The IHS Markit Critical Communications team recently attended IWCE 2018 in Orlando, Florida, US. Discussions with end-users played a key role in shaping our analysis of major trends we noticed at the show.

The IHS Markit Critical Communications team recently attended IWCE 2018 in Orlando, Florida, US. Some of the trends & key take-aways we came back with were as follows.

1. FirstNet and Next Generation 911: Status, interoperability and plans

All 56 US states and territories at this point have opted in to FirstNet.

The network will enable the different data types characteristic in Smart Cities: voice, video, text. IoT (fire alarms, personal health sensors, vehicular crash data) and external data such as health information – i.e. if the caller is hearing impaired, has dementia, etc. in addition to integrating structural information (3D maps, BIM, LIDAR).

AI and analytics will be a requirement because of the vast amount of information & data the network will be able to bring into the dispatch center. A further requirement is that this information is routed into CAD systems so that dispatchers can not only use the information to improve dispatching, but also to provide to units in the field.

NG911 and FirstNet will be “living projects”. I.e. the networks will make platforms available for many new applications and technologies to run on, but these won’t all be installed or made available at once. These networks will develop over the long term and will continue to add on various applications and functionality.

2. Safe/Smart Cities

An interesting observation was the increase in discussion around Safe/Smart Cities at IWCE this year. Several sessions focused on the definition of Safe and Smart cities, how to plan and construct them and how FirstNet and Next Generation 911 would fit into and support these frameworks.

Key points from the sessions and show overall were:

  • The focus is different depending on the region and city.
    • Cities have different issues and goals when it comes to Smart Cities, for instance:
      • European cities tend to be more interested in energy efficiency and their carbon footprint.
      • US cities are more interested in transport because of aging infrastructure and oftentimes lack of extensive transportation systems in the first place.
  • Funding
    • Because these projects are so capital intensive and are ongoing, it is critical that cities leverage multiple funding mechanisms.
      • Private Public Partnership was most often recommended. Firms like Verizon push for this type of partnership because many cities lack the funding necessary.
      • Pilot programs were also suggested as a good way to begin because the vendors and their technology/solution offerings can first be tested and later implemented.
      • Grants: Smart Cities projects are gaining traction in the US and the government is making funding available for these initiatives. Marketing security projects or transport infrastructure projects as Safe or Smart City are ways a city can promote awareness, engage the community and other stakeholders and secure opportunities for funding.
  • Technology
    • Evaluating the infrastructure in place and determining what systems to “build-up” on.
    • Starting small and achieving “small wins”.
    • Gathering momentum from smaller projects and pitching these successes so that larger projects can be tackled in the future.
    • Focus on centralizing the visualization and management of data. Many cities already have valuable data sources in place, but the challenge is aggregating the data and gathering intelligence from it.

3. Mission critical LTE devices: Ruggedized LTE devices are booming in American Public Safety

LMR vendors are catching up to the LTE device trend we have been hearing for the past few years. Today, almost every LMR vendor showcased an LTE device at their booth. There seems to be an accelerating demand in the United States for ruggedized LTE phones, and one can attribute this mainly to the FirstNet network.

Moreover, new companies are starting to create a serious push into the public safety sector. One key trend we are seeing is that LTE device manufacturers such the case of Sonim Technologies will most likely have their devices being heavily subsidized by AT&T. This means that subscribers will pay a fraction of upfront money to purchase LTE devices, versus the current payment economics of LMR radios.

We expect that in the next couple of years first responders in secondary areas (e.g. animal control) will start to adopt LTE devices as their primary source of voice communication.

4. Software as a Service

Incident management systems tying together dispatching systems, CAD, surveillance, sensors and other systems continue to be showcased. These solutions are offered as monthly subscription services based on brackets such as sworn officers or number of civilians served.

This trend fits in with the Safe/Smart Cities frameworks in that it integrates several systems together via one platform onto a common operational picture. The systems are also scalable, meaning that users can be added or taken off with the purchase or cancellation of a license.

One key trend that we are seeing is the improvement in user interfaces for incident management and dispatch software. Operating these complex SaaS platforms have become easier and more intuitive. Meanwhile, these products are expanding to areas outside public safety. Such is the case of Motorola’s web-based “Ally” which is a security guard software for incident management and dispatch. These programs are now so simple that in practice one needs little-to-no previous experience or training required