Industry insight: Broadband data in public safety

With more than 80 years of close collaboration with public safety agencies, Motorola Solutions has seen a great deal of change in the way public safety officials communicate each day. Communication and the ability to access information quickly have...


Whether the situation is a hazmat spill on a busy interstate highway during rush hour, an apartment fire that is affecting hundreds of residents, or a police chase through a pedestrian-heavy downtown corridor, first responders with access to LTE technology will be able to do their jobs more efficiently, effectively and safely. What’s new is the ability to collect mission-critical information from a wide range of media — from 911 calls, to street video surveillance cameras, to interactive maps, to information from a myriad of databases — then share it immediately over a powerful, secure, high-speed communications network.

Consider one real possibility: an officer pulls over a suspect as the dashboard camera scans the license plate. The system sends the plate number and vehicle description to a database that indicates that the driver has a long list of traffic offenses. Before exiting, the officer receives an automatic message from the computer-aided dispatch alerting of the driver’s criminal record. The officer calls for backup and her in-vehicle workstation tells her when to expect the backup and where it will be positioned. Shortly thereafter, the team arrives to apprehend the suspect and take him into custody — all while the situation is monitored in real time and recorded by the CAD center through video transmitted from the responding vehicles. That efficient flow of accurate, timely data or collaborative intelligence, gives the officer the information she needs to take the suspect off the street quickly.

Then imagine LTE’s benefits for protecting our children. Fortunately, many schools today are equipped with some type of video surveillance. In a crisis event, LTE enables a first responder driving up to a school to see a live video stream showing what is transpiring inside the school — from inside his squad car. LTE also allows the officer to potentially identify a suspect, summon reinforcements, and react more quickly in restoring order and saving lives. In the meantime, those at the command and control center can work collaboratively with those on the scene to help minimize impact on the children and resolve the situation.

The benefits are also apparent at a fire scene. For example, a fire has started at a chemical plant. With LTE technology, the incident command center and individual firefighters can access immediate information on their wireless broadband devices. Each has real-time access to building details, such as floor plans, location of electric panels and hazardous materials on site. At the same time, they can access clear audio and video communications from various angles and perspectives throughout the building. Collective intelligence sharing would undoubtedly minimize the impact that the fire might have on first responders, nearby residents and the larger community.

The direct benefit for the public is a safer community protected by first responders with more information and perspective on any given situation. Armed with better and more timely information, public safety officers equipped with this kind of situational awareness can be updated in real-time and as a result, are able to make better, smarter decisions.

Why a private LTE network?

For a number of reasons, it is imperative that public safety LTE networks be dedicated to public safety. Although commercial carrier networks can and will play an important role in public safety, private networks allow public safety officials to define and build a network with the coverage, capacity and control that first responders need in mission-critical situations. This ability to prioritize and control communications is only practical for networks built and operated for public safety.

Moreover, public safety agencies have unique needs that cannot be completely satisfied by commercial voice and broadband networks. For example, when disasters like the recent tornados in Missouri and Alabama strike, carrier networks often are overwhelmed with significantly higher spikes in usage. When carrier networks become overloaded, that leaves them compromised because carriers engineer their networks to average capacity that may under-serve at peak times and/or try to balance out network utilization as much as possible. It’s a bit analogous to the airlines, whose goal is to keep expensive assets in the air as much as possible to generate revenue with little reserve capacity. Carriers also build capacity in accordance with commercial geographic consumption patterns; however, public safety incidents are not so predictable in where and when they occur.

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