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How 5G Is Reinventing Public Safety

January 21, 2020
5G Technology and Public Safety

There are few events more hotly anticipated than the rollout of fifth generation wireless technology, also known as 5G. The next generation of mobile broadband technology will indelibly change the way we communicate, increasing the speeds at which data is transferred at an exponential rate.

According to the European Emergency Number Association (EENA), “5G will represent a great advancement for people working in the emergency services, as it will enable technological developments in public safety.”

What is 5G?

“5G” describes all of the technology that comprises the fifth generation of cell technology. That means everything from the cell towers and receivers to the antennas inside the latest smart phones and devices. 5G offers a host of improvements over 4G.

Improved speeds and reliability can radically transform any industry that is dependent on mobile technology, especially emergency services. 4G technology lacked the capacity to support the sheer number of connected devices that are expected to be on the market soon. 5G, however, overcomes the issue by dramatically increasing network speeds by introducing a variety of complementary technologies, like smaller cell stations, massive MIMO and beam steering, and mobile edge computing.

5G will not only support faster speeds and more data, it will foster an environment for innovative technology that can take advantage of its effects. Internet of Things (IoT) devices, in particular, will benefit from higher speeds, lower latency, and more reliable networks.

The evolution of mobile technology from 1g to 5g
The Evolution of Mobile Technology

As it pertains to emergency service, 5G makes more data available almost instantly. More devices with more sophisticated sensors will be able to collect, receive, and send data to a variety of sources in mere seconds. The challenge, however, is not whether IoT can find data to send to emergency services, but rather if 9-1-1 can receive it.

Linking 5G with 9-1-1

Preparing the 9-1-1 infrastructure to receive vast amounts of data demands critical updates to its core technology. Rather than relying on the analog systems of old, ECCs need to implement new procedures and programs to ingest the data they’re requesting. AT&T’s  FirstNet already offers a dedicated broadband network for first responders. The devices have the information, and first responders have the ability to receive the data through FirstNet – the challenge is getting the information into the 9-1-1 center.

Overhauling the underlying tech used by public safety is in many ways a herculean task – not only is it incredibly time and resource intensive, it can be just as difficult to retrain operators and first responders when time is of the essence.

Companies like RapidSOS help connect the world of IoT to public service by serving as a trusted data provider and go-between, ingesting data from IoT partners and sending it in a parseable, vendor-friendly format to PSAPs. PSAPs can access this data through lightweight web-based portals, meaning they only need a stable internet connection and a modern operating system.

5G use cases in public safety

The link between 5G technology and public safety is in many ways the shortest route available – the game-changing innovations of IoT are for nothing if first responders can’t ingest the data.

All that being said, 5G enables public safety to take advantage of more tools that 4G could not. First and foremost, it will enhance the connection between IoT sensors and first responders. Many of the examples below are already possible through solutions like RapidSOS, and the move to 5G this year and beyond will continue to enhance these capabilities.

A common example includes smart homes and buildings, which will be able to forward things like temperature data, security footage, and floor plans to 9-1-1. During house fires, this can help firefighters identify hotspots and safe points of entry. In the event of a mass shooting, police will be able to open, close, and lock doors, as well as identify potential threats and victims before they go in.

Another example is the use of live video in emergency situations. Drones can be used to surveil hazardous areas for search and rescue and beam back high definition video instantly. Officers equipped with body- or car-mounted cameras can relay live-video back to their departments for guidance or during requests for backup. On a smaller scale, a caller might even be able to send live video to 9-1-1 to describe or detail an emergency situation, allowing operators to simultaneously gather information while giving advice to a caller in need. In fact, some call centers can already receive texts.

Similarly, home security systems will be able to leverage a combination of sensor data to alert 9-1-1 – even when the homeowner isn’t around. Through 5G networks, these devices will be able to send live video, incident reports, and blueprints to 9-1-1 directly, coinciding with an emergency call from a caller or monitoring center.

All in all, then possibilities that 5G tech present public safety are endless. First responders will be better informed, equipped, and prepared to handle the challenges of a rapidly changing world.

The case for innovation

These examples are being actively researched and implemented around the world, and represent only a fraction of the changes 5G technology can bring to public safety. With the right tools, dedicated people, and proper investment of resources, emergency services can significantly improve their functions through 5G. 

The question now is not whether the changes will happen, but when. As more companies like RapidSOS step in to connect IoT to public safety worldwide, we will see a monumental shift in the way we view public safety.

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