Next Generation Mobile Intelligence (NGMI) is Motorola Solutions’ vision for smart public safety, which is designed to help public safety agencies reach their goals of greater safety and operational efficiency. This is achieved by placing the right information into the hands of first responders using a choice of devices, the best available networks and purpose-built, public safety grade applications. NGMI is achieved through four key principles – mobility, connections, intelligence and partnerships.
In the first part of our series, we looked at mobility, the first principle.
In this article we examine “connections”, which enable public safety agencies to share real-time intelligence over the best available network at all times.
On the frontline
For the first responder or emergency worker, connections is simply about ensuring that all forms of communication work, everywhere and all the time. The primary concern for an officer on the street, fire-fighter or paramedic is accessing a reliable and fast network that works, irrespective of the device (tablet, smartphone, two-way radio) or type of information (voice, video, text or data).
Their expectations mirror consumer expectations that network reliability is a must. However, in the case of public safety agencies, network reliability is tested as it is needed in all circumstances and really is a necessity – given that the alternative is exposure to a potentially dangerous situation.
For the public safety organisation
At the organisational level, however, connections encompasses much more. In order to understand how connections play a role for agencies, we need to examine three things: best available networks; interoperable network access; and the ability to prioritise.
Best available network
The best available network is one that delivers coverage and mission-critical capacity – however that is achieved – at the required time.
Imagine it’s New Year’s Eve in a large city like Sydney, where more than one million people gather on the foreshore to watch the fireworks. If there was a critical incident such as a bomb threat or natural disaster, connectivity is critical for a life-saving and coordinated response.
Connectivity for first responders enabling them to manage the incident is a priority, but connectivity for the general public is also a consideration for managing the community’s needs.
The best available network is the one that offers the best and most reliable connectivity in that situation and at that time, that is, on Sydney’s foreshore at midnight, whether that’s land mobile radio (LMR), broadband or enterprise network. To respond effectively, emergency workers must have the ability to connect and move seamlessly to and from one network to another while still interoperating with other users.
So what is the best available network? For different countries, this means different things. In the US, FirstNet is a nationwide broadband network dedicated to public safety, which will supersede numerous bespoke county-based technologies.1 Korea will move to private broadband, partially as a response to the 2014 ferry disaster that highlighted the need for interoperability between agencies.2 In the UK, the solution is a private emergency services network (ESN) for public safety agencies. 3
In 2015, the Australian Productivity Commission determined that a carrier network was the most economic and viable option for Australia.
In future, Australian public safety agencies will require integration of platforms (Android, IOS or Windows) as well as networks (LMR, broadband or Wi-Fi). Broadband capabilities need to integrate with existing APCO P25, TETRA or DMR radio networks. LMR is recognised as the most cost-effective way to provide reliable broad-area coverage over a total area and will be used for the foreseeable future. Broadband coverage continues to grow, as do the use cases demanding high data throughput, so it is essential to interface between the two. While public safety team members may use devices on LMR only, others may use broadband only, and some may use both. Intelligent middleware provides a connecting bridge between LMR and broadband networks to extend key public safety capabilities. This is achieved by employing applications across multiple programme interfaces. This middleware supports agencies’ unique requirements to consume, share and use information, and deliver greater capabilities on smart devices and intelligent back ends.
Interoperable network access
Public safety agencies require secure interoperable network access to collaborate, whether that’s via voice, text, imagery or video.
Public safety agencies’ ability to provide a coordinated response is hindered by a lack of interoperability. A stark example of this became evident during the Black Saturday bushfires of February 2009. The Final Report found that communications systems on 7 February were deficient due to a lack of interoperability between emergency services agencies among other things, such as communication difficulties between metropolitan and regional police because of incompatible systems.4
In the case of a large incident such as a natural disaster, extensive bushfire or terrorist action, all emergency services must be able to communicate to work together and coordinate their responses.
Ability to prioritise
Connectivity requirements will vary, driven by user, application or incident. Depending on the incident, an officer may need priority on the communications network over a commander or other officers. For example, at an incident attended by multiple agencies, an officer uploading video in real time may need priority access to the network over other users.
Dynamic management makes it possible to quickly de-prioritise and remove those non-essential users from networks at a moment’s notice if required, such as during a major incident.
Public safety agencies need reliable and constant connection, meaning access to the best available communication network that provides secure interoperability with other agencies and the ability to dynamically prioritise user access. With this capacity, agencies can quickly share information to ensure situational awareness, bringing people together to work as a team for an effective, coordinated response.
- FirstNet First Responder Network Authority website
- Zilis M, ‘South Korea plans for dedicated LTE public-safety network by 2017’, MissionCritical Communications, Oct 2014
- About the emergency services network, UK Government Home Office website, Nov 2015
- 2009 Royal Bushfires Royal Commission Final Report Summary, Jul 2010