As 2020 draws to a close, we reflect upon a year with almost unparalleled challenges, but also one where many of the changes already underway in public safety technology were accelerated. Nationwide, the impacts of the pandemic, the unrest primarily in reaction to the George Floyd and Brianna Taylor deaths, and the police reform movement have had a singular and unprecedented impact on the delivery of public safety services. As we approach 2021, many of the challenges that originated in 2020 remain unresolved: but the expanded rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines is a critical step in the nation’s and the world’s recovery from the pandemic.
The pandemic combined with other major incidents in 2020 created a singular challenge to most jurisdictions in determining how to rapidly implement and adapt transformative technologies that support their on-going efforts to work smarter, faster, safer, in an increasingly uncertain world. All governments have had to rethink the delivery of critical services to adjust to the reality of remote workforces and significantly constrained budgets, and many have embraced the benefits of technologies in the areas of as-a-service technology provisioning and advanced analytics to more efficiently delivery services.
Primary Operational Initiatives
Our industry continues to accept and adopt ever maturing technologies to support the effective delivery of services. From our perspective, key public safety technology initiatives include:
- 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 social media 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 that come with increased levels of system connectivity.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) – The integration of AI to support analytical services i.e. Crime Analysis, Early Intervention Systems.
- Internet of Things (IoT) – Managing the explosion of data that the widespread adoption of IoT devices and sensors generate.
- Drones – The increasing use of drones and other advanced sensing and alerting 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.)
- 311/Customer Relationship Management (CRM)– Providing citizens enhanced non-emergency response capabilities and tracking of citizen requests and complaints.
- Body Worn Cameras – Increased adoption of BWC technology to increase overall accountability and oversight of direct citizen interactions.
Other Key Operational initiatives
- Remote Call Taking – The City of Alexandria was the first public safety answering point in the country to configure their Computer Aided Dispatch, radio and telephony infrastructure to facilitate their 911 call takers’ ability to work from home.
- Regional Coordination – Many jurisdictions have increasingly understood the efficiencies and communications benefits to be gained by combining and consolidating regional call taking and dispatch operations. There have been great improvements in the technology marketplace supporting these consolidation efforts, primarily in the CAD to CAD field.
- Emergency Services Internet Protocol Network (ESInet) – More and more jurisdictions are moving to implement managed IP network for emergency services communications, and the rate of migration is expected to accelerate in 2021.
Many issues and challenges still continue to plague the industry; however, paramount among these is the need to identify a source of reliable and steady funding. NENA, APCO, NASNA, iCERT and many other industry associations have kept this issue at the forefront and the national and state level, but problems still persist. As telecommunications technologies continue to advance while legislative terminology (inaction) stays the same, the traditional phone surcharge has not kept up with budget needs and operational requirements 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 911 systems in 2021 and beyond. Many states’ 9-1-1 funds continue to face pressure from legislatures as they attempt to balance their budgets., While there was no action on federal funding in 2020, there is always hope that new funding legislation will be introduced in 2021, most likely as part of a larger infrastructure bill.
International Emergency Communications Enhancements Continue
There have been a number of notable advances across the globe to support citizens’ ability to get access to the critical services provided by 911, 999, 112, and other emergency communications centers. These include:
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is moving towards the creation of a comprehensive Smart City infrastructure, to include a major 9-1-1 upgrade
- Malaysia continues to plan for a major upgrade to its 999 system
- Thailand is planning a new national 9-1-1 solution
- The Caribbean region is implementing its regional Police Information Management System and Crime Registry, and looking to enhance its emergency communications infrastructure
- Peru is looking to integrate its existing three key emergency response numbers (105, 106, and 116) into a consolidated 9-1-1 system
- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is enhancing its crisis response capabilities, and implementing a Smart Cities initiative.
As always, we want to extend our thanks and appreciation to the public safety community, our clients and business partners; whether they are first responders, government entities, technology and communications agencies, private sector firms, or international organizations. We also want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our staff, who have adjusted to the realities of the pandemic to continue to provide our clients best-in-class services and support.
Our industry continually evolves, creating new technical and operational approaches, as well as challenges. We are looking forward to serving our industry and our clients in 2021 by continuing to provide innovative and cost-effective solutions in the areas of operations and technology consulting, and systems integration services.
All of us at Winbourne Consulting want to extend a warm Holiday Season Greeting to each of you. May 2021 be a wonderful, healthy, and successful year for you and yours.