Public safety is about to experience a watershed moment
What is in this article?
Expect a big change
This transformative event will have huge implications for nearly all OEMs producing products and applications for today’s public-safety market. Many excellent and very innovative companies derive 100% of their revenue and income from servicing the very mature narrowband-voice market. They understand the user, they understand the requirements, they know how to deliver excellent products that perform well in a very hostile work environment, and many have thrived by being dependable and innovative product producers.
However, when mission-critical voice begins to move to broadband, the market that many of these companies have dominated will begin to shrink. As state and local governments witness the trends, purchasing patterns likely will be impacted many years before the migration to voice-over-LTE is well on its way.
In order to survive, these companies will have to completely revamp their product offerings. While the environment in which they operate will remain unchanged, the decision-makers will change, the user requirements will be much more data-centric than voice-centric, and the devices will look much more like a smartphone than today’s LMR devices.
How many companies will see this in time and have the foresight to spend precious strategic capital working through the implications so that they can revamp their portfolios? While some will successfully make this transformation, history has shown that this kind of revolution produces few corporate survivors. Quantum leaps in technology and user behavior nearly always produce new competitors who aren’t burdened by old paradigms—it is these companies and entrepreneurs that will become the winners of tomorrow.
There are many, many examples of new technologies obsoleting older technologies and, more often than not, their manufacturers are obsoleted along with them. The most notable example that all are familiar with is in the photography industry. In today’s world, where iPhones account for more pictures taken than virtually any other product, the market leaders are not the film and camera companies of yesteryear. Similarly, the product and application suppliers in today’s public-safety market must be diligent, focused, and careful to ensure that they are not the casualties of the data-driven technology revolution invading their industry.
This will take time. Companies will need to allocate appropriate resources, and spend considerable time thinking and researching what will win tomorrow. They will then need to work very hard to transform their corporate cultures away from what worked yesterday. But in an age where public companies are driven hard for immediate and short-term results, few will have the patience and foresight required to spend valuable resources to ensure that they can translate their success in today’s marketplace to equal success in tomorrow’s.
While this will create great uncertainty for many, it creates huge opportunity for many as well. Big change means big opportunity, and it often creates a playing field that is much more level—at least temporarily—than that of the past. New market entrants, including new start-ups, can take advantage of the new dynamics and, with the appropriate focus, can become the leaders of the public safety technological revolution.
So, expect big change. Not just in the technology but also in its usage patterns and in those that supply it.
Chuck Shaughnessy is the president of The Shaughnessy Group LLC – a consulting firm focused on critical/public safety communications with an emphasis on strategic technology migration planning and focused market research.