When lives are on the line, you need reliable, secure, unbroken communications. From the most extreme moments to the day-to-day, emergency personnel depend on mission critical communications to do their jobs effectively and keep our communities safe – it is their lifeline.
Today, mission critical communication plays a vital role in enabling emergency personnel to stay connected and protect communities around the world. Public safety organizations and agencies – including national, local, state and regional police, fire, and emergency medical services – have long turned to narrowband, two-way radio for their mission critical communication needs. These land mobile radio (LMR) networks have long served to deliver proven, reliable voice communication in life-and-death situations.
However, public safety needs are evolving – and that evolution requires new forms of communication. The past fifteen years have seen advances in mobile broadband technology drive the growing demand for real time data. Within public safety, agencies are leveraging this advanced mobile intelligence to access video, pictures and location data to resolve incidents and make informed decisions in real time. As organizations continue to incorporate data into their workflow and mobile broadband plays a larger role in the mission critical communications mix, agencies may find themselves struggling to navigate the complex and ever-evolving mission critical public safety communications landscape.
More than 20 years ago, Motorola Solutions recognized the need for an efficient, easy-to-understand benchmark for evaluating technology choices. In response, we introduced the five Cs of critical communication – coverage, capacity, cost, control and capability. Today’s environment requires you to consider a sixth C – cybersecurity.
Together, these six Cs play an important role in effectively assessing mission critical communications. You want to make sure you make the best decisions for the people on the front lines. With a multitude of information discussing the pros and cons of both LMR and mobile broadband, making the right choice can seem like a daunting task.
But maybe it doesn’t have to be! In fact, many industry leaders argue that the right solution for public safety is to leverage both options in order to achieve mission critical communication success. Today, and in the near future, there is no one system that can successfully provide both mission critical voice and broadband data communications. As public safety agencies around the world explore different ways to address their needs for reliable communications, the solution is to leverage both LMR and mobile broadband. These serve as complementary technologies – with LMR providing essential mission critical voice communications and mobile broadband providing additional data-driven capabilities. Together, they provide a collaborative solution that is able to respond effectively and efficiently to today’s public safety communication needs.
By bridging these two technologies and connecting LMR and mobile broadband networks together, public safety agencies are creating forward-thinking, collaborative networks that address all of the six Cs of mission critical communications – coverage, capacity, cost, control, capabilities and cybersecurity.
Capacity: Are your communications systems capable of supporting everything and everyone they need to during times of crisis? Will calls be prioritized so the most important information gets through first? A successful mission critical communication system seamlessly handles mass call volumes, prioritizes important calls and ensures necessary agencies are able to access the network. It must be engineered to address peak usage and right-sized to your organization’s specific needs to ensure calls always get through – regardless of the circumstances. Current LMR networks are designed for emergencies with capacity calibrated for maximum usage. By including mobile broadband, your agency is able to extend your user base and ensure that all critical individuals are able to access the communications network.
Coverage: Does your system meet your unique geographical and performance requirements? No one can predict where the next incident will occur. You need a robust communication system with superior coverage across your entire jurisdiction and sufficient back-up and redundancies to prevent communication gaps and losses. Infrastructure should be easily supported and serviced to ensure your network stays up and running when it’s needed the most. As LMR devices transmit with more power, LMR networks often require less infrastructure to provide the same level of coverage. This streamlined infrastructure is easier to support. In addition, LMR devices also work in Direct Mode Operation (DMO) if the network does goes down, allowing them to communicate device-to-device. Running collaborative LMR and mobile broadband networks means you can have the mission critical voice and data coverage you really need. The resiliency of P25 LMR networks in Florida and Texas was proven during recent events – including Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey – where the systems continued to operate with minimal disruption of coverage.
