Why hosted solutions make sense for public safety
What is in this article?
Public safety and hosted solutions
While private-sector companies and government agencies have embraced the cloud, public-safety agencies have been slower to adapt, mainly due to concerns about relinquishing control of mission-critical software to outside entities. Still, there are examples of hosted deployments in the first-responder arena.
Regionalization is a growing trend in public safety, so agencies are looking to share IP networks and hosted solutions to maximize technology investments and reduce costs. In Colorado, the city of Lakewood police department, the West Metro fire district, and the Wheat Ridge police department use a centrally hosted audio-capture platform to support their Project 25 radio system. The agencies are in the process of migrating to all-IP radio networks, but they still maintain legacy trunked radio systems during the transition. The agencies also share a hosted solution to pull and compile incident recordings.
“There’s no sense having multiple devices that do the same thing in one regional area,” said Richard Rudy, radio communications engineer for the Lakewood police department’s radio communications division.
VoIP E-911 and computer-aided dispatch (CAD) have been available in hosted configurations for a few years without widespread adoption. But hosted solutions are getting a serious second look, because next-generation 911 (NG-911) is on the horizon and municipal budgets continue to shrink.
NG-911 (based on the NENA i3 standard) will make hosted solutions a more viable option for every public-safety answering point (PSAP), because i3 is based on an Emergency Services IP network (ESInet) being shared by all public-safety agencies. ESInet not only is the future mechanism for next-gen emergency calls, it lays a foundation for PSAPs and agencies to interconnect and share applications at the local, regional, state and national levels.
This will affect the way that PSAP technology is sold, implemented and supported. Today, a PSAP might source its 911 system from one company, its CAD system from another and its logging solution from yet another, but these and other solutions likely will be bundled and sold as software services in the future.
Furthermore, instead of procuring alone, agencies connected by a regional ESInet will be able to combine their purchasing power to invest in shared hosted solutions. These solutions could be implemented using dedicated equipment (a “private cloud”) hosted at one centralized site, or sold to participating agencies by the 911 system provider in the form of software as a service (SaaS). The latter scenario is commonly referred to as a hosted multi-tenant environment.
This “multi-tenancy” is comparable to tenancy of an apartment building. Rarely is every apartment in a building designed to the exact same specifications, because tenants need different accommodations (e.g. 1 bedroom, 1 bath; 2 bedrooms, 2 baths; walk-in closets, etc.). While accommodations may vary, privacy and security are essential for all. Tenants may enjoy being neighbors, but every apartment dweller still wants a lock on his door.
The same holds true for data in hosted PSAP solutions. Each participating PSAP may not need or desire exactly the same solutions. Fortunately, hosted solutions let different applications be made available to different users on the network. For example, one PSAP may need to log only audio calls, while another may also need to log text-to-911 communications, and another might want to add speech analytics.
Although all data are housed together in a hosted environment, each individual software solution will have its own means of restricting access to data to ensure security. Through a feature known as “partitioning,” each agency can access and manage only its own data, calls and related information.