Part 2 in a series of reflections in the lead-up to TCCA's Critical Communications Europe (CC Europe)
LTE mobile broadband networking is quickly becoming an established part of the critical communications landscape. In the consumer sector, IP-based wireless data services have demonstrated remarkable capabilities serving a wide range of use cases and applications. Once limited to simple voice communications, cellular networks now deliver video and serve as a foundation for the Internet of Things (IoT).
With mission-critical LTE networks coming on the scene, opportunities arise to tap IoT in service of mission-critical use cases addressing the safety of emergency responders as well as the health and welfare of the public they serve. This shift, termed by some the "Internet of Life-Saving Things (IoLST)," is a major theme of the combined TCCA Critical Communications Europe (CC Europe) and BAPCO exhibition and conference.
IoT and IoLST devices are machines that require internet connectivity to operate. Early consumer IoT devices introduced health-focused tools such as connected scales, remote health monitoring and patient tracking devices that enhance the healthcare delivery system's effectiveness. In the mission-critical IoLST realm, devices expand to include a wide array of sensors -- environmental, health, air supply, firearm activation, etc. -- or actuators that control the environment. With these, the IoLST brings the promise of improved medical care and increased safety for the emergency responders engaged during missions.
Overcoming IoLST Barriers
As promising as the IoLST concept is, significant barriers stand between today's vision and tomorrow's operational reality. In these early days, much of the innovation remains on lab benches as investment slowly ramps up. In contrast to an attractive economy-of-scale market for consumer health devices, the IoLST market is, by nature, constrained to a much smaller market of emergency service providers. While this market may bear a higher price point than the consumer market, purchasing is still limited by tight government budgets. Once investment hurdles clear, however, significant challenges remain as agencies attempt to weave use of novel technology into everyday operational practice. Chief among these challenges are the complex topics of security and data privacy. The journey requires significant imagination, initiative and funding -- all in the context of necessarily cautious institutional frameworks.
Coventry Thought Leadership
Though the IoLST device and application ecosystem remains in its formative stage, several influential thought leaders are fostering innovation and investment in tools, software and business models needed to make the concept a reality. Two of the most influential thought leaders, TJ Kennedy and Jason Karp, are heading to the CC Europe/BAPCO 2019 event to share their vision of how the concept of IoLST will evolve.
In the months since departing the US FirstNet leadership team and forming The Public Safety Network, Kennedy and Karp have worked with leading corporations and startups to hone IoLST concepts. Their presentations at CC Europe/BAPCO 2019 will draw on the experience and help stakeholders beyond the US better understand the potential of these new tools. Kennedy's experience as a firefighter, paramedic and law enforcement officer provide a unique point-of-view that helps bridge theory and operational practice.
In addition to provocative IoLST views coming out of North America, TCCA leadership has convened a panel of international experts at Critical Communications Europe. Addressing the topic will be Robin Davis from Actica Consulting and Nicky Smye from Mason Advisory. Joining them will be experts from mission-critical device maker Bittium, device design specialist Plextek, mobile router supplier Cradlepoint and mission-critical specialist Airbus Defence and Space. The panel will explore the challenges of IoLST operational deployment along with an examination of device design practices that smooth the way for operational innovation.
Going Beyond Voice Communications
For years, critical communications was synonymous with voice transmission. With mission-critical LTE becoming a reality, the equation now shifts. While group voice transmissions remain vital, the opportunity for new forms of information exchange become viable. By using sensors to expand situational awareness and connected medical devices to improve patient care, IoLST promises to transform public safety operations in the 21st century as much as the introduction of voice radio communications did in the 20th century. CC Europe/BAPCO 2019 will be an ideal venue for stakeholders -- end users, innovators, suppliers -- to take the full measure of its opportunity and challenge.