Public safety needs data and application interoperability
What is in this article?
Dozens of potential applications
The primary opportunity is to identify public safety’s underlying information-sharing needs — regardless of whether the objective is local, regional, state or national. Critical applications that have wide public-safety market appeal, or which facilitate data interoperability and multi-agency, multi-jurisdiction information-sharing, deserve national application framework consideration. Because FirstNet has a responsibility to foster interoperability well beyond the network level, the application-development effort also must encompass data and application interoperability.
State, local, and tribal entities certainly should define, buy and operate their own applications over the nationwide network. Without the independent flexibility to address their unique application requirements, agencies will reject the FirstNet service. But defining and deploying interoperable applications represents a significant opportunity to address unmet data needs with national standards.
In other words, it is imperative that FirstNet create a nationwide framework for connecting myriad applications and developing a hosted environment that can be leveraged by those agencies that lack the IT infrastructure and resources to operate the apps themselves. Many rural jurisdictions simply do not have the human and capital resources to deploy and operate critical applications.
There are dozens of potential applications that could benefit public-safety operations and interoperability, and which ultimately would better serve, protect and enrich the community. The graphic on the next page depicts application interest identified through a public-safety survey conducted in the state of Minnesota. It indicates that there are some applications — e.g., mapping/geospatial data — where the number of users will rival that of e-mail and Web browsing. Many of these applications require interoperability among agencies to capitalize fully on their operational benefit. For example, real-time streaming video is among the most anticipated applications for the broadband network and is fast becoming a prominent multi-agency, multi-jurisdiction information-sharing tool.
Potential uses for video in the public-safety environment seem unlimited. Helicopter video can assist law enforcement in a suspect chase or provide firefighters with infrared images to support emergency response. Video from traffic cameras and from inside buildings can enhance situational awareness and provide invaluable information to support a multitude of purposes.
Meanwhile, next-generation 911 will let the general public share incident video with public safety, providing yet another invaluable source of situational awareness that does not exist today. Public safety also will benefit from handheld and vehicle-based video sources that stream vital content to dispatch facilities, command centers and emergency responders. However, there is one fundamental problem with all of these video solutions today — they are not seamlessly interoperable.
Through the Video Quality in Public Safety (VQIPS) program activities being advanced by the NTIA’s Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) agency and other initiatives, the sector has expended substantial energy to study video quality and attempt to standardize video codecs (application elements that convert packets to content on a screen). While advancing video quality certainly is important work, it does not enable +Jurisdiction A” to share its video content with +Jurisdiction B” when they operate disparate systems.
Public safety requires a solution to share video content with authorized personnel using standard video codecs and delivery mechanisms. And, because a video source is likely to be periodically available — e.g., video from a police cruiser streamed only during traffic stops — the solution must support ad-hoc video sources, as well as variability in those accessing the sources. Given the sensitivity of most video content, the solution demands mechanisms for the video owner to control who can view it, for how long,and under what circumstances.