Mike Bostic

Enhanced Failsoft with Security

New Advancement in Traditional Failure Fall-Back Systems Retains Security and Capability of P25 Systems During Site Failure.

Radio Systems survivability through failover
Public Safety radio systems are built for survivability so that communications work when needed. An important aspect of survivability is failover. Failover ensures that when parts of the overall system fail – either due to component issues or natural/man-made disasters – that the system continues to operate. Traditional system design incorporates redundancy for all critical components.

Failsoft: Failover when a digital trunked radio system can no longer “trunk”
The term “Failsoft” refers to any failover condition that causes a digital trunked radio system to not trunk. This is most commonly caused by a loss of the control channel that subscriber radios use when communicating to the towers to assign a resource. Traditionally in this state, all transmitters (channels) turn on and operate in a ‘conventional’ repeater mode. Subscriber radios are able to recognize this state and switch to a predetermined frequency.

In most systems, several talkgroups share a frequency. Some talkgroups may not be assigned a failsoft frequency and these talkgroups will cease to operate during the failsoft period. If a particular failsoft frequency has also failed, the talkgroups assigned to that frequency will be off the air.

Enhanced Failsoft: maintaining digital security when trunking is lost
Today, many users of modern P25 digital systems are unfamiliar with conventional analog radio systems. Using conventional systems effectively to maintain radio capabilities requires experience or training to understand the. The differences include:

  • In an analog system, one radio user can override and talk over another, interrupting urgent messages
  • Most analog signals are not encrypted, and all digital systems that fail over to analog systems lose encryption
  • Roaming between sites is done manually with adjustment of the knob position to select new channels. The talk-group does not follow the user as in a trunked radio system
  • Conventional radio systems do not support user authentication

With current trunked digital P25 systems, the average user is unaware how the system operates and what safety it creates in radio transmission. These include:

  • Encrypted radio and data transmission free of public and criminal scanning
  • Users are authenticated through automated Unit ID capabilities, while rogue users are denied
  • Anyone roaming between tours within a given system, or an adjoining system with interoperability gateways, can use the encrypted Unit ID capabilities

Failsoft Mode: deals with system failures and network connection issues in trunked P25 systems
When a trunked P25 system has a failure from a site or repeater, it goes into failsoft mode, greatly limiting user capabilities. In current failsoft mode, several limitations are placed on most radio manufacturers’ systems. These include:

  • The digital signal is no longer possible, forcing it into analog mode
  • Users must manually switch onto the appropriate conventional channels
  • The Unit ID feature is lost; dispatchers can no longer identify users
  • Automatic roaming is lost
  • Trunking features are lost
  • Rogue users can use and listen to the system, overriding emergency calls

Harris Corporation: changing how Failsoft works, protecting the trunked P25 system features
In its Enhance Failsoft with Security mode, the Harris P25 system solves these issues, resulting in:

  • Any repeater in the sites can assume Control Channel responsibility, not just a pre-determined few, reducing the probability a Failsoft event occurs
  • All sites maintain a list of authorized users. Users are authenticated even if connection to the core is lost
  • All calls remain encrypted
  • Unit ID and Call Priority is maintained
  • No user action is required
  • Automatic roaming is supported
  • Trunked operations maintained
  • Interference mitigation maintained—talk groups steered away from interfered channels
  • Each site automatically broadcasts on pre-defined frequencies

Users see very little change. No rogue users can scan or use the system. Radio frequencies remain efficient, ensuring the best signal.

Making the Good Better – Maximizing Available P25 Spectrum

New advancement to P25 Phase 2 technology improves interoperability in a cost-efficient manner.

Image from Hendon Pub

The APCO Project 25 (P25) Phase 2 standard is now ready for critical communications users. This further advancement of P25 was intended to improve upon the digital public safety radio communications standards used by first-responders, homeland security, emergency response professionals, and other agencies.

