Smarter Public Safety Communication Systems Are Critical to the Evolution of Cities

Mar 10, 2017 9:00 AM ET

As the communication technologies leveraged by the public safety sector advance, the intersection with smart city initiatives becomes all the more inevitable. Technological advances afforded by broadband long-term evolution (LTE) networks have changed how first responders, city and county officials, public agencies and transportation fleets communicate and gather data to better serve their communities.

Additionally, the national public safety broadband network currently being procured by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) could revolutionize public safety communications altogether. Although initially designed for data transmission only, when fully completed, it will also provide voice, video and photo transmission, vital for first responders to operate more efficiently.

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Next-generation LTE applications are helping increase efficiency for first responders and other agencies. The deployment of broadband LTE will eventually make it possible to transmit voice, data, pictures and video in real time. As these applications integrate with other “smart” efforts, public safety professionals can more efficiently protect and deliver services to their communities. These communication modernizations should synchronize with other technological advancements that increase levels of service delivered to constituents.

Public safety departments typically rely on land mobile radio (LMR) systems, many of which are now operating at end-of-life status. Agencies are beginning to shift to LTE applications used to meet citizen expectations and increase first responder effectiveness. Of the respondents in the 2017 Strategic Directions: Smart City/ Smart Utility Report survey, 39 percent reported that they are currently using LTE applications, with many likely still in pilot phases.

Even before FirstNet is deployed, community networks will continue to play a critical role in smart city initiatives and planning. As cities become more interconnected, significant gaps in public safety communications can be addressed to increase redundancy, resiliency and interoperability to improve safety for first responders and the constituencies they protect.