Citizen first responders
Citizen first responders
The proliferation of LTE commercial service, along with compatible devices such as smartphones and tablets, has opened up a whole new world of personal communications, making it possible for us to supplement voice conversations with pictures, video and even location information. As public-safety communications evolve to broadband and IP, the industry has begun to look at how someone reporting an incident could use these same integrated multimedia communications tools to enhance the information shared with 911 call centers. If we can share text, pictures and video when we communicate with each other, shouldn’t we be able to do the same with people answering and responding to 911 calls?
At this point you may be saying to yourself, “but there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed before integrated multimedia communications in public safety can become a reality.” And you would be correct. There are some very real concerns that need to be dealt with, not the least of which is how to pre-process and present the information to the call-taker so that it is a benefit and not a hindrance. We also have to be concerned about the security of the communications through all stages of the response, and the need to preserve the chain of evidence. In addition, there are a few other issues, such as potential incompatibilities between the communication technologies, operating systems and devices being used by each party involved in the incident, from the initial 911 call to the responder in the field.
So, at this point you may be saying to yourself, “see, I knew that secure, interoperable voice, video and data communications between the public reporting an incident, call takers, dispatchers and first responders is just dream.” And this time you would be wrong. Integrated multimedia communications in public safety is much closer to reality than you think, and here’s why.
A new family of applications is emerging which enable interoperable communications for public safety, communications that are not hindered by differences in protocols, operating systems or device types. Such applications provide a software platform that enables secure, interoperable voice, video and text communications across numerous diverse devices, from smartphones in the hands of the public, to tablets used by police, fire and EMS personnel, to public-safety radios.
Because security features are built on top of standard public key infrastructure (PKI), all communications are encrypted, and persons involved in the incident response receive only the information and controls defined by their role and security level. Once a response is complete, security features prevent any further interactions between devices unless they are part of another incident response. Providing a single, unified security model that includes authentication and encryption, these applications enable secure communications— including instant messaging, image push and streaming video—from the public reporting an incident to the call-takers and dispatchers, and eventually to the first responders.