A natural progression from Phase 1 standards, P25 Phase 2 creates improved spectrum efficiency through two-slot Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) technology. It enables multiple transmissions over the same channel for better use of limited spectrum resources. In many large systems with a high number of subscribers, P25 Phase 2 can boost spectral efficiency of the system without any compromise of coverage or functionality.

As new and advanced as it is, many communications companies are taking basic elements of the Phase 2 standard and improving upon them. For instance, Harris engineers have expanded the capability of the standard Dynamic Dual Mode (DDM) technology that it uses in its P25 products. (Standard Dynamic Dual Mode (DDM) allows Phase 1 and Phase 2 users to interoperate in a mixed mode by “downgrading” the Phase 2 user to a phase 1 capability.)

Calling it Enhanced Dynamic Dual Mode (EDDM), the upgraded technology ensures efficient use of available channel resources. It provides users with improved interoperability and increased voice capacity on P25 systems using a mix of Phase 1 and Phase 2 radios.

Additionally, EDDM offers a cost-efficient, manageable, seamless, flexible migration path to P25 Phase 2 operation that supports an agency’s own pace, budget, and frequency availability. It does this while still taking advantage of the latest technology to deliver an optimal grade of service to meet the most demanding situations. In today’s economic climate, that is good news for any financially strapped department.

In improving DDM, EDDM provides several key advantages by actively determining the most effective path to process calls to maximize capacity. Rather than defaulting to the lowest common mode of operation across the entire system, EDDM actively analyzes the most effective mode of operation and allows for Phase 1 calls on one site to interoperate with Phase 2 calls on a different site, while utilizing the most capable P25 technology at each specific site.

The following example of a wide-area call placed by a Phase 2 unit on a Phase 2-only site shows how each participating site can use a different mode of operation, based on the capability of that site and the subscribing units.

With EDDM technology, transmissions made on a P25 Phase 1 site – using Phase 1 radios – will be Phase 1 calls. If the call includes another site that is Phase 2 and Phase 2 radios are participating, the system provides a Phase 2 call to that site. However, if a mixed-mode site that supports both Phase 1 and Phase 2 modes has only Phase 2 radios participating in the call, the system provides a Phase 2 call on that site, thereby maximizing channel efficiency and increasing overall system capacity. EDDM ensures automatic interoperability between P25 Phase 1 and Phase 2 technologies to deliver increased capacity for emergency, group, individual, encrypted, or ISSI calls.

I am heartened by the advances continually made in interoperable communications that not only make the jobs of first responders, emergency crews, law enforcement agencies and the like easier, but also afford them increased protection and information. I look forward to even more changes in the months ahead.

Breaking Down Tech Barriers

LTE devices and nationwide network pave way for public safety’s future

On a timeline of public safety innovation and advancements, 2012 will be marked as a blockbuster year. The creation of the National Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) and forward movement in next-generation 911 (NG911) are a 180-degree turn from what we faced a few years ago. And it’s about time. When I interact with young firefighters and police officers, it’s clear they’ve moved past what agencies provide and have little faith in their department’s technological capabilities. Even while on duty, these first responders are routinely using the very devices many are saying are not reliable or robust enough.

As I look at all the new LTE devices being made today in prototype, I find that I have the same questions about them as I do for iPads, ultralight Netbooks, hardened cell phones and other technologies. Yet the very nature of new technology is uncertain. We are never entirely sure what will work and what will need to be worked on further until a device is placed in a real-world setting – and encounters real-world pitfalls. Public safety agencies must accept this uncertainty and embrace the possibilities instead of looking through the lens of “what I use now is fine.” Once we all begin to accept these changes in technology, industry application will be limitless.

Take, for example, an undercover officer walking down a street with the latest smartphone. But this ordinary smartphone takes on an extraordinary dimension because it’s connected through the NPSBN. With this device, the officer has access to tailored applications that offer speech-to-text translation, full-time location tracking instead of just in emergencies, and real-time video distributed from networks around the city.

