It’s been a blast
It’s been a blast
After a decade in which I have authored somewhere around a thousand columns, news stories and feature articles, this is the last column that I will write for this publication.
As I mulled what to write, I thought back to when it all began, and what our industry was like then. Voice communications still were dominated by analog technology. Digital technology was starting to make some inroads, but the various standards groups still were trying to work out the kinks in the Project 25 standard—and there were plenty of them. Data communications also were at a very nascent stage, and they were not particularly effective, as cellular digital packet data (CDPD)—with its sloth-like data throughputs of up to 19.2 kb/s—was the gold standard at the time. Text messages were about all that could be transmitted. And IP technology still was considered to be nothing more useful than a way to chat with grandma over the computer, thus saving long-distance charges. (Remember those?)
What ensued over the next 10 years has been nothing short of amazing. Though analog technology still has its place in today’s world, several digital LMR communication technologies now are readily available—P25, TETRA, NXDN and DMR among them. Speaking of P25, it has made great evolutionary strides, particularly over the last few years, to the degree that public-safety’s digital platform of choice finally is living up to the promise held for it in terms of interoperability and competition among vendors.
Meanwhile, data has become a broadband game, driven by IP technology, which has opened all sorts of mind-boggling possibilities. To wit: video is being used in myriad ways to both prevent and solve crimes; police officers and fire inspectors are able to file reports from the field, which greatly improves their efficiency; they’re also able to make queries from the field, which greatly enhances their safety; and emergency medical technicians are able to share patient data with hospitals and trauma centers—at the scene and while en route—which significantly improves a patient’s odds of survival.
In addition, firefighter locations and biometrics can be monitored in real-time, helping incident commanders know where to look for them in a Mayday situation or when to pull them off the line before they succumb to heat stress; utilities are better able to manage vital energy resources due to smart-grid technology; similarly, transportation departments are using sensor technologies to improve traffic flow and make roadways safer; and a plethora of mobility technologies are making enterprises of all types and sizes more productive.
I could go on … and on … and on.
If that weren’t enough, there was Morgan O’Brien’s fantastical notion—uttered seven years ago at IWCE during his keynote address—that not only would a nationwide broadband communications network for first responders be possible, but Congress also could be convinced to forego billions of dollars in auction proceeds in order to provide the airwaves to make the network possible. O’Brien caught a bunch of flak from naysayers at the time, but today FirstNet is building this network on spectrum reallocated by Congress. There is a ton of work still to be done and plenty of challenges to overcome, but I have no doubt that it will get done—because it needs to get done. As the adage goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way.