Control: How much control do you want over system requirements, design, features and operations? Is it important for your organization that your system is configured for a specific use case? Many public safety agencies want a high degree of authority over their systems. They want control over the coverage and capacity of the network. But they also want to control who has access to the system and who has priority, monitor what changes need to be made and when, and track the status of all users. In addition, these controlled networks streamline management and provide network health visibility at all times. Bridging your LMR and mobile broadband networks, giving you unified fleet maps, access rights and prioritizations means you have the control of your network you need.
Costs: How would your return on investment improve if your system supported both voice and data? Your agency doesn’t want to have to compromise mission critical features because of budgetary concerns. Analyzing the cost of both LMR and mobile broadband networks highlights two very unique, divergent financial structures. Traditionally, implementing an LMR network requires a larger one-time initial financial output to develop infrastructure, followed by ongoing, set monthly fees for upkeep and services. Conversely, subscribing to a commercial mobile broadband network is less expensive at the outset, but recurring airtime fees and other data charges can be unpredictable. Determining if the expense scales appropriately with the size of you fleet will be something you need to consider. In addition, mobile broadband requires more bandwidth than narrowband LMR systems, meaning additional sites may be needed to provide the same level of coverage. Building a plan based on collaboration between LMR and mobile broadband networks can provide your organization access to the most up-to-date communications technology for both voice and data and give you access to the capabilities you need while reducing your implementation and operational costs.
Capability: Voice is critical, but does your organization also need data capabilities? Through multiple generations of development and user experiences, LMR systems provide a number of functions essential to mission critical operations. Push-to-talk, intuitive design, rugged construction, unique ergonomics, advanced noise cancellation and high-capacity batteries are all features that have been incorporated into LMR devices with the customer’s environment in mind. Robust priority and pre-emption, dynamic grouping, even low-latency call setup are all inherent to LMR technology, ensuring that a critical call gets through. In addition, LMR technology is decentralized and built for resilience – if part of a network goes down or is disconnected from the rest, LMR continues to operate. Multiple levels of redundancy and fallback modes are built into the networks to minimize service disruptions under even the harshest of conditions. With a design philosophy born in delivering mission critical audio, LMR is unable to support the wide diversity of data-driven applications provided by mobile broadband. Today, 70 percent of agencies believe access to real-time date in the field is ‘critical.’ Mobile broadband continues to open up the world of video streaming and data applications, providing emergency personnel with access to real-time surveillance video, high-resolution photos, bi-directional vehicular video, and dynamic mapping and routing. This, in turn, is improving operational efficiency and promoting intelligent decision making. With LMR and mobile broadband providing their own set of unique capabilities, choosing between the two can be a challenge. By bridging both technologies, your organization is able to take advantage of the robust offerings provided by LMR and mobile broadband - mission critical voice and mission critical data. This synergy between voice and data is the future of mission critical communications.
Cybersecurity: Are your mission critical communications secure? Globally, the number of cybersecurity breaches has increased by nearly 30 percent annually. It is clear that security is a real concern for public safety agencies. As communication evolves to include voice, data and video capabilities, the risk of cyber attacks for both LMR and mobile broadband networks is expanding. Mobile broadbands’ variety of applications and internet connectivity introduces new opportunities for breaches. With LMR voice communications, the movement away from self-contained, proprietary technology toward IP-based infrastructure and broadband interconnectivity is increasing network “attack surfaces.”So whether you are utilising LMR, mobile broadband or both you need to be aware of cyber security threats. Fortunately, both LMR and mobile broadband networks continue to adapt to emerging cyber threats, including additional security measures, continued updates and innovative encryption services. Looking ahead, those networks that utilize security best practices and open standards will be better positioned to protect against cyber attacks.
When it comes to mission critical communications, having the right technology for the right operations is key. As data continues to proliferate and networks become increasingly complex, bridging LMR and mobile broadband enables your organization to combine their unique strengths into a blended network that best meets the complex demands of public safety. Leveraging the best of both LMR and mobile broadband ensures your organization has all of the six Cs of mission critical communications – coverage, capacity, cost, control, capabilities and cybersecurity.
