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Public Safety Agencies Exhorted to Embrace Cloud

Carol Wilson
11/7/2018
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CHICAGO -- First-responders can do a better job of saving lives by connecting immediately to cloud-based applications via their public safety LTE networks, industry consultant TJ Kennedy said here Tuesday.

Speaking at the IWCE's Critical LTE Communications Forum, Kennedy used personal examples from his own life, including his father's death from a massive heart attack and a recent choking incident he witnessed in a restaurant to illustrate how being "mobile-first" and cloud-connected can enable police, fire and emergency medical service agencies in the US to do a much better job of saving lives immediately.

"We have the right technology to solve the problem -- why aren't we going faster?" he said. "It's November of 2018 and we are still seeing departments running with technology from 1985, we're doing something wrong. We are not leveraging the technology that exists."

Public safety LTE networks have been proven reliable through emergencies, disasters and major congestion, Kennedy said, and provide reliable access for every first-responder to cloud-based applications.

"We can leverage lifesaving applications, lifesaving algorithms powered by the cloud like we never have before," he commented. "The days of saying we need a public safety network are over, we have public safety networks, they work today. Why is 100% of every police, fire and EMS department in this country not leveraging priority encryption and public safety applications?"

In the case of the restaurant patron choking on a piece of meat, Kennedy and his brother-in-law intervened to dislodge the largest blockage so the man could breathe but he had been choking for some time and was still in considerable distress. The first-responder -- a policeman -- arrived on the scene and saw the man breathing, so he quickly assumed things were okay and relayed that information to the EMS crew still on its way via a push-to-talk radio. Had the officer been wearing a body camera that was connected to relay video, the medical personnel would have more accurately seen that the man was still in considerable distress and would need intubation to survive, Kennedy explained.

Fortunately in that instance, the EMS crew arrived, saw the issue and were able to give the man the airway he needed to survive, he related, but that outcome was almost jettisoned by the policeman's assumption that all was well.

It is critical that public safety agencies be mobile-first, and they need to leverage solutions-as-a-service, Kennedy said, and not turn to older, brick-and-mortar options that take years to implement. He ridiculed the notion of buying desktop computers that sit unused in fire stations.

"You can be up and running on new solutions by this afternoon as a public safety agency, as a service," he said. "You can have applications running by this afternoon as a service -- you can probably try them for free, test them as non-mission critical and use the technologies to see how they work for your agency."


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Kennedy said his company is seeing agencies do this and gain "exponential capability as-a-service, they are getting the ability to leverage the cloud and most importantly, they are doing it in a mobile-first environment."

That includes making every first-responder vehicle a wireless hotspot that brings the network with it and having every first-responder equipped with a mobile wearable device that works everywhere they go, he said.

"I still talk to mayors and city councilors and county commissioners who are not buying public safety LTE service for their first-responders; they should be ex-mayors, ex-councilmen and ex-commissioners," Kennedy exhorted. "We have to provide mobile capability to every police officer, every firefighter and every EMT in this country. It's time we have to make this happen, so they can leverage the cloud, so they can use technology as a service, platforms as a service and most importantly they can truly become mobile first. And so they can save more lives."

Kennedy's presentation came immediately after Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s Steven Miller, director of National Security and Public Safety, had made his best pitch for such wireless public safety applications to be interoperable, as states such as California and Massachusetts are now requiring. The move would allow applications to exchange data, which would have benefits for public safety agencies and it would let Verizon's dedicated first-responder network compete more effectively with AT&T's FirstNet. Both are dedicated networks which provide priority services and preemption for public safety wireless traffic, as well as enhanced security.

Miller made a strong pitch for Verizon's dedicated public safety network, highlighting recent major disaster simulations and training for 200 first-responders and 40 technology companies in Georgia and pledging Verizon to be a roaming partner for FirstNet.

Miller, like Kennedy, urged public safety agencies to take advantage of everything LTE enables today, because even as 5G starts to roll out, it will be LTE networks that deliver mobile functionality for the near future and those networks will still be around for a decade, at least, he said.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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