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The Only Constant is Change

Written by Jennifer Gavigan

Keeping up with the latest and greatest technology is getting more challenging, especially when it comes to communications. In telecommunications, 4G is the fourth generation of cellular wireless standards. Long-Term Evolution means true 4G wireless connection speeds, up to 10 times faster than 3G. 4G LTE speeds are not available everywhere yet, and each network varies in how far their LTE coverage extends. A 4G system is expected to provide a comprehensive and secure all-IP based mobile broadband solution to laptop computer wireless modems, smartphones and other mobile devices. Features include: ultra-broadband Internet access, IP telephony, gaming services and streamed multimedia.

Tablet computers like the iPad and Motorola’s XOOM plus smartphones like the iPhone and BlackBerry are becoming more and more popular among citizens as well as public safety personnel because of all their capabilities. For example, the Redlands (Calif.) Police Department relies on iPad and iPhone as two-way multimedia devices that allow them to keep an eye on people, places and situations that need monitoring or attention.

Some people call the iPad a “game changer.” The potential uses for public safety are numerous. It’s hard to imagine not having a laptop bolted in the patrol car, but a touchscreen with voice might be more efficient and less cumbersome for officers in the field. Information can be uploaded directly into an agency’s CAD/records system in nearly real time. Alerts and instant messages from Dispatch can be sent to the tablet even if an officer is away from his vehicle. Put simply, that capability could save lives.

Next generation iPads likely will include cameras to videotape and take photos at a crime scene or in an emergency situation. Conversations can be recorded. Access to pre-incident plans and building maps can be the norm. The language translator comes in handy in certain scenarios.

What about Fire and EMS? They of course benefit from all of the above, plus they can now access agency specific databases and systems while out in the field. Building inspections, maps, HazMat reference material, patient histories and emergency medication protocols are at their fingertips. In addition, first responders can now use Skype to video conference in Medical Control from the scene so they can see firsthand a patient’s condition. Incident Commanders can share scene conditions in real time with other responders. GPS functionality will speed arrival on the scene as address numbers are super-imposed on maps. Timely access to information is what all public safety personnel need.

All these technology changes and upgrades translate to first responders who can do their jobs better, which means increased safety for the citizens they protect. For more on the 4G Wireless and Radio Outlook for Public Safety, see pages 12 and 22. The iWatch app works on an iPhone, BlackBerry or desktop and allows users to send a text, voice mail or video (or combination) to report a crime to the police while it’s happening (see page 38). As the old adage goes, “The only constant is change.” Public safety professionals must adapt to these changes in order to survive.

Published in Public Safety IT, Jan/Feb 2012

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