Similarly, a firefighter could receive valuable information while en route to a building fire. Technology applications could improve situational awareness by providing that firefighter with current building plans annotated with the incident report, live video feeds from security cameras, and mapping data that tracks the expected arrival times and routes of all responding units. Commands could be sent in real time when deploying each unit around the building. All of this would dramatically cut the response time at the scene because everyone would know what to do before they arrived.

The NPSBN and technological advances also bring big changes to rural areas. Gone are the days of a state trooper patrolling lonely stretches of two-lane and gravel roads with limited to no radio coverage. Instead, patrol vehicles would be equipped with the latest NPSBN router, which would act as the ultimate “gap filler” by automatically changing networks to ensure reliable coverage. Situational awareness would be maintained and the officer would have a lifeline to access information and call for backup when needed.

Every one of these situations demonstrates why we need new technology for first responders. Public safety desperately needs the innovation that’s available in commercial mobile broadband to be leveraged into specific technology improvements for police, fire and EMS. We’ve finally taken the step toward a nationwide LTE network for first responders. Now let’s get the latest technology that can work with it.

Leveling the Playing Field

How Public Safety Demands Are Changing Buyer/Supplier Dynamics

For decades, buyer and supplier dynamics in police and fire departments have been based on an uncompromising, static relationship – if you wanted to buy hardware, you chose a vendor and you were pretty much tied to that company for upgrades and replacements. That’s because vendors sought to monopolize their market and secure future earnings through repeat sales. While this made smart business sense on the part of suppliers, it often meant first responders were left with products that cost substantially more than their consumer counterparts and trailed in technological advances.

The whole situation reminds me of Wile E. Coyote holding an Acme explosive while the Road Runner zips away.

Fortunately this lopsided business arrangement is correcting itself, largely because of two factors. First, we’ve got the pure speed of technological change in our Internet-driven world. Chiefs can no longer realistically expect a product to remain top of the line for a significant number of years, even with updates. Additionally, there’s the pressing need to establish interoperable communications networks between agencies to enhance public safety response during a crisis, an agenda item that gained momentum after the tragic events of 9/11.

As public safety agencies grapple with these challenges, they’re starting to understand that they’ve been doing business backwards. They’re realizing that a vendor’s product list isn’t the only available option. Instead, chiefs recognize there are many technology companies out there and if a vendor can’t supply specific departmental needs, they can go elsewhere.

At the same time, technology companies are realizing that they have a larger responsibility than simply selling out of the box. They actually have to do what’s in the best service of their customer – public safety in this case. That’s why we’re seeing specific technologies being developed to address public safety-related issues, not just adaptations of pre-existing hardware.

But doing what’s best for public safety has a broader implication. It also means companies working together for the greater good. We saw this recently on a commercial level when Superstorm Sandy battered the East Coast. At its peak, power outages shut down 25 percent of cell phone towers across 10 states, overburdening the remaining infrastructure and resulting in millions of dropped calls. To bolster service, AT&T and T-Mobile announced they would switch calls seamlessly between their networks in storm-damaged areas of New York and New Jersey, depending on which network had better reception in a particular area.

Another great example occurred in August at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., where an interoperable communications network assisted law enforcement. Leading technology companies, including Raytheon, Cisco, Nokia Siemens Networks, Reality Mobile and Amdocs, joined forces to integrate fixed camera feeds, live video transmitted from smartphones, GPS-enabled blue force tracking and Land Mobile Radio P25 push-to-talk voice resources.

The combined efforts of these companies created a system that marked the first time federal, state and local first responders simultaneously used a private broadband network for a national special security event (NSSE). This initiative proved that an interoperable system can function on a large scale and its success could serve as a blueprint for the larger FirstNet National Public Safety Broadband Network architecture.

It’s encouraging to see this type of collaboration take place both on the commercial and public safety levels. Technology companies can no longer take a proprietary view that shies away from open architecture and cross-platform partnerships. In our multidimensional and complex world, partnerships offer cost-efficient, workable solutions for public safety.

