When it comes to emergency operations in times of floods, fires or other natural disasters, speech beats almost any app currently available. This message was made very clear by Paul Steinberg, CTO of Motorola Solutions, at this week’s Critical Communications World conference in Berlin.
“Although many believe that two-way radios are on their way out due to smartphones being more robust and networks getting faster, in general it still takes a while to place a call on a smartphone and time is a luxury nobody has in the time of an emergency,” he said.
In addition, commercial networks will more than likely be unavailable, congested or simply do not cover the area where communication is needed in a major emergency.
“It is for this reason that two-way radios are here to stay and are in fact going to carry on getting smarter with more features to support emergency personal,” said Steinberg.
Motorola’s TETRA networks, which were first introduced in 1999 at the Oslo airport in Norway – there are now over 1 000 around the world including South Africa – clearly indicate that two-way radio still has a major role to play. The TETRA network is a completely separate network that allows emergency response personnel to communicate quickly and easily with one another in time of crisis.
While voice will continue to be the basis, public safety organizations are looking into the possibility of adding data capabilities via broadband networks, in many cases delivered by commercial carriers.
“Broadband makes video, image and other multimedia formats available to incident respondents,” Steinberg said.
Steinberg says that cities also can deploy dedicated mission-critical LTE networks to complement their current TETRA networks. However, this all depends on the frequencies that are available.
As the LTE networks are enhanced with features like push-to-talk, and streaming video which can be captured and analysed, large amounts of data will be created and this all needs to be accessed in real time.
“One person sitting at a central command station won’t be able to cope with a city’s crime on a day-to-day basis. To help make things easier we have acquired an end-to-end security platform from Avigilon. Its Appearance Search technology will help identify a person among thousands of people using artificial intelligence.”
In other cases, it can help find missing children and also apprehend shoplifters and keep watch for suspicious activity.
All the control room operator needs to do is input appearance details of the person in question. The system will then go through previously recorded footage from all the cameras and continue monitoring anything new until the suspect is found. The closest police patrol can then be notified and the suspect apprehended in a much shorter time.
Steinberg said that, although a TETRA network would normally be deployed on a large scale, we are seeing numerous shopping centres and airports using it.
“Although we have no control over natural disasters, technology like our TETRA networks combined with smart analytics and artificial intelligence will help with rescue efforts,” said Steinberg. “I am sure once criminals know that they can be found at the click of a button, they will think twice about committing a crime.”