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Why interoperability is key for public safety operations

Why interoperability is key for public safety operations

Many of the leading authorities on public safety, emergency services and critical communications technology are preparing to meet at Comms Connect Melbourne over October 18-19, where Nokia will be presenting the latest innovations and technologies in mission-critical broadband communications for governmental agencies and industrial players. One topic to be discussed for sure is why interoperability with legacy systems is imperative for the success of today’s public safety operations and how to make it happen. 

Mission-critical broadband is a game-changer for first responders

While authorities have traditionally used (and in many cases) are still using, narrowband technologies – Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems such as TETRA, Tetrapol and P25 - to communicate, these do have limitations when it comes to data. In critical situations, first responders need real-time video and access to various databases on the move, as well as vital insights from IoT sensors to gain better situational awareness. Using this they can better prepare themselves to tackle incidents and protect any affected people, the environment, infrastructure, and themselves.

Broadband opens the door to intelligent push-to-x capabilities

In critical communications, the need for this vital data is accelerating the move from traditional LMR to modern broadband technologies. Standards-based 4G/LTE and 5G give mission- and business-critical communications users access to more advanced push-to-x capabilities– allowing them to easily share video and other kind of data with their teams at the touch of a button.

Those public safety agencies still using narrowband LMR technologies cannot support the transfer of this critical video and, to do so, they would need to modernize their legacy communications networks. Before this transition is complete, the question remains, how to manage communications between teams that are using different technologies, in this case LMR and LTE.   

Thankfully, there are ways to enable interoperability between traditional narrowband and modern broadband technologies. These are:

  • A radio over IP gateway with donor radio, to enable fast and cost-effective deployment for smaller sized networks.

  • A direct gateway approach which would use the available interfaces of the LMR/PMR core for higher number of talk groups.

  • An interworking function (IWF) based approach for future-proof connectivity either by using an IWF gateway or a direct IWF connection between MCX and LMR/PMR networks.

Each of the above approaches are supported by Nokia Group Communications. Aligned with 3GPP and designed for mission- and business-critical communications with central control, the solution allows more than 100,000 users to share voice and video. Supported by our partners, Nokia Group Communications ensures seamless communication across different teams regardless of the technology being used. 

Getting concrete: How interoperability works during an emergency

Picture this. Bushfire is spreading rapidly, threatening to consume vast areas of woodland and adversely impact the environment, wildlife and anyone in the area. Traditionally those working in the fire service control room would use an LMR system to communicate with teams in the field, directing them to the site. But the limited range and coverage enabled by LMR has made this challenging in remote, mountainous areas.

LTE solves this by providing reliable coverage across the entire area. Those arriving first at the scene have access to push-to-video, allowing them to share a real-time view with teams yet to arrive, as well as those at the control center, allowing them to better manage resources. With an LMR/PMR gateway installed, LTE users can seamlessly communicate using push-to-talk voice communications with other agencies still using LMR.  

Gather teams fast to the scene using geofencing through Nokia Group Communications

When alerted to the bushfire, the dispatcher needed to react quickly, identifying and notifying the nearest officers, to get them to the incident scene as soon as possible. With Nokia Group Communications, the dispatcher can do this by selecting an area on an on-screen map around the incident. The system automatically locates and adds each responder within that virtual perimeter to a newly formed talk group. The dispatcher can then trigger a priority group call to inform them and guide them to relocate to manage the incident at hand – with all officer movements recorded by the solution for post-incident analysis. This can save precious minutes compared with doing this manually.

While Nokia Group Communications has its own dispatcher system from which you can control the above actions, it’s now also possible to integrate the solution with any third-party dispatcher. That means you can seamlessly manage these activities using your existing incident management system and time isn’t lost toggling between screens.

Visit us at Comms Connect Melbourne to see Nokia Group Communications in action

We are helping public safety agencies evolve towards mission-critical broadband to access more information and make faster, better-informed decisions to proactively address threats and speed response times.

Visit us at Comms Connect Melbourne during October 18-19 at the Nokia booth #11, and find out more about Nokia Group Communications.

Petra Vakiala

About Petra Vakiala

Petra is a professional marketer at Nokia, currently concentrating on solutions for enterprise customers in segments like public safety, smart cities and mining. She holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of Stockholm and is based in Espoo, Finland. During her spare time, you can find her recharging her batteries at the family cottage located on an island called Kemiönsaari in the South-West of Finland.

Tweet me at @petravakiala

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