Placing Public Safety First Within FirstNet

The author, Mike Bostic, on the #IACP2012 show floor, sporting his new ConnectedCOPS headgear

“We’re on the precipice of redefining public safety communications,” said Charles Dowd, deputy chief with the New York City Police Department, earlier this year when Congress passed legislation that reallocated the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to public safety. “This is going to transform public safety communications the same way that two-way radio did in the 1930s. That’s how big of a change this is going to be.”

As I have followed the development of FirstNet with great personal and professional interest, Chief Dowd’s enthusiasm sums up my own views regarding the future of public safety. For the past four years I’ve been working with a group of exceptional engineers at Raytheon. The knowledge they’ve shared has made me even more excited to see the development of a broadband network as I know it can go far beyond the limited capabilities and available technology first responders have today.

The FirstNet board has just held its initial meeting. The board includes 12 public sector members; the remaining three members represent the federal government. FirstNet – the First Responder Network Authority – is responsible for overseeing the building and operation of the new nationwide public safety broadband network.

The board has four outstanding people representing the operator’s needs of a new system, one member each to represent police chiefs, the fire service, EMS and the National Sheriffs’ Association. This is fantastic. The challenge for the other board members will be listening to this minority group. The board as a whole can’t allow the politics of business and Congress to shape a system with limited capabilities and limited competition, like we currently have in the public safety field.

I view this challenge through simplistic, definable areas, with complex and competing interests on all sides of the issues. Ultimately, I believe FirstNet can most effectively move forward by laying down these ground rules:

  • Putting the operational needs of public safety first and they should outweigh all other issues in FirstNet’s decision-making process.
  • Local autonomy in a national system should be allowed otherwise the push back from these local entities will doom the effort.
  • Once built, the processes and applications of the system must be based on a platform that allows any agency to tailor it to their own needs. No one entity should control that process, otherwise manipulation by competing industry interests will limit capability, much as it does today.

After spending most of my adult life serving in public safety, I know that departments and agencies have long had to make do with what a small group of companies have been willing to build based on profit margins. All along the tables should have been turned, with industry responding to definable operational needs and demands in dynamic, well-crafted RFPs.

The business world won’t let go of the status quo easily. But I’m confident that the public safety leadership has the strong will to control the future by placing their operation needs at the forefront in FirstNet discussions. If this happens, we would see public safety designing systems that work for them and industry responding to those needs – for the first time.

Next Gen 9-1-1 Funding Crucial Piece to Nationwide Interoperability Puzzle

We all know what to do in an emergency – dial 9-1-1. What many of us don’t know is that after teaching generations of Americans to spontaneously dial those three digits for help, our national 9-1-1 system faces its own emergency. The 9-1-1 infrastructure we’ve relied on for more than 40 years is based on analog technology with fixed endpoints. It’s a design that has quickly become outdated in a digital age where texting, mobile calls, photos and videos are the preferred mode of communication at the swipe or touch of our Android, iPhone and iPad devices.

Since the federal law was passed in February, we’re now seeing the beginning of a complete paradigm shift. Contained within this legislation, which also created the national public safety LTE network, is a provision for $115 million in funding to support Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) technologies. This means that in place of “Old World” E911, we can eventually expect to have a communications structure that’s data centric, integrates multimedia such as text and video, and is based on open standards. Cassidian Communications, a Raytheon partner, stands at the forefront of this next-gen development with its equipment already being used in Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet) solutions in Montana and Texas.

According to the federal government, the $115 million in grant money will come from spectrum auction revenue, with the funding only becoming available after the spectrum is auctioned. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are authorized to oversee grant distribution through the end of fiscal year 2022.

Eligible applicants will be able to receive matching grants of up to 60 percent of a project’s cost. The funds can be used for several purposes, including implementing an IP-enabled emergency network; operating NG9-1-1 services and applications; establishing IP backbone networks and the software infrastructure needed to interconnect emergency response organizations; and training public safety personnel, such as call takers, first responders and others who are part of the emergency response chain in 9-1-1 services.

