• HigherGround

Transitioning to FirstNet: Mobile Devices

Updated: May 22, 2019

By Licia Wolf

With FirstNet converging communications technologies into LTE transmissions, emergency information communication that was clunky, disparate, and time-consuming is now seamless and nearly instant. Using mobile devices and the IoT with the FirstNet’s Band 14 dedicated LTE network, critical information can be efficiently shared between appropriate people. Mobile apps (discussed in a previous blog) developed for FirstNet are allowing first responders to send digital information instantly to the appropriate recipient such as the local PSAP, a command center, or each other. Moreover, almost any device in the network can transmit geospatial information.

This time-sensitive information can be crucial for saving lives, and several types of mobile devices have been developed to best assist first responders in the field. Many of these devices are specialized for efficiency and safety.

Devices and Use Cases

  • Smart Phones – used for phone calls, capturing images, video, SMS Text to 911, even emails and IM. Smart phones are rapidly replacing radios and other devices as the LTE network becomes more reliable. Apps such as panic buttons are now available for smart phones that call the appropriate 911 (police, medical, fire) and simultaneously send alerts to local associates that have been assigned in the app.

  • MC-PTT – Mission Critical Push to Talk - Built into smart phones, these mobile devices not only function as a smart phone but also incorporate LMR functionality, allowing device-to device discovery, local talk groups for short-range communications, as well as normal LTE calling, texting, and visual recording and sending. They are also configured with noise cancelling features, elevating the audio quality over that of LMR.

  • Drones – Equipped with video cameras and sometimes audio, data from drones can help in locating lost people, assist law enforcement in locating and tracking a perpetrator, transmit information on fires, flooding, avalanches, and more. The use of drones for aerial data capture is far more cost-effective than helicopter service, and drones can also deliver some medical supplies in instances when people are unreachable by ground transportation.

  • Vehicle on-board communications - New equipment such as laptops, tablets and smart phones are replacing radio in ambulances, law enforcement and firefighting vehicles. Vehicular communication systems are now integrating short range communications with FirstNet, and vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems are being phased out in favor of unified LTE systems.

  • In-vehicle modems and routers - secure, reliable connectivity that creates a Wi-Fi hotspot to connect all phones, laptops, and tablets, providing first responders with real-time information about emergency situations. Most have GPS and some have built-in inertial navigation (dead reckoning) that can track vehicles even in dead zones like canyons.

  • Body Cameras – Easy to use, portable, the size of a small cell phone, these devices record events from the perspective of the wearer (usually police), which can be used later for evidentiary purposes or streamed live.

  • In-car video cameras – Dash-mounted cameras record activity in front of the vehicle, including police and suspect action outside the vehicle. In-vehicle cameras can also be configured to record the inside of the vehicle, including suspects and officers. Footage can be used for evidentiary purposes or streamed live.

  • Biosensors – These devices can be in the form of a “watch”, a medical device (e.g. pacemaker or insulin monitor), or other wearable devices worn on a patient or firefighter. Alerts are triggered alerts when a certain threshold is reached. For example, if a patient’s heart rate stays at a level that is deemed too high for too long, or someone’s insulin or blood sugar is below or above safe levels, alerts would be transmitted. Biosensors on firefighters can alert their team if someone is in physical distress.

  • Traffic Cameras – part of intelligent transportation systems, these video cameras are typically mounted on major roadways and alert a monitoring center in the case of an accident or other issue.

  • Gunshot Alerts – These are systems used by law enforcement, security and military equipped with acoustic, optical, or other of sensors that detect the location of gunfire in the area.

  • Gas detectors – Used by firefighters to detect the presence of toxic gases

  • Thermal imaging cameras – These cameras render infrared radiation as visible light and allow firefighters to see areas of heat through smoke, darkness, or heat-permeable barriers.

Utilizing all this information means that 911 dispatch and command centers must have the capability to receive and transmit through LTE and the internet, as well as possess the digital infrastructure to process the data. Data must also be captured and stored for later retrieval and analysis with software such as HigherGround. Additionally, this voluminous data can be more efficiently managed using web-based CAD and Records Management Systems (RMS) which allow streamlining of data from these devices to enable dispatchers to better assist in emergencies.

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About the Author - Licia Wolf is the Marketing and Communications Manager at HigherGround. She holds a Ph.D., and a professional background in electronics, internet marketing, and print/imaging technology. Click here for more information on Licia and the rest of the HigherGround team.

HigherGround, Inc. provides best-in-class, reliable data capture and interaction storage solutions that enable clients to easily retrieve critical information. Our interaction recording and incident reconstruction solutions transform data into actionable intelligence, allowing optimization of operations, enhanced performance, and cost reduction.

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