The dawn of the new decade ushers in an era where the public safety industry is fully embracing opportunities that come from game changing technologies in the areas of artificial intelligence, as-a-service technology provisioning, advanced analytics, cyber security, and the Internet of Things. As we approach the end of 2019, the rate of acceleration of adoption of transformative technologies in public safety continues unabated. As we look forward to 2020, it will continue to be imperative that jurisdictions, large and small, address the challenges of adopting transformative technologies that support efforts to work smarter, faster, and safer.
2019—In the Rearview Mirror
During the past year, our industry continued its progression to adopting many digitalization initiatives in the public safety communications and emergency response technologies marketspace.
Some of the notable events of 2019 include the following:
- Provisioning of cloud services is now standard for most providers, and has an increasing adoption rate in public safety agencies
- Cyber security attacks on cities, to include PSAP operations, are increasing
- FirstNet, the largest public safety communications project in history, continues to expand
- 9-1-1 funding remains under pressure in many states
- NG9-1-1 implementations continue in the US, but are hindered without a nationwide funding solution
- Internationally, countries are implementing regional or national smart-cities or NG9-1-1 solutions
- Mergers and acquisitions continue among 9-1-1 industry vendors
- The UCR to NIBRS transition clock continues to tick to 2021
Mergers and Expansions — The private sector portion of our industry continues to see more mergers and acquisitions. Some of the more notable deals include:
- RapidSOS, a leading provider of a data clearinghouse for NG9-1-1 implementations and improved location data for mobile 911 callers, raised significant funding in a Series B funding round in November. The funding will enable the company to expand its technology platform.
- Comtech Telecommunications completed its acquisition of both NG9-1-1 provider Solacom Technologies, and General Dynamics’ Next Generation 9-1-1 business unit.
- Intergraph/Hexagon rebranded to Hexagon, and released its OnCall suite of applications
- CentralSquare consolidated its CAD/RMS offerings into two product lines – Enterprise Suite (Inform) and Pro Suite (Zuercher).
- Motorola purchased WatchGuard, manufacturer of-car video systems, body-worn cameras, and evidence management systems as well as AvTech which provides voice over IP dispatch console systems.
Public Safety Broadband — 2019 was a busy year for the nationwide public safety broadband network, FirstNet. Two and a half years into the buildout, this was the first of five deployment years for AT&T to reach the required number of public safety subscribers, and, according to FirstNet, they are ahead of schedule.
- In October, it was reported that more than 3,600 public-safety agencies across the country have joined the First Responder Network Authority. The total number of subscribers now totals more than 250,000, using 150,000 FirstNet connections.
- FirstNet was used for nearly 100 major incidents and events this year, including the Boston Marathon, and Hurricanes Matthew and Florence.
- Alternatively, other carriers, such as Verizon, continue to expand their services to the public safety community. There will continue to be competition over network coverage, services and pricing, which is generally considered a good thing for public safety consumers.
NG9-1-1 Funding and Implementation — Unfortunately, the existing NG9-1-1 bills will expire when Congress ends this month.
- There is hope that new legislation will be introduced in 2020, most likely as part of a larger infrastructure bill.
- During 2019, implementations on state and regional levels continue. For example, the State of Connecticut and Washington, DC went live with an NG9-1-1 ESInet providing call routing and location solutions.
- California has awarded contracts for a NG9-1-1 solution across the state in the largest state NG9-1-1 project in US history
- Canada’s Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) directed all telephone companies to update their networks in order to be ready to provide NG9-1-1 voice and text messaging services in the near future.
Looking Forward to 2020
2020 will bring new challenges to our industry. From our perspective, the list below summarizes key anticipated changes in public safety technology and public policy for 2020.
- Cloud Based Solutions — Managing the operational, IT Support and security requirements of cloud deployments (cloud native, cloud hosted, web-based, etc.) and Software as a Service (SaaS).
- Mobility – Increasing use of mobile devices and applications will require close network and security integration and coordination.
- Big Data/Analytics – The move to Smart Cites and Open Data initiatives increases the need for advanced data analytics and reporting capabilities to include the creation of fusion centers and real time crime centers.
- Cyber Security – modernizing and deploying security protocols that balance business needs with the inherent risks of increased levels of system connectivity.
- AI – The integration of artificial intelligence to support analytical services i.e. Crime Analysis, and Early Intervention Systems.
- IoT – Managing the explosion of data that the widespread adoption of IoT devices and sensors generate.
- Drones – The increasing use of unmanned aerial devices and other advanced sensing technology to enhance situational awareness and command and control capabilities
- 5G – The continued roll-out of 5G capabilities nationwide and its integration with available municipal public safety data network options (FirstNet, LMR, Wi-Fi, etc.)
Funding 9-1-1—Funding shortfalls in the 9-1-1 arena continue to be an area of grave concern to many in the Public Safety industry. NENA, APCO, NASNA, iCERT and many other industry associations have kept this issue at the forefront but problems still persist. As telecommunications technologies continue to advance and legislative terminology stays the same, the surcharge has not kept up with budget needs in most states. This situation has created a funding issue for 9-1-1 across the country. New solutions to fund 9-1-1 systems, operations and staffing will need to be identified to support the system in 2020 and beyond. Our 9-1-1 Funding Analytical Unit focuses on the needs of counties, parishes, and states to identify viable funding solutions.
Emergency Call Location Technologies—Improving caller location is a challenge that every PSAP faces on a daily basis. Over the past five years a number of non-carrier location technologies have been developed—Apple and Google Advanced Mobile Location (AML) capabilities are examples. The application of these technologies to emergency communications is underway in the US as well as internationally and will continue.
International Emergency Communications Enhancement Continues—There have been a number of notable advances across the globe to support people’s ability to get access to the life-line provided by 911, 999, 112, and other emergency communications centers. These include:
- Romania’s 112 emergency system is undergoing an upgrade to a national ESInet
- Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam is planning a major NG9-1-1 upgrade
- Malaysia is planning a major upgrade to its 999 system nationally
- Thailand is planning a new national NG9-1-1 solution
- The Caribbean region is planning to implement a regional Police Information Management System and Crime Registry
- AML has become a standard location solution in the European Union
Linking Emergency Communications with Smart City Initiatives— Governments are increasingly realizing the potential of their largely untapped data, and are transitioning to managing data as a strategic asset. Enterprise information management is being transformed as new data sources emerge, the value of existing unstructured data is unlocked, and the importance of data quality is better understood. Leveraging public safety data and network infrastructure capabilities with modern analytical tools will continue to accelerate the use of Smart City infrastructure and analytics capabilities.
We want to extend our thanks and appreciation to the public safety community, our clients and business partners, whether they are first responders, government executives, technology and communications agencies, private sector firms, or international organizations.
Our industry continually evolves, creating new technical and operational opportunities, as well as challenges. We are looking forward to serving our industry and our clients in 2020 by continuing to provide innovative and cost effective solutions, operations and technology consulting, and systems integration services.