John Kedzierski is Corporate Vice President of Systems and Infrastructure Solutions at Motorola Solutions.
(1) “5 Trends Transforming Public Safety Communications,” Motorola Solutions, 2015.
(2) “Cost of Cyber Crime Study,” Ponemon Institute and Accenture, 2017.
This blog is the third in the “Walk in Your Shoes” series. lt highlights the importance of field testing our products with first responders before launch to ensure quality. Read the first two blogs Walk in Your Shoes – The Foundation of Customer-Focused Software Applications and Walking Alongside Law Enforcement - I’ve Learned So Much.
Engaging Fire and Law Enforcement officers from product inception through launch is important to creating the right products for the Public Safety Market. This is also the most enjoyable part of my role. Pre-release testing is a vital step that ensures quality and usability of our product offerings when launched. Receiving direct feedback and end-user interactions in the station, in the vehicle and in the field during the pre-release cycles allows us to better meet first responder needs and expectations when we go to market. It also provides valuable insights about how the product performs in the customer’s environment.
In preparation for the PremierOne Handheld iOS launch, I recently completed three on-site customer field trials observing hands-on use, seeking expert input and performing integrated testing. During these field trials, System Administrators, Firefighters, Medics, Police Officers and Sergeants engaged with me and our Engineering Team for interactive road testing of PremierOne Handheld on iPhones, iPads, and Android Smartphones. Walking responders through features like Responder and Unit Location Tracking, Emergency Activations, Real-time Incident and Unit Status Monitors and Dynamic Incident Updates was the focus of these trials. Watching as responders navigate through and use our application in the field helps us understand if the application is as intuitive as we designed it to be. Side-by-side testing to ensure that all the features deliver the intended benefits without technical glitches is a vital step to ensuring product quality.
Observing customer reactions during the field trials helps us gauge how features will be received when launched. For instance, during our field trials for PremierOne Handheld, the application’s ability to scan a driver’s license to auto-populate incidents with personal details was received with great enthusiasm. The application’s ability to automatically query Records, State and NCIC databases, and return all prior incident details based on this scan was also a key highlight. Our customers’ reaction to PremierOne Handheld, our smartphone and tablet application, proves the value of time in the field and the benefit of walking step-by-step beside our first responders from product inception through launch.
Receiving inputs from first responders never gets old. If you are going to be at at IACP, 2017 please stop by the Motorola Solutions Booth #3037 and try out our newest applications. My colleagues and I would love to hear your opinion about our products so we can continue to meet and exceed your expectations.
Julie Folden is Mobility Product Manager at Motorola Solutions. Her job is to understand the daily activities and needs of police, fire, and EMS personnel to help software development teams to create the best mobile and handheld applications for both today and tomorrow. She takes her job seriously having completed over 500 public safety experiential visits over the past 15 years.
When I began my career in law enforcement, back in 1973, we didn't even have portable radios. I had a little Motorola two-way radio in a 1972 Dodge with bench seats. If we needed help, we had to run back to the car, ask for help, and then go back to the scene.
As a young deputy sheriff in Los Angeles County, then lieutenant, captain, and division commander, I watched society change and law enforcement evolve. I was a platoon commander during all five nights of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
There were very few frequencies back then, and communications were restricted. I never thought I'd see the day when there would be computers inside a police car. Now, we can get not only voice but also data inside the car and on portable devices.
I retired in 2009, but came out of retirement at the request of the city of Santa Maria. The job was to restructure the Police Department. I was excited about the opportunity to build a department from the ground up. And that included a communication system, a new fleet, and an entire new building.
We're a self-contained police department, and we do our own dispatching for 130 officers, as well as the Fire Department, handling close to 300 calls for service every day.
