Reflections on the Public Safety Research Conference 2016

By Mika Skarp

Public Safety Communication Research (PSCR), the US Government agency overseeing the development and implementation of essential safety infrastructure and technology had their annual conference in San Diego earlier this month. I was honored to have been invited as a speaker to present our piece of the puzzle as partners in the initiative. If you missed our announcement with PSCR and FirstNet last February, you can read it here.

This is a critical year for PSCR and its partners as FirstNet just closed its much anticipated RFP that seeks to significantly expand FirstNet's communications infrastructure to provide the US a mobile broadband network dedicated to public safety. While this isn't the first initiative of its kind globally; both the UK (can we still call it that?) and Korea have launched similar projects; when complete it will likely be the largest in the world.

And while the idea of a dedicated mobile network for public safety is a relatively common theme in these circles, the manner in which FirstNet and PSCR are approaching it is very new indeed. But what's the difference? How will FirstNet's network differ from a standard commercial LTE network? The answer can be found in one word; Reliability.

As a point of comparison, the very best LTE network in the UK can provide up to a 2Mbps connection at 92% reliability. FirstNet will go much further, and as described in its specification, the FirstNet network will provide 99.99% reliability thanks to the deployment of it's Local Controlfunctionality. This is where Cloudstreet's Dynamic Profile Controller plays an essential role. But what's next? Once reliability is delivered what else is needed?

There are still two missing pieces of the puzzle: 

  1. No public safety-specific Apps on the market
  2. Very few Band14-capable devices

Public Safety Apps
Just like with our commercial and consumer networks, a thriving app marketplace must develop to put the power of the network into the hands of public safety personnel and citizenry. To get there, public safety bodies need to ignite the developer community to innovate new applications. In San Diego, PSCR presented a clear plan to make this happen starting with open competitions for contract-based development with significant price tags attached. These competitions would focus in on small but critical integration like facial recognition using body cameras.

Band14 Capable Devices
And because this new network and a new generation of high bandwidth demand devices may just as easily be in play on a quiet country road as a roaring super bowl stadium, new apps alone aren't going to deliver on the plan's lofty requirements. Band14 devices will also be needed. The good news is that two of the so called "Three Amigos", Canada and Mexico are developing precisely these devices for networks similar to FirstNet.  All of this promises great things not just for advancement for telecom technology and IoT but the more important promise of making our lives better and safer.