The benefits of an interoperable NG9-1-1 system would impact all of public safety. It would mean:

1) Improved delivery and management of content from IP endpoints such as IP video, alarms and real-time data;

2) Advanced routing capabilities and more flexible location of call-taking positions;

3) A higher degree of interoperability between emergency call centers (PSAP to PSAP) as well as from PSAPs to first responders; and

4) Potential lower communications costs over the long term when bringing calls into the PSAP and transferring calls out of it.

With NG9-1-1 technologies, situational awareness extends across platforms as soon as the system receives a call or text from any IP-capable device. This is a win-win situation for emergency center call takers, police officers, firefighters and other first responders, as well as those who had to dial for help in the first place.

You can read the full text of the Next Generation 9-1-1 Advancement Act, subtitle E of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act here, starting on page 82. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr3630enr/pdf/BILLS-112hr3630enr.pdf

What’s Next for the Nationwide Public Safety LTE Network – And You

Today, many of us may be impatient for action on broadband mobile mission-critical communications, and understandably so. The call for a nationwide interoperable network for public safety has been heard for more than a decade. Now that Congress has passed legislation reallocating the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to public safety and providing $7 billion in grant money for the creation of such a system, the build-out can finally begin.

LTE is widely viewed as the key to unleashing “the power of the network” for the full scope of mission-critical communications. When it hits the streets for public safety, we’ll see dramatic and immediate changes.

For example, a sheriff might share a video of an escaping criminal and use predictive solutions to determine where he’s headed, then send squad cars to that site and quickly apprehend him. On another front, firefighters would benefit from a broadband network that pumps data to tablet computers, such as floor plans of burning buildings, to expedite rescues of trapped victims.

But nowhere will the benefits of LTE be more self-evident than in disaster situations. In recent years we’ve seen a rapid increase in the number and severity of both natural and man-made disasters that place enormous strains on first responder networks. These events, which always seem to come out of the blue, have earned the nickname “black swans,” from the title of a best-selling book by mathematician and investor Nassim Taleb. A “black swan,” in this instance, is a random or rare event thought to be highly improbable or even impossible – until it happens. In the public safety arena, examples of black swans are almost too numerous to mention, ranging from acts of God to acts of terror and violence.

Sometimes it takes a black swan to spur action for improvement. The tragic events of 9/11 as well as Hurricane Katrina certainly were the black swans that spurred action for the nationwide LTE network that’s starting to take shape.

But this change to LTE won’t take place all at once or across-the-board in all places, and it also won’t abandon other technologies that have proved their worth in certain areas.

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says that while a public safety broadband network will likely enhance interoperability nd increase data transfer rates, it could take 10 years or more before LTE will be able to accommodate voice capabilities. That means land mobile radio (LMR) will remain the standard for mission-critical voice communications for a while yet. LMR has done a creditable job for years and has made many new improvements in the last decade. It’s gone from analog to digital, and is available as an IP network-based service. APCO P25 has also enabled much-improved interoperability between different LMR systems, provided enhanced functionality and ensured competition through open standards.

Choosing the right model for LTE will also be critical to the network’s success. The fallback position of using legacy, closed, proprietary approaches is still favored by a few, but this is an antiquated notion for mission-critical communications. Instead, we need a model that’s based on the following principles: non-proprietary, open architecture, standards-based, customer-owned (and with customer input on design), and above all, interoperable.

It’s generally agreed that interoperability will be among the greatest challenges in the evolution toward LTE. LMR, P25, LTE and, most likely, different flavors of each will all be in use at the same time because there’s no single technology that fits everybody’s needs. For a nationwide public safety broadband network to be fully effective, we’ll need a layered architecture that’s built to mission-critical specs – and is truly interoperable between locations and technologies.

