Recently, Motorola teamed with APCO to conduct a nationwide survey of 200 public safety users to examine their current technology usage and future needs. The purpose of the survey was to determine what technologies are most valuable to police, fire and emergency medical professionals, as well as what was on their “wish lists” for the future.

In terms of usage today, the survey revealed that the public safety community needs a combination of more functionality in the tools it currently has and new, advanced technologies that deliver video and data anywhere they are needed. Survey respondents gave high marks to technologies that provide seamless communications across departments, enhance response times to emergencies and enable public safety officials to perform “back office” work in the field.

The survey showed clear distinctions between rural and urban respondents, as well as significant usage and demand differences between fire and police. Not surprisingly, urban and suburban users cited increased use of technology in their jobs, while rural communities cited issues with the range, speed and availability of equipment. Fire officials gave high marks to technologies that streamlined incident response times, such as GPS and smart traffic-routing systems, while police departments placed higher value on being able to access incident-related video and data prior to arriving on-scene.

Several of the advanced technologies that are in demand and increasingly used by public safety, such as GPS and video, also are prevalent in the consumer market. While the basic functionality of consumer technologies may be similar to their public safety cousins, make no mistake that there is — and must continue to be — a major distinction in design and function for mission-critical situations.

Along similar lines, companies developing technologies for public safety must focus less on sales trend data and instead listen closely to the end users, building solutions around their specialized needs and with the rigors of their jobs incorporated into the design. Public safety users require technology that is purpose-built to excel in the harshest environments and also is intuitive for effective use in both daily tasks and emergency situations.

Manufacturers of public safety technologies should follow the example set by many consumer technologies, eliminating complexity in favor of making technology tools easier to learn and use in all circumstances. Only when mission-critical technologies designed around users' unique needs are coupled with intuitive functionality can end-users truly maximize the power of advanced technologies. When industry gets this right, technology helps public safety save more lives.

Finally, the decade-long push to solve interoperability challenges must continue. Survey respondents, particularly among law enforcement officials, cite the need to make additional progress in addressing interoperability.

Tremendous progress has been made in interoperability thanks in large part to the implementation of solutions based on Project 25 (P25) standards. Today, more than 1 million P25 subscriber radios from many suppliers have been deployed nationwide, and 31 states have — or are in the process of deploying — statewide networks. The industry must build on this momentum by leveraging additional technologies for P25 that are designed and built around the specific needs of public safety users.

The future holds endless possibilities for new, innovative technologies that will enable first responders to more effectively protect and serve the public — and save more lives. Through open and frequent dialogue, along with continued collaboration, the industry and emergency response community can help ensure the delivery of “future technologies” now.

Mark Moon is the senior vice president of Government & Commercial Markets, Americas, for Motorola.