomePatrol‑1
Sentinel software.
•
Weather Alert Standby (SAME).
•
Optional car mounting kit.
As you listen to HomePatrol, you’ll find
that there are certain channels you want to
listen to more frequently. You can create a
specialized list and save these channels to
it. For example, you can create a list entirely
of police department dispatchers, emergency
operations, or a specific city’s transmissions. If
there is a special event coming up, like an air
show or car race, you could create a list just for
that event.
As you find transmissions you like and
would like to monitor again, you can save them
to a favorites list. When you opt to listen to a
favorites list, HomePatrol‑1 will monitor only
the transmissions on that list.
You can also select transmissions for
HomePatrol‑1 to avoid (ignore). This is the
October 2010
MONITORING TIMES
67
TABLE TWO: HOMEPATROL-1 SPECIFICATIONS
Display:
Standard 3.5‑inch Hi Color LCD (65K) with backlight
QVGA 320 X 240 (3.5 inch)
Touch Panel:
LCD with Touch Panel
Controls/Switches: Power On/Off, Volume Control, Reset Switch
External Jacks/Slots: ANT. Jack ‑ SMA Type
Phone Jack ‑ 3.5 mm (Stereo Type) ‑ 32 ohm (Stereo
headphone) ‑ 64 ohm (Earphone)
Line Out Jack ‑ 2.5 mm (Stereo Type) ‑ 600 ohm for
Audio Output
DC Power Jack ‑ EIAJ Type‑3 (Center Positive)
GPS Interface Jack ‑ 4‑pin Mini Type (RS232C)
USB Jack ‑ 5‑pin Mini USB Type
Memory card Slot ‑ MicroSD Type
Internal Speaker:
8 ohm. 2.0 W Max
Power Requirements: 4 x AA size Rechargeable NiMH Batteries (2300mAh)
(included)
4 x AA size Alkaline Batteries (not included) or
AC Adapter (AC 120V 60Hz 9V 800mA Regulated)
(included)
DC Adapter (DC 12V to DC 9V 800mA Regulated)
(included)
Operating Temperature: +14° F (‑10° C) ~ +140° F (+ 60° C)
Storage Temperature:‑22° F (‑ 30° C) ~ +140° F (+ 60° C)
Size (mm):
3.3 in (84.5) H x 5.9 in (149) W x 1.5 in (38.4) D
(Without antenna)
Weight: 15.9 ounces with battery and antenna, 10.8 ounces
without
Accessories:
AC Adapter (9V 800mA DC Out)
DC Adapter (9V 800mA DC Out – Cigarette Lighter
type)
AA size NiMH Rechargeable Battery (2300mAh x 4)
Rubber antenna (SMA type)
USB cable (USB A to USB Mini B Type)
MicroSD Card (2GB)
Desk Use Bracket (Stand Type)
Scanning Speed: 100 Channels/Second (maximum)
Trunk Tracking: Motorola Type I 800
Motorola Type II 800, 900, UHF, VHF
EDACS Wide, Narrow
LTR
APCO P25
same thing as lockout for the old timers.
HomePatrol‑1 also has a feature that acts as an instant replay of the
transmissions you’ve just heard. You can set how long a period replay
will record for instant playback, ranging from 30 seconds to 240 seconds
(four minutes). While you can replay that recording immediately and
continue replaying it, you cannot save it for future listening.
On the other hand, with HomePatrol‑1 you can tap a button and
begin recording the transmission you’re listening to. When you begin
recording, HomePatrol‑1 will add the replay recording buffer to the recording and stores the whole thing on the micro SD card inside the unit.
You can record up to 1,000 sessions, but HomePatrol‑1 stops recording
when SD card memory is down to 512MB.
❖ What’s in the box?
There is a lot of bang for the buck in this box. In addition to the
unit itself, there is an antenna, AC Adapter, DC cigarette lighter car
adapter, plastic desk stand, USB computer interface cable, a printed
quick reference guide, and four NiMH (AA) batteries.
Once the scanner is powered up and interfaced to a computer using the USB cable, the user can download a full operator’s manual (pdf
format) and install the HomePatrol Sentinel software. This software will
ensure you are using the latest software and database. HomePatrol will
appear to be an additional drive on your system.
For more information and customer support, you should also
visit Uniden’s exclusive address for everything HomePatrol at www.
homepatrol.com/.