Game Changers: Future Technologies for First Responders

Consider these three scenarios:

  • You’re on patrol and receive a call that there’s a shooter armed with an AK-47 at a military facility. He’s taken out the gate guards and is opening fire on anyone he approaches.
  • A terrorist enters LAX Terminal 4 with a bomb-like device strapped to his body. He approaches the ticket counter, is identified by the desk personnel and LAPD is notified. He’s got a gun and everyone’s on the floor.
  • According to intelligence reports, a suspect with a deadly gas device is expected to enter a local state building in 30 minutes.

In each of these cases, there’s a gap between the technologies that first responders have access to in the field now – and those that are already on the market or will be available in the future. For public safety leaders at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Public Safety Network Systems Laboratory’s first counterterrorism workshop in December, that future became reality during mock crisis response exercises. Among the attendees were representatives from the FBI, LAPD, Los Angeles World Airports, City of Los Angeles Emergency Management, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the University of Southern California’s (USC) CREATE Homeland Security Center.

These participants were asked to create a wish list of technologies they would find helpful during emergencies and routine operations. Among those listed were the following:

  • Next Generation 9-1-1 that can receive incident-related pictures from mobile phones with geo-location data attached. Also, social media posts and tweets sent from the public that contain longitude and latitude coordinates.
  • Communications systems that are interoperable, resilient, redundant and secure. By implication this means first responders should be able to communicate with each other through an open architecture system that integrates any communications device.
  • Facial recognition technologies and Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) that can help identify people who may be dangerous.
  • Automated license plate readers at key facilities or a city’s entry and exit points for alerting and investigative purposes.
  • Blue Force Tracking that shows where members are in three dimensions. This could be used within buildings and include building schematics.

We’re well aware of the privacy concerns that have been raised over marketing, government and law enforcement’s ease of accessibility to the reams of personal information available online and through social media. As the group stressed, the key would be to identify and address any such concerns when these technologies are being designed for public safety use, not after the fact.

While this wish list looks great on paper, the real question is who will take the time to lift these technologies off the page and make them a cost-efficient resource for first responders. One avenue that’s available is Raytheon’s new Public Safety Regional Technology Center in Downey, Calif., near Los Angeles. This 27,000-square-foot center opened in February with a focus on developing, testing and certifying current and future public safety technologies.

Several cutting-edge Raytheon technologies that are battlefield-tested and have been adapted for the public safety market are on display and can be tried out at the facility. There’s the Boomerang shooter detection system that helps immediately locate the source of firearms being discharged; the Controlled Impact Rescue Tool, which is capable of cutting through a reinforced concrete wall up to four times faster than traditional methods of drilling or sawing; and TransTalk, a mobile phone app that directly translates languages, including a soon-to-be-released English-to-Spanish version.

The Public Safety Regional Technology Center has been built for all first responders, regardless of your badge or uniform color. Everyone, from police and fire to other emergency personnel, is welcome to use the facility for testing purposes or to propose an idea that can be collaboratively worked on by academic researchers, industry and the public safety community. This place is bringing forth tomorrow’s technologies today to reduce public safety costs and most importantly, save lives.

To learn more about the Public Safety Regional Technology Center and view photos, visit this link. For information on the UCLA Public Safety Network Systems Laboratory, email UCLAWorkshop@finnpartners.com or contact me on Twitter @mikebostic.

Photo: Flickr/ruoshin

Related: UCLA Lab Focuses on New Technology for First Responders

UCLA Lab Focuses on New Technology for First Responders

Public safety has made news headlines again as President Obama urged Congress to approve a national public safety broadband network during his State of the Union address. Those of us in public safety are well aware of this need. At the same time, it’s imperative we know about other efforts that are underway to push public safety forward.

At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the Public Safety Network Systems Laboratory held its first workshop in December. As I mentioned in a blog post last year, this lab offers third-party, unbiased testing and analysis of current and future public safety technologies.

The laboratory, of which Raytheon was its first partner, is dedicated to advancing public safety through six goals that focus on the development of networks and operations technologies, analysis of LTE technologies, adoption of devices such as smartphones, and establishment of standards for interoperable network systems.

