How Internet of Things Is Transforming Public Safety
Use Case 1: BYOD for Police Officers
The Internet of Things refers to connecting currently unconnected people and things, and it’s transforming public safety. This blog explains how police officers can securely use commercial smartphones and tablets in the field. Future blogs will describe other ways to use the Internet of Things to improve communications, collaboration, and operations.
Police officers are clamoring to use their iPhones, iPads, and Android devices for work. For law-enforcement agencies, allowing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) is appealing because it can save money, and mobile apps for law enforcement improve situational awareness.
Until now, two things have stopped police departments from allowing BYOD. One is governance. To use smartphones and tablets for incident response, departments need a way to enforce standard operating procedures. Lacking this, the NYPD recently had to remind officers to use radios instead of smartphones for official communications. Here’s the article in the New York Post.
The other block to BYOD is that smartphones and tablets haven’t been able to connect to conventional land-mobile radio (LMR) networks. It’s a safe bet that LMR networks will be around for a long time because of their reliability.
Making BYOD Work for Law Enforcement
The good news is that with the right technology, officers can securely use iOS and Android mobile devices on the job. And departments don’t have to change their existing dispatch operations or their LMR networks to make BYOD work. The solution has four pieces:
- A secure, available broadband network that can be used for public safety. Thanks to the new 3GPP standards, commercial service providers can give priority to public safety traffic. This is crucial during disasters, when networks tend to be congested. New Zealand Police, for instance, uses Vodafone’s public 4G/LTE network, and Vodafone can give priority to police traffic. U.S. public safety agencies will soon be able to use the FirstNet network. The Quantum Virtualized Packet Core is a software application that routes data over LTE networks. The Cisco Quantum™ Virtualized Packet Core (QvPC) is one of the industry’s first commercial virtualized evolved packet cores, the new Cisco Quantum Virtualized Packet Core (vPC ) solution redefines the paradigm of agility for service providers. A brief overview about how QoS over LTE can be provided using 3GPP standards can be found at the post on Quality of Service in LTE networks.
- Secure, reliable VoIP. With Cisco IP Interoperability and Collaboration System (IPICS), officers can join talk groups using any device: Department-issued radios. iPhones, iPads, and Android devices with either a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. IP phones. Laptops or PCs. Even traditional phones. The Cisco IPICS Mobile Client, called Cisco Instant Connect, makes a smartphone work just like a PTT radio. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMffffFzouo
- Secure mobile apps for law enforcement. Many are available. For examples, see iPhone apps available from the PoliceOne website, including a guide to recovered firearms and Spanish for police. New Zealand Police uses Intergraph Mobile Responder to extend computer-aided dispatch to smartphones. Mobile mapping applications help to create a common operating picture. To secure the connection and the device, Cisco provides solutions such as AnyConnect, Cisco Identity Services Engine, and Cisco Mobility Services Engine.
- Flexibility to communicate with new kinds of devices and media in the future. The newest Cisco IPICS software, version 4.8, includes a Software Development Kit (SDK). Public safety agencies and systems integrators can use the SDK to embed Cisco PTT communications into mobile apps. A mobile app that maps the locations of first responders, for example, could have a button to start a PTT session.
More Flexible Communications Doesn’t Need to Cost More
The Internet of Everything approach can actually cost less than a straight radio network. One reason is that commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) mobile devices can provide many of the same capabilities as more expensive digital radios. Support costs can also decrease because Cisco provides end-to-end support for Internet of Things solutions built from products from Cisco and our ecosystem partners.
In summary, with the right governance, BYOD can be a boon for public safety, improving situational awareness and relieving budgets. To securely allow mobile devices, you need the right broadband network, Cisco IPICS, and well-selected mobile apps.