APCO 2016 enhances public safety communications

Posted by John Chung on August 24, 2016


The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) held its 82nd Annual Conference and Expo August 14-17, 2016. As in previous years, this major event drew a multitude of public safety communications officials from the public and private sectors and featured an expansive exhibit hall where numerous public safety communications equipment companies were eager to demonstrate their latest technological innovations. The event also featured several professional development sessions organized by industry subject matter experts where attendees were given the opportunity to expand their knowledge in a number of public safety topics, including emerging technology and cutting edge issues.

During a session titled “1+1=3: How LMR and LTE Combine to Make Public Safety Communications More Than Expected,” Kelly Castle, Program Director for OhioFirst.Net, provided insight on the results of an exercise conducted in Beavercreek Township, Ohio, to test how FirstNet’s Band 14 700 MHz LTE network would work upon deployment. According to Castle, Ohio officials were highly satisfied with the results of the exercise, as first responders were able to leverage the network to utilize multiple applications such as location-based solutions, license plate readers, and video analytics without causing congestion or overload of the system. The network also allowed first responders to easily share media between devices without tying up land mobile radio devices. Castle highlighted that, in one instance, first responders were able to utilize surveillance video indexing technology to locate a missing person in less than five minutes from the time he went missing. In contrast, reviewing that much surveillance video footage would have taken human employees an untold amount of time.

Despite the positive remarks on LTE technology, Castle noted that LTE devices have proved to be inadequate in terms of audio transmission, indicating that the quality of audio was easily affected by ambient or traffic noise. Like Castle, other panelists opined that LTE devices will not replace land mobile radios for the foreseeable future, and that the two devices will be used in conjunction to complement one another.

In a session titled “The Internet of Public Safety Things,” Microsoft architect and panelist Iveta Toplova spoke to attendees about the importance of leveraging existing public safety devices to create value for public safety officials. Toplova argued that most jurisdictions already have an abundance of Internet of Things (IoT) devices that can send and receive data, but that these devices by themselves fail to create value, as the data collected through them is rarely leveraged due to “data overload.” Data that fails to undergo analysis is “useless,” Toplova remarked. To overcome this issue, Toplova recommended that public safety agencies and jurisdictions take four major steps: (1) interconnect existing devices, (2) utilize cloud technology to share information, (3) combine all collected data in one place, and (4) use analytics to generate new insights and create value. By taking these steps, Toplova argued that agencies could very well gain the ability to predict future responses, detect and understand trends, and even help protect the lives of first responders.           

APCO 2016 provided an unparalleled opportunity for attendees to broaden their knowledge of the public safety industry and for public and private sector officials to meet and discuss ways to enhance public safety communications.