❖ Overall rating and final thoughts
No First Look, review would be complete without some complaint
on my part, so let’s get that out of the way first.
I would like the ability to customize the main frequency list in this
scanner and not have to rely solely on RadioReference. In its current
configuration, HomePatrol-1 and its Sentinel software will not let me
68
MONITORING TIMES
October 2010
do that. My discussions with Uniden indicate that could be an option
sometime after the initial release of the unit, probably early next year.
I have really been sold on the Uniden Close Call technology over
the last few years and would like to have seen it included with this unit,
but since I own several other scanners with that feature, I can live without
it – not that we have a choice.
The biggest issue with this radio is the battery drain. In our test
we got about four to five hours of battery life, depending on how much
radio traffic was received. I’m glad to see that they did include a cigarette lighter adapter for the car and an AC adapter. The former will help
during long trips.
It is not often that I have seen a radio approach the level of perfection, but this one is certainly close. Sensitivity was excellent, and was
even better than my BC-246 and BC-396D scanners as measured on
the bench. It scans fast, is well engineered, and it is a great all around
scanner for both home and vehicle.
For years, scanner hobbyists around the world have wanted to have
their cake and eat it too. We wanted to be able to monitor complex trunk
systems, but we didn’t want to have to have to learn about them to hear
them. We just wanted something simple to use that would let us listen to
the complex world of communications that surrounds us. Unfortunately,
simple just wasn’t easy any more in the world of scanner radios.
But that has all changed. Uniden’s new HomePatrol-1 scanner
has fundamentally
MT FIRST LOOK RATING (0-10 SCALE)
changed the face of
scanning forever. Not
Audio Quality................................ 10
many things in this
Audio Levels.................................. 10
world can be called
Backlight/Display........................... 9
true game changers,
Battery Life.................................... 6
but the new HomePaEase of Use................................... 10
trol-1 is the exception
Feature Set.................................... 8
and has indeed made
Keyboard/Button/Control Layout..... 9
scanning simple again.
Overall Construction...................... 10
Overall Reception.......................... 8
The Uniden HomePaOwner’s Manual............................ 9
t ro l - 1 ( S C N 5 5 )
Sensitivity....................................... 9
i s a v a i l a b l e f ro m
Selectivity....................................... 9
Grove Enterprises
(1-800-438-8155 or
http://www.groveenterprises.com) for
$499.95 plus shipping
and handling.
Overall rating: 4 and 3/4 stars
TABLE THREE: HOMEPATROL-1 FREQUENCY COVERAGE
Frequency (MHz) 25.0000-26.9600 26.9650-27.4050 27.4100-27.9950 28.0000-29.6950 29.7000-49.9950 50.0000-53.9950 108.0000-136.9950 137.0000-143.9950 144.0000-147.9950 148.0000-150.7950 150.8000-161.9950 162.0000-173.9950 174.0000-215.9950 216.0000-224.9950 225.0000-379.9950 380.0000-399.9950 400.0000-405.9950 406.0000-419.9950 420.0000-449.9950 450.0000-469.9950 470.0000-512.0000 758.0000-787.9950 788.0000-805.9950 806.0000-823.9875 849.0125-868.9875 894.0125-960.0000 Modulation Step (kHz) Remarks
AM 5.0 Petroleum Products &
Broadcast Pickup
AM 5.0 CB Class D Channel
AM 5.0 Business & Forest Products
NFM 20.0 10 Meter Amateur Band
NFM 10.0 VHF Low Band
NFM 20.0 6 Meter Amateur Band
AM 8.33 Aircraft Band
NFM 12.5 Military Land Mobile
NFM 5.0 2
Meter Amateur Band
NFM 12.5 Military Land Mobile
NFM 5.0 VHF High Band
NFM 12.5 Federal Government
FM 5.0 TV Broadcast 7 – 13
NFM 20.0 1.25 Meter Amateur Band
AM 25.0 UHF Aircraft Band
NFM 12.5 Military Band
NFM 12.5 Miscellaneous
NFM 12.5 Federal Government Land
Mobile
NFM 12.5 70 cm Amateur Band
NFM 12.5 UHF Standard Band
NFM 12.5 UHF TV
NFM 6.25 Public Service Band
NFM 6.25 Public Service Band
NFM 12.5 Public Service Band
NFM 12.5 Public Service Band
NFM 12.5 Public Service Band