The long-awaited results of our 2015 EA Public Safety Survey are now available. It certainly makes interesting reading. Public Safety communications are being transformed. The survey reveals how four key factors are influencing agencies of all sizes, and how the change is being driven by high speed data and a need for communications across multiple networks and devices including radios, smartphones and tablets.
What are these key factors? What are the highlights around each?
FACTOR ONE - High Speed Real-Time Data
Being able to access data in real-time is vital and one of the most important factors identified in the survey. An overwhelming 77% of participants said having instant, reliable information at their fingertips is ‘critical’ or ‘very important’ while working in the field.
With an increasing amount of data flooding into command and control centres, the challenge is to identify what’s relevant and turn it into actionable intelligence. Over 60% expect targeted real-time data to be available during an incident to help plan and carry out an efficient, safe response.
Why is high speed real-time data so important? Because it allows responders to quickly get the rich data they need and share intelligence with colleagues and local agencies. The survey highlighted how vital it is to be able to communicate across different networks and devices, from radios and laptops to mobile phones and modems.......
FACTOR TWO - Community Engagement and Interaction
The widespread adoption of social media in everyday life opens up worlds of opportunity for public safety. Increasingly, witnesses are capturing incidents using their mobile devices and sharing them with each other and in some cases public safety organisations on social media sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter. This creates an invaluable record of events that agencies can use to prevent and resolve crimes or issues.
Survey results show social media is well established in public safety. Almost three quarters of participants use it for outbound communications and over half use it to receive information and monitor events as they unfold.
Social media has become an essential platform for building community engagement and interaction. It encourages open conversation, on familiar platforms, with the public and helps ensure incidents are reported correctly. The survey shows how almost half of emergency call centres can now accept text, photos and social media data in some form from the public, while a third can accept video footage. This is positive but clearly highlights the opportunity call centres have in widening the ways they receive data from the public.
FACTOR THREE - The Growth of Digital Radio and Broadband
Public safety responders rely on communications and the move to broadband is seen as a key objective. The survey shows that over 60% of participants are either already on a digital LMR network (TETRA, P25, DMR) or considering a move to digital within the next three years.
Some agencies are making the transition from analogue radio systems to digital land mobile systems such as TETRA and are introducing broadband systems like LTE. The majority are using a combination of both, installing parallel LTE systems that work alongside existing, new or refreshed LMR solutions.
FACTOR FOUR - Managing Tools and Technology
While public safety agencies are taking on the challenge of managing new tools and technologies, they don’t currently have all the answers. The survey shows how the widespread use of smartphones, continuing barriers to video adoption, and a lack of understanding of cybersecurity threatens to hamper the effectiveness of new technology solutions.
The smartphone effect is an ongoing challenge. Public Safety users expect the same functionality from the tools they use at work as they do when at home. Over 40% of responders are using their own smartphones while on duty with only 26% of agencies reimbursing them. Many agencies continue to provide staff with smartphones despite the potential security risks, durability issues or lack of dedicated safety features.
The survey shows agencies are using a range of tools to combat cybersecurity threats to their networks and devices. Virus & malware scanners and firewalls are the most popular tools, being used by 77% and 72% of participants respectively. But a surprising 22% either didn’t know what tools they were using or were using no tools at all...
It’s clear that new tools and technologies require management. Transition to newer digital systems demands more advanced IT skills that can deal with complex networks and ever-present cybersecurity threats. The survey identified three key areas where help is required.
Our annual survey offers insight into the technology trends in the public safety sector. This research was conducted in late 2015 and reflects input from over 100 public safety professionals across Europe and Africa in a cross-section of agencies of every size. The survey for Europe and Africa is in its first year. It builds on a similar survey conducted in North America, now in its fifth year.
I've only been able to share highlights from the report - to get a more in-depth view you can download the complete survey report here.
David Parry is Director, EA Marketing.
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