The research team’s initial projects will focus on some of the most pressing issues first responders face as departments switch to commercial wireless technologies. They’ll analyze and design adaptive power and adaptive rate scheduling for wireless and cellular networks; look at wireless systems under severe fading scenarios in urban and indoor areas; and develop apps for smartphones.

Over the long term, public safety will also benefit from the creation of a Public Safety Research Trust. This trust is envisioned as a 501(c)(3) charter organization dedicated solely to public safety. It would provide a neutral middle-ground for public safety organizations, research centers and industry to invest in real solutions – not just products. Industry membership dues, research grants and fundraising would ensure the trust remains independent and self-sustaining for years to come.

This is a bold vision and one that’s already being embraced by those who attended the lab’s first counterterrorism workshop. Among the attendees were representatives from the FBI, LAPD, Los Angeles World Airports, City of Los Angeles Emergency Management, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the University of Southern California’s (USC) CREATE Homeland Security Center.

But it needs you too. First responders are well aware of the challenges they encounter in the field. Now there’s a world-class research institution working to bring you solutions.

If your agency, department or company is interested in joining the Public Safety Research Trust, contact me on Twitter @mikebostic.

PART 2: An active shooter terrorizes a military facility. An armed suspect with a bomb-like device strapped to his body enters LAX Terminal 4. A suspect with a deadly gas device is about to walk into a state building. What equipment and information would you want in a crisis? Find out what public safety leaders attending the UCLA Public Safety Network Systems Laboratory workshop envisioned as the technologies of the future.

Related post:
Bostic, Mike. March 17, 2011. From Internet to Interoperability: New UCLA Research to Benefit Public Safety Agencies

California Police Agencies Lead the Way with High-Tech on Patrol

Internet Access, Real-Time Communications Deliver Information Faster to Cops

I’ve often mentioned in my blog posts the irony of police officers accessing social media, email and the Internet on their personal smartphones, but having to settle for decades-old communications technology while on the job. There are several reasons for this discrepancy, with the existing climate of post-recession budget cuts making significant technology upgrades even more uncertain.

Despite these challenges, some of California’s police agencies – the largest of their kind in the nation – are finding cost-effective solutions to bring the Web and the latest communications gadgets into patrol vehicles.

In November, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced that it’s replacing mid-1980s-era mobile digital technology with a Raytheon mobile data computer system that has been battle-tested by soldiers in Iraq. The new state-of-the-art laptop computer systems are being installed in more than 2,400 vehicles and allow deputies to access the following:

• Sheriff’s Data Network and criminal databases, including FBI records
• Email
• California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) photos
• GPS routing to emergency calls
• Biometric data, such as fingerprints

With this information available at the tap of a finger, deputies no longer have to call the station for analytics when they’re chasing a suspect, responding to an emergency call or arriving at a crime scene. They can also type up reports remotely, which gets them in and out of the station faster and increases time spent in the field.

Then there’s the California Highway Patrol, which is responsible for 15,181 miles of highway in the state.

Recognizing the need for effective interoperable communications during an emergency, CHP has taken nine Chevy Tahoes and transformed them into sophisticated SUVs called Incident Command Vehicles that operate as public safety command centers on wheels. Each vehicle is a buzzing trove of high-tech connectivity with the latest communications equipment, including satellite, cellular, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and Internet access. At the center of this mobile command and control unit is the ACU-1000 Gateway system, a Raytheon technology, which can cross-connect different radio networks, connect those networks to phone or satellite systems, and function as a network connection on its own.

In both cases, the LASD and CHP show it is possible to bring communications technology that we use every day and place it in patrol vehicles so officers can have instant online access to the resources they need when it matters most.

On a related note, I’m attending a counterterrorism seminar this month at the UCLA Public Safety Network Systems Laboratory in Los Angeles. I hope to share some insights from that event in my next post.