Broadband and Next Generation 9-1-1 were two exciting new(ish) technologies discussed repeatedly at Day 1 of the APCO Emerging Technologies Forum, 2014 May 20th in Toronto. A number of presenters and panels shared their knowledge. Here are my top 3 takeaways (from the morning sessions):
1. Chris Essid, Deputy Director with the Office of Emergency Communications reminded us that Public Safety still needs LMR (Land Mobile Radio) for mission critical voice communications. I sense a growing complacency and an assumption that commercial wireless communication systems could meet the needs of public safety – with the implied question “Why spend all that money for a private LMR system just for public safety”. Essid used as a example the failure of the congested/overwhelmed cellular system in Boston at the time of the Boston Marathon Bombings. Meanwhile the public safety system worked just fine and allowed first responders to do their jobs. Sometime in the future a commercial (or hybrid) broadband network may be able to meet the needs of public safety for voice communications but for the foreseeable future LMR will remain essential.
2. Ken Douros, Director of User Experience with Motorola got my mind spinning with talk of the possibility of providing real time tactical support to first responders by gathering, organizing and disseminating additional information during the typical three and a half minutes between when a call is dispatched and the responder arrives on scene. He also noted that there is A LOT of information – government agencies currently have 1.6 Peta bytes of information and this will double over the next three years!
3. Barry Luke with NPSTC(National Public Safety Telecommunications Council) gave a good overview of the work of this federation of organizations but particularly thought-provoking was his speculation on a couple of positive applications for drones (UAVs – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). What if a drone could be used to quickly (quicker than an ambulance) deliver an epi-pen to someone suffering a severe allergic reaction? What if a drone could be dispatched to the scene of an injured person to relay back live pictures that could be used to provide assessment of the injured party’s condition and subsequent first aid advice?
Yes, the technologies that are here today will soon make their way into the public safety environment and for better (or worse) things will change – and public safety will have to adapt.