Public safety communications are an essential part of any country or state’s critical infrastructure and require robust, flexible and reliable networks and technologies to ensure they are as effective as is possible. Recent disaster and emergency situations around the world have shown the extent to which our emergency service and public safety personnel rely upon operational equipment and technology to protect and save lives.
The innovations in areas such as data analytics, automation, and AI that have taken place over the past decade or so have allowed the public safety communications sector to begin to adopt some of these cutting-edge technologies in order to enhance and improve the services they provide. There is also growing investment in advanced communications infrastructure for public safety such as dedicated LTE broadband networks (e.g. FirstNet) to allow for more extensive, reliable and comprehensive data sharing and analytics to benefit agencies, first responders staff and of course the citizens.
In this article, we’ll be looking at five recent technology trends within the public safety communications sector that have the potential to shift the landscape as they become increasingly widespread in their adoption.
So, let’s jump straight in.
1) Data & Analytics
As technologies have evolved over the past few years their capabilities have grown incredibly quickly, and we are now at a point where the data they produce goes vastly beyond our ability to deal with it ourselves. However, by using analytics to understand and interpret the massive amount of data produced we can begin to gather insights from it.
Making sense of this data can provide valuable information to public safety workers responding to incidents and also allow for this information to be communicated to them as and when they need it.
By building a more informed picture of the scene they are attending, personnel are much more prepared for what awaits them when they arrive.
Using dedicated LTE channels or 5G infrastructure, for example, first responders could receive situational updates and analytics in various multi-media formats, regarding an incident they are attending in real-time across dedicated public safety networks.
The future looks to be overflowing with data, so making sense of it all will be essential to public safety communications and many other, if not all sectors.
2) Hackathons & Ride Alongs
As companies and service providers have become more empowered by technology, we’re seeing a number of different ways in which they look to meet their customers and improve the service they provide.
One growing example of this is the rise of events such as hackathons or instances in which R&D officers will go on ride alongs with the emergency services to try and gauge where they could look to improve existing or create new services for them.
During these ride alongs, R&D personnel for service providers will go out with emergency service crews, for example, to try to understand how they utilize and interact with their products and technologies.
They then take this data back to see how they could improve or expand their services.
Similarly, hackathons gather technological creatives such as graphic and interface designers, software developers, and other related project managers and programmers together in the same place for sprint-like events in which they collaborate with each other in order to develop their ideas into new products and technologies.
3) Automation & AI
Both automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are technological areas that have really started to get people excited over the past few years and both are even now having a positive effect on nearly every industry the come into contact with.
The potential they both have to transform the way we live and work really cannot be understated and this would certainly include enhancing and improving various technological aspects within the public safety and communications sector.
By combining both automation and AI, service providers are continuously finding new ways to upgrade their services as well as enable their networks to become more autonomous and intelligent.
For the public safety communications sector, this could mean more reliable, secure network connections as well as faster data processing and real-time communications.
By adopting intelligent and autonomous systems for the public safety communications sector, service providers can utilize these two cutting edge technologies to ensure that existing services are improved and newer applications for AI and automation within this sector are developed.
4) Cyber Security
One of the biggest challenges to any online or networked operation in every industry is that of cyber security. The threats we face in this day and age are as complex as they are numerous and, unfortunately for us, they are growing ever more powerful and intelligent.
In order to combat both cyber-security threats and cybercrime, service providers will need to look to some of the technologies mentioned in the previous section to help make the most of the security resources available to them.
Autonomous alert and notification systems being fed data from AI-powered behavioral prediction software could help to keep public safety communications network secure from external threats.
The Internet of Things and 5G wireless communications networks will no doubt have an effect on how cyber security operations are implemented within the public safety communications sector and the potential for another wave of IoT devices carries with it the need for enhanced security measures.
One of the biggest themes with the vast majority of these new technologies is that of connectivity. Whether it be connected devices to networks, or to each other, or connecting us to each other, connectivity appears to be at the heart of most technological innovation of recent times.
One trend that demonstrates this particularly well is that crowdsourcing, the process of reaching out the public in order to meet certain goals, whether they be financial, admin etc. When it comes to public safety, who better to involve than the public? Various different service providers are now utilizing technologies that enable them to crowdsource data and information using tech such as smartphone apps.
When a crime has taken place, witnesses can be a key tool for police to investigate and bring about justice. However, there are certain environments, social and otherwise, that could prevent witnesses from wanting to come forward. Using anonymization and encryption software, police are now able to provide portals for citizens to use in order to come forward and give information anonymously, without fear of identification or repercussion.