The communication system is the most important tool we have, yet, the City of Santa Maria's system was 20 years old. Our upgrade to Motorola Solutions WAVE, computer aided dispatch and next generation call-talking will enable the entire city to communicate—not only the police and fire departments, but also public works, transit and the schools.
Because when something goes south, whether it's an earthquake, whether it's inclement weather, a missing child or an auto accident, everyone dials 9-1-1. And we want to be there for them.
My job as Police Chief was no longer to drive around and arrest people; it's to make sure that public safety personnel have everything they need to do their job. I want the new generation that's coming into the police department to know that we did everything we could to make the job easier, not just this week, or next month, or a year from now, but 10 years from now.
Learn more about Santa Maria’s vision by watching this video:
Ralph Martin is Police Chief for Santa Maria, California.
Precise 9-1-1 caller location from RapidSOS has been integrated with CommandCentral to help find and better respond to those in need.
In April, we announced a partnership with RapidSOS to deliver precise location information for U.S. 9-1-1 calls made from smartphones. The initial integration shared precise location across the emergency call, from citizens in need to call-takers using our CallWorks application. We are now pleased to announce the expansion of this valuable functionality, and more, into our CommandCentral platform, starting with CommandCentral Inform.
CommandCentral Inform, which provides a map-based, common operating picture of events and resource locations, will now include a 9-1-1 call data layer to display caller locations alongside other critical operational information. But even better, is the ability for CommandCentral Inform to also display additional data sent from the smartphone upon a call being made. This could include health information of the caller, demographic information and even telematics from connected cars, wearables and other IoT data sources - all to provide greater context to the call.
By expanding into the CommandCentral platform, this vital information is now not only accessible to Call Takers using CallWorks, but also Supervisors, Analysts, Command Staff and even First Responders who are in need of increased situational awareness for better decision making.
This integration also shows our increased commitment to providing the most seamlessly integrated public safety software suite, from call intake to incident resolution. “We are able to provide an uninterrupted flow of information. This creates more efficient and streamlined workflows” said Andrew Sinclair, the newly appointed head of Motorola Solutions’ Software Enterprise. “Because of integration across the portfolio, first responders are able to act more collaboratively and efficiently and ultimately be that much more successful.”
"The integration of data from the RapidSOS NG9-1-1 Clearinghouse into CommandCentral Inform creates an unprecedented flow of information around an emergency," said Michael Martin, CEO of RapidSOS. "The result is accelerated response, first responders with unparalleled situational awareness, and lives saved."
This new integration will be on display at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) 2017 Annual Conference & Expo August 13th - 16th in Denver, Colorado at both the Motorola Solutions booth #801 and RapidSOS booth #747.
Bradley Janitz is Global Marketing Manager at Motorola Solutions.
At Prince George’s County Public Safety Communications, we know that trust is the most important factor. Public-safety personnel must trust each other and trust that their communications and information systems are state-of-the-art. Only then will citizens who rely on us be able to trust that we can help keep them safe.
Trust The People
Prince George’s County, VA, stretches from the Potomac River west and south for almost 500 square miles. It comprises 18 municipal jurisdictions and more than 900,000 people.
Keeping the county’s citizenry safe and well-informed is the mission of the Prince George’s County Public Safety Communications office. We handle some 1.8 million calls a year, supporting police, fire, EMS, the Sheriff’s Office and 18 municipal jurisdictions within the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metro area.
Our work must be based on trust. Each of these agencies must be confident that we've provided all the vital information they need to do their jobs when they get on the scene. We know that we must obtain critical information that will guide first responders.
At the same time, as the first point of contact for callers, we realize that callers often need support and comfort as they wait for help to arrive. In fact, sometimes it's our telecommunicators themselves who provide life-saving help, for example, instructing them in first aid techniques or CPR.
