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The urgent need for innovation in public safety communications

Nokia headquarters

Our world is changing rapidly, with increased risks stemming from environmental issues, socio-economic pressures and cybercrime.. Looking at the best way to meet the urgent challenges of this evolving risk landscape is critical for public safety agencies. 
In May I was fortunate to attend a CCW keynote presentation on this very topic by Nokia Technologies CTO Hannu Kauppinen. This is important stuff, so I wanted to share a few of his thoughts with you.

Dealing with a torrent of new risks

The World Economic Forum outlined in its latest risks report the global environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological macro-trends that are putting added pressure on our public safety agencies.

  • Be it for two or ten years, risks coming from climate change are seen as having the most far-reaching impact. Extreme storms, rising sea levels, wildfires and droughts are increasingly causing damage to critical infrastructure, leading to disruption of critical public services and incurring significant costs.  
  • The world is also feeling challenging socio-economic currents: A growing urban population is further magnifying housing shortages, driving up homelessness and crime in cities, while inflation puts the most vulnerable in crisis and pushing more households to the brink of poverty. 
  • Amplified by the current geo-political situation, cybercrime also is on the rise, adding further to the pressure on public safety agencies. 
  • Last but not least, our public safety and critical infrastructure communities are facing the added challenge of a sector-wide labor gap. Fewer and fewer people are choosing a career in critical industries, and public safety agencies are struggling to attract talent with the right experience and skills. As the challenges outlined grow and escalate, agencies need to scale their work despite a lack of people and funding. 

The solution? Public safety operators need to accelerate the development of their digital capabilities at scale, as well as use digital and situational intelligence to prepare and respond quickly and adequately to all of these escalating situations – and do so in the face of personnel and funding challenges.

Meeting the challenge with intelligent tools and networks

The good news is that public safety now has a robust toolbox of innovative technologies to mitigate these threats. New tools such as artificial Intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and deep data insights can equip public safety agencies with the advanced tools they need to protect and serve efficiently, safely and confidently.
Rich data flowing from dozens of sources, including IoT sensors, wearables and body cam footage, combined with real-time analytics in the command-and-control center, can significantly boost the situational awareness of your public safety units. Using all these additional sources is not only allowing you to follow the exact location, exposure and movement of the teams engaged: It also monitors vital health statistics in parallel, in real time  ! The result is better-informed decision making, laser-sharp preparedness and faster response times.
Additional innovations include drones, mobile cameras, temporary stationary cameras and supervisors with mobile cameras on the ground – all of which can communicate directly with emergency response centers to have full control of a situation, enhance real-time communication with citizens and save lives. And also this allows first responders to not risk you live for unnecessary reasons .
To reap the benefits of these powerful new solutions, public safety must modernize its legacy communications infrastructure. This means adopting open, standards-driven 3GPP 4G and 5G technologies. These secure high-performance networks provide the required bandwidth, speed, security and flexibility to enable digitalization and innovative applications for highly resilient and reliable mission-critical communications in an all-digital era.
This also requires collaboration between technology vendors and the public safety community, understanding their requirements and drive the  standardization of technologies to ensure critical, specific public safety features are integrated in the 3GPP standard. We at Nokia actually have been doing this for many years, as 3GPP and TCCA members, innovating use cases directly with governments, to design and deploy groundbreaking developments in the public safety sector – for example, FirstNet, the largest public safety mobile broadband network in the world, Qatar’s nationwide mission-critical public safety mobile broadband network (the first of its kind), and the world’s first 4G LTE Air-to-Ground  for public safety broadband communications network for the UK’s Home office

Leveraging the industrial metaverse and RXRM

My colleague Hannu also spoke about the industrial metaverse, which enables organizations to dynamically represent physical assets, systems and environments  in the digital world, then interact with them to bring a new level of control and monitoring to operations. 
For example, by deploying a digital model of their operations (often referred to as a “digital twin”), public safety agencies will be able to use simulations to gain real-time end-to-end visibility into the efficiency of their processes. They can anticipate problems, different solution scenarios to unblock bottlenecks, detect capability gaps, identify areas that require additional resourcing, and aid the training and preparedness of response units without actually putting first responders in harm’s way. The industrial metaverse will also be vital to enhance the preparedness of public safety units by facilitating immersive training and what-if scenario planning through real-life simulations – without putting responders at risk. Meanwhile, Nokia’s Real-time eXtended Reality Multimedia (RXRM), which brings together real-time 360-degree video and 3D spatial audio, can provide a fully immersive environment for increased situational awareness and better-informed decision-making during an emergency. 

Innovation for critical communications

As Hannu pointed out in his keynote, we face an urgent situation. Given the new risk landscape, it is crucial that we accelerate the transition to mission-critical broadband communications and add in the layers of rich information and insights we need for improved situational awareness and emergency communications.  The takeaway: Change will continue to happen, and so must innovation. Fortunately, we have the ability to transform and leverage our critical public safety networks to future-proof our operations for tomorrow. That way we can set ourselves up for the challenges of the future while ensuring success in our mission to protect our communities and those who serve to protect them.

Visit to learn more about how we help public safety agencies do their work in a safer, better connected and more efficient way.