If a major incident erupted in your community, such as a school shooting, bomb threat, detonated bomb, collapsed building or natural disaster, how prepared will public safety resources be? Can they deploy and communicate with each other via a network utilizing voice, data and video for maximum response?
The answer may well be one of mixed reviews as some cities already have invested in this very technology to create a precise, coordinated response by first responders, while other cities remain in limbo. At stake is the need to contain the incident at hand and protect the victims and all first responders. Creating an interoperable public safety network is a financial investment that, cities will find, pays big dividends.
The movement to modernize old public safety networks or build new ones is even a priority of this country's new Administration. As part of his ambitious agenda for advancing technology in the United States, President Obama states in his "Blueprint for Change - Obama and Biden's Plan for America" that he wants to implement policies which "spur the deployment of new technologies to promote interoperability, broadband access and more effective communications among first responders and emergency response systems."
The Public Safety Spectrum Trust has called on the Obama Administration to allocate $15 billion from its new stimulus package to create a nationwide, wireless broadband public safety network. The Washington, D.C.-based organization is the non-profit corporation the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chose as the licensee of broadband spectrum designated for the network.Outdated technology a deterrent
Until now, most cities have battled limited public safety response to both small and large incidents largely because of outdated technology, such as two-way radio (with varying frequencies among responders, therefore diluting communications), absent wireless networks, lack of mobile computer terminals in vehicles, etc.
Even video streaming, gradually being adopted to record incidents, can be hampered since images usually cannot be shared simultaneously with several parties who could benefit from viewing them. This limitation stems from spotty quality and the speed of image transmission.Need for real-time video
In recent years, technology has made huge strides to address the growing need for beefed up interoperable systems in communities and regions nationwide.
While many platforms offer impressive combined voice and data capabilities, it is video that should prove to be the prime mover in this entire technology conversion. In fact, adding video to the same systems comprising audio and data capabilities can improve communications while rendering greater collaborative decision making and quicker response times. Video can help raise trust between different agencies since personnel can see each others' faces through videoconferencing, for example. And combining video surveillance systems, videoconferencing, audio and data will lead to a more streamlined workflow and improve public safety efficiencies.
One player bringing real-time video to public safety networks is Santa Clara, California-based Bada Networks. This company provides video collaboration solutions to public safety networks working with integrators. Bada's Virtual Command Center function routes and processes thousands of real-time video streams interactively alongside voice and data and works with an Internet Protocol (IP) network, whether wireless or wireline based. Bada Networks cites three key components that underscore its technology:
- Scalable architecture for video, audio and data to allow gradual network expansion. This includes future-proof video/audio processing built into the network infrastructure.
- Interoperability with legacy systems and the ability to configure for future systems. This allows convergence of several systems onto a single network infrastructure, greatly saving the cost of separate systems.
- Bandwidth management to optimize video and video quality while guaranteeing other mission-critical services on the network can deliver data without being squeezed out by video's increased bandwidth requirements.