Trust The Technology
In order to provide this level of support to so many citizens and public agencies, we have to be sure that we can access accurate information as quickly as possible. In 2011, the county opened a new facility that is state-of-the-art and ready for next-generation 9-1-1. In 2015, we opened the Prince George’s County Emergency Operations Center. This one-of-a-kind facility was designed to provide the highest level of service to all of the public safety and public service agencies in the county. It also serves as Homeland Security headquarters and the 9-1-1 dispatch backup center.
Because we take calls for so many different entities in the county, integration is extremely important. While computer-aided dispatch is the core of all public safety, there are many other areas where our records management system must interoperate with those of other agencies.
We have a valuable technology partner to help ensure that all our communications, dispatch and records management connect seamlessly.
Trust Each Other
Technology is half of the equation. The other half is our staff that includes 34 positions in the primary PSAP. When citizens call the 9-1-1 center, they can be sure that the people they’re talking to have been trained to the highest standards – and, even more important – that they are committed to providing every kind of help they need.
We're proud that our Emergency Operations Center is one of only six in the world that have received a Triple Accredited Center of Excellence (Tri-ACE) rating from the National Academy of Emergency Dispatch. That means that we can be proud that we're providing our agencies and the public with the very highest level of service.
Any time I feel stressed, all I have to do is walk through the 9-1-1 center and the dispatch area, and I remember why we do this: because our community relies on us.
We are much more than just a voice behind the call. Learn more about us and our center.
Charlynn Flaherty is Associate Director of Public Safety Communications.
This blog is the second in the “Walk in Your Shoes” series. lt highlights our commitment to building experience focused software applications to support the important job of protecting citizens of this great nation. Read the first blog Walk in Your Shoes – The Foundation of Customer-Focused Software Applications.
Creating Police Mobility Applications
Getting out of a car and following a police officer through his daily routine. Asking probing questions about what would make their job easier. Spending time with an officer and doing side-by-side comparisons of different products and applications. That’s all part of my research role; requiring me to “Walk in Your Shoes” for an hour, an afternoon or an entire shift. The results of my field interviews are new applications and product enhancements that make an officer’s job easier.
One of the big pain points officers have identified is the desire to have more flexibility in choosing a smartphone device. They want to be able to run law enforcement applications on either an iOS or Android® handheld device. That input has been heard loud and clear by our design teams, so the latest release of the our handheld mobile application can now operate on either iOS or Android devices. This gives agencies, regardless of the device, real-time access to CAD incidents, location of responding officers, vehicle and person queries, unit status, geofence alerts, driving directions and more.
The other big request I hear is: “I want to do everything on my smartphone that I can do on a laptop. I want full mobility away from the vehicle.” In addition to getting information about an incident, or the location of responding officers I talk to want to be able to issue citations and do field reports when on the scene, while away from my vehicle. And they want to seamlessly share the information between smart phones, in-vehicle computers and the command center. To provide them that capability we are now offering Citations and Forms, a highly configurable, complement to the handheld platform. Now, it is easy to issue a ticket, document with photos, close out an incident, complete a field interview form, get signatures, and even print; all from a smartphone or tablet using the iOS or Android platform. And the information gathered on a handheld device, is available on in-vehicle solution as well, allowing reports to be started on the scene and completed in the vehicle where a full keyboard is available for additional annotations and narratives.
It is exciting to convert what I learn from riding and/or walking along side law enforcement into product offerings. Introducing applications and functionality into the marketplace that are the direct result of officer inputs is rewarding both for me and for our customers.
Receiving inputs from first responders never gets old. If you are going to be at APCO 2017, please stop by the Motorola Solutions Booth #801, try out our newest applications and share your thoughts. My colleagues and I would love to hear your opinion about our handheld products so we can continue to offer enhanced customer focused applications.
Julie Folden is Mobility Product Manager at Motorola Solutions. Her job is to understand and document the daily activities of police, fire, and EMS personnel to help design and create the best public safety mobile and handheld applications for both today and tomorrow. She takes her job seriously having completed over 500 public safety experiential visits over the past 15 years.