Over the course of my career, I have had the unique opportunity to meet with public safety customers around the world. What’s interesting is that no matter the size of their organizations or their location, they face the same challenges. And I hear the same question again and again, "How will technology help keep my citizens safer?"
To answer this question, we need to consider the rapidly changing operational landscape for public safety agencies. Two of the biggest new realities are the ever-increasing volume of data and the growing complexity of devices and networks available.
Big data is changing how government and public safety works. It drives decisions and helps allocate resources. But almost daily, there are new kinds of big data to contend with. Police departments understand that fixed and mobile video are critical to the evidentiary process; however, an agency may have only one analyst watching 1,500 camera feeds and may struggle with effective ways to store and share all of the data. Social media has transformed citizen expectations, but emergency call centers are not prepared to handle the flood of new information, let alone process texts, photos and videos. Data is important – 89 percent of public safety decision makers (1) agree that mission critical data is as important as voice communications – but so is managing it.
The Need for Mission Critical Networks
Every agency should have a plan for public and private network communications. The weight given to each network depends on agency requirements. The disasters over the last few years have proven that public carrier networks are not designed to be mission critical. You need to find a balanced approach that will give you the reliable, always-on connectivity required to keep citizens and cities safe. A mission-critical architecture provides that, along with the security to keep networks, devices and data access secure.
The Right Plan
Today, you have all this data, volumes and volumes of it, much of it unstructured. You also have a wide range of network issues to deal with as a result. You may be thinking: "I need a plan, what’s my plan? What will my needs be five years from now? How will I connect the dots and get where I need to be?" It’s important to have a plan in place to figure out how to get there. That plan needs to answer a few key questions:
Mission critical technology plays an important role in architecting that plan. It should be tailored to your agency needs, flexible enough to adapt and evolve with you as those needs change, easy and cost-effective to migrate over time, and intuitive to how public safety works – both in the command center and out in the field. At the end of the day, it really comes down to using the data you have to do your job better, be more proactive and work more efficiently.
My development team at Motorola continues to look for ways to use technology to keep responders and citizens safe. With our VALR™ Mission Critical Architecture, we enable agencies to collect, correlate and share data between existing systems, responders in the field and other agencies – helping to improve response and keep cities safer.
Bob Schassler is Motorola's senior vice president for Government Solutions
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(1) Motorola Public Safety Data Communications Technology Survey, January – February 2012
Our communities are awash in a rising tide of information generated by the citizens themselves. Globally, 200,000 text messages are being sent this very second.(1) More than 30 million surveillance cameras are capturing video in the U.S alone. Smartphone users – almost half the U.S. and EU population – are uploading videos, photos and social media posts. The challenge for public safety is this: Hidden in this flood of raw data is intelligence that tells you how to deploy your resources… where to predict trouble… and potentially how to save a life.
This is a rich and unprecedented resource, but most agencies today are barely skimming the surface. It’s not enough to simply monitor information as it flows through the community. The hard part is filtering out the noise and transforming what’s left into actionable intelligence. The meaning of "situational awareness" changes when half your citizens are equipped to share live video as events unfold; but one thing that won’t change is the limited human capacity to process information. This is especially true for first responders under stress on the front lines. They are in no position to go hunting for needles in haystacks.
Technology – which created this resource – is our best hope for operationalizing it.
Emerging solutions will enable agencies to catch up with the expectations of their constituents:
This is a radically new environment for public safety, but Motorola Solutions is working on developing the tools to master it. The opportunity before us is to transform the noise into information, the information into intelligence, and ultimately, the intelligence into a safer city.
Bob Schassler is Motorola's senior vice president for Radio Solutions.
Find out more about Transforming Information into Intelligence.
This article was originally posted in ‘Fresh Ideas for Public Safety’
Editors’s note – More key facts to help put this in perspective - nearly 50% of the EU population has a smartphone (2); 7.5 trillion text messages were sent globally in 2012 (3) and the UK alone has 1.85 million surveillance cameras(4).
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(1) International Telecommunication Union, 2010
(3) The Mobile Economy 2013 http://www.atkearney.com/documents/10192/760890/The_Mobile_Economy_2013.pdf