In 2020, the public safety community, from firefighters and 911 call takers to EMTs and police officers, have had to respond to a variety of issues both new and old. Whether they had to wear a mask and keep their distance, or solve a problem over Zoom, they’ve stepped up to keep our communities safe.To help them address a rapidly changing world, first responders leverage a variety of technologies that harness the latest innovations in tech and data. As we reflect on 2020, we’re looking ahead to the biggest public safety tech trends in 2021.
1) Artificial intelligence and biotechnology
Artificial intelligence has predominated conversations in a variety of different industries. In public safety, AI can help automate tasks like facial recognition, resources management, and detecting patterns of behaviors. Although the tech is a long way away from The Terminator or Wall-E, it’s helping with crime prevention, investigations, and even detecting extremist propaganda online.
Beyond policing, AI can help 911 call takers respond to calls more effectively by providing them with additional information about an emergency. Companies like ZeroEyes use AI to detect weaponry in CCTV and security camera footage in commercial and public spaces. This information can be sent directly to 911 through the emergency response data platform, enabling first responders to arrive on scene faster and better prepared.
Traditionally, the 911 system could not receive any additional location data beyond what callers could verbally articulate over the phone. RapidSOS, through our partnerships with Apple and Google, can deliver accurate device-based location data for over 350 million mobile devices in the US.
2021 will see massive improvements to emergency location acquisition through the addition of vertical, or Z-axis location data. Vertical location doesn’t just provide latitude and longitude: it shows first responders the relative altitude and positioning of a caller as well. This is especially useful when callers are located indoors and first responders need to find what room, floor, or section of a building they’re located in.
2020 has had its share of national disasters, from the wildfires out west to the pervasive COVID-19 pandemic. Our public safety community has time and time again risen to the occasion, against all odds, to respond to these disasters.
However, as the pandemic presses on, it’s clear that the public safety infrastructure needs to be more resilient in the face of issues at this scale. As 911 calls surge, staffing is reaching all-time lows, making it critical that systems, protocols, and technologies are in place to ensure continuity and resilience.
Initiatives like the R2 network are working to provide first responders and public safety organizations with access to vetted and industry-approved tools for disaster management and response. As the world recovers from the chaos of 2020, expect resilience to be at the forefront of conversations surrounding public safety.
4) Advanced communications networks
As 5G rolls out nationwide, public safety organizations will be able to take advantage of higher bandwidth, lower latency, and better network stability. 5G will allow for near-instantaneous video and data streaming, with higher quality and complexity. This opens up a valuable opportunity for first responders, and more specifically 911 centers, to receive live streaming video, social media broadcasts, and more.
93% of Americans agree if first responders had access to more data, they could save more lives, including location, medical information, video/audio, and more. 5G networks can help facilitate the efficient and effective transmission of this data between sources during emergencies when every second counts.
To achieve this, first responders need access to advanced communications networks like FirstNet to receive data beyond what can be verbally articulated during an emergency call.
COVID-19 added a new dimension of difficulty to emergency response: protecting first responders and community members from spreading the virus. 911 centers rose to the occasion, serving as hubs of testing and virus information for units in the field and community members. Whether they relied on advanced communications technologies to address informational gaps, or leveraged emergency health profiles to better serve community members, our 911 center’s response was emblematic of their changing role in emergency response.
911 centers have become more than just a call taking and dispatch center: they’re hubs for emergency information, on-scene intelligence, resource management, and community interactions. New and improved communications technology will empower 911 telecommunicators to go above and beyond the call of duty to provide first responders with the best information possible before first responders arrive on scene.
Through technology like RapidSOS’ Jurisdiction View, as well as artificial intelligence, drones, and more, 911 centers will be able to receive, process, and manage emergencies like never before. Bearing in mind the lessons learned from 2020, 2021 will see this trend continue, as more and more 911 centers will begin to leverage various data sources to respond to and manage emergencies.