By Wael Aglan, Market Head of Enterprise and Public Sector, MEA, Nokia
There is a growing interest from public safety government organizations across the world including in the Middle East and Africa region to have a strong public safety system in place. Combining traditional voice communication with video and data abilities are very essential during any disaster.
A reliable public safety network is also an important prerequisite for a city to become a Smart City. Nokia Networks is emerging as a partner of choice for public safety organizations in the region to assist them in this journey.
The public safety community has long called for innovative solution to support its mission to save lives. Public safety authorities need interoperable communication systems, which offer them economies of scale, broadband capabilities and multi-channel communication for more efficient information services. They also need a system that is affordable to construct and use while providing highest quality and reliability.
At the recently concluded ITU’s 2nd Global Forum on Emergency Telecommunications: Saving Lives (GET2016), there were discussions around public safety and some of the trends and emerging technological innovations, among others. While there were several key technologies that were highlighted and shared during the event, alerting systems and LTE mobile broadband technology capabilities stood out.
In the area of alerting systems, Nokia has been working with various government agencies to understand their requirements for a reliable public safety system, including its End-to-End public safety solution based on its LTE technology, and Universal Message Broadcaster (UMB).
Nokia LTE for public safety
In the domain of broadband communications for public safety, Nokia recently launched its end-to-end LTE-based solution underlining its commitment to public safety communications, enabling a rich variety of multimedia tools, applications and devices for first responders and other public safety personnel. LTE technology offers high bandwidth and high reliability for disaster-level operational capabilities and information management with low latency for the fastest connectivity. In addition, Nokia Networks provides rapid end-to-end integration of the full solution.
Our latest LTE innovation that is a perfect fit for public safety is Nokia Network in a Box (NIB), a rapidly deployable, portable solution that helps establish mobile broadband connectivity in minutes. Nokia NIB is an eNodeB base station with embedded core network, which can also serve several neighbouring eNodeBs, if transmission connections are available.
The Nokia LTE NIB offers complete LTE service coverage for users in minutes. Compact LTE NIB can be pre-installed to public safety vehicles or for example to trailers with antenna mast for full macro site coverage. In a recent live search and rescue demonstration with Vodafone New Zealand, we showcased how Network in a Box brings critical communications capabilities to remote areas where commercial networks do not reach.
At Nokia, we are actively driving the 3GPP standardization of public safety specific features that will pave the way for LTE as the best choice for mission-critical communications networks. LTE, as a globally adopted technology, brings true economies of scale with network elements, devices and shared spectrum resources.
Common standards also help create a strong ecosystem of application developers, who will introduce their innovative products for the benefit of emergency responders. Communication in real time after a disaster is key to coordinate field operation across multiple agencies: voice is not enough and video as well as databases access are of paramount importance: here LTE mobile broadband can play a key role in areas affected by natural disasters enabling a whole new level of efficiency for public safety with real-time communications; high-quality video streaming to provide remote team members a direct view to emergency situations; robotics; remote data access and diagnostics; and services based on location data.
Standardized technologies and a single platform approach are also central to the development of smart cities, for which public safety is one of the first and most important criteria.
Making use of millions of sensors and Internet of Things (IoT), objects will further enhance the safety of first responders and citizens. An additional advantage is a wide choice of LTE devices that are cost-effective compared to dedicated public mobile radio systems such as TETRA and P25. The key functionality of current narrowband systems is robust and reliable push-to-talk service. LTE is not only going to provide the same group communication service, but is enhancing it with video, location awareness, mapping and more. LTE standardization has already defined the enablers for such services, and we are testing them. We at Nokia understand how critical it is to have robust services in place.
We have a strong history and experience we can leverage to support the gradual migration of public safety services from legacy technologies to the latest standards and solutions.
LTE broadband capabilities also allow a new level of visual awareness for decision makers as well as the public safety agents themselves. Various video based solutions are integrated to our portfolio, providing controlled access from body mounted cameras to mobile video sources like drones. Very importantly, LTE also enables the public safety agencies to integrate Internet of Things (IoT) applications to their daily work. This increases the efficiency of the agencies and helps make the environment safer for first responders and the people facing emergencies.
We help the public safety industry to tap the benefits of LTE mobile broadband cost-effectively by building a smooth evolution path from the current systems and applications. Together with our public safety ecosystem partners we want to lay the foundation for reliable and secure LTE-based mission-critical services.
UMB: UMB is an innovative, IP-based and NGN/IMS compatible solution that can be easily integrated with other SW applications. UMB is able to broadcast messages not only via SMS, but also via several communication media, for all the applications requiring the dissemination of information (e.g. to send alerts to citizens for emergencies or any other type of information of general interest to a mass population).
Because of its numerous functionalities, UMB can be used as Multi-hazard Alert System, allowing the real time management of every kind of emergency (natural calamities, terroristic attacks, environmental pollution, etc.) both in pre-event and in post-event, via fast message dissemination campaigns to authorities, rescue teams and citizens.
Messages are sent via different communication media, guaranteeing the campaign effectiveness (e.g. during the night SMS and radio/TV announcements are not effective, while phone calls and Broadcast Terminals reach immediately the users). In case of unavailability of some media (e.g. damaged by the disaster), UMB will automatically use another media on the basis of priorities defined by each user.
Civil Protection can fast alert citizens giving them instructions for their safety, on the basis of where they are. In particular, in case of evacuation, it can guide in real time big masses of people, indicating the meeting points and the ways to be followed, sending in the same time specific messages to the rescue teams. Moreover Civil Protection can easily execute training sessions for citizens and rescue teams, configuring messages campaigns and activating them in turn to different training areas.
UMB can enable several applications for the “Digital Agenda”, such as “Smart Services” requiring communication with citizens. E.g. Public Administrations, utilities and citizens themselves could provide information such as: outage of services (water, gas,.. etc.), traffic info, parking availability, tourist information, organization of events, etc. (individual citizens can register to the services that they are interested in). Other fields of the application include e-government, e-health, e-education, green economy... etc.
UMB can be used from anywhere, via a standard web browser on any internet connected device (without any need of specific SW), thanks to its “cloud computing” architecture. Besides it can be used by more administrations in shared mode (allowing data and costs sharing). It is possible to reach each user using only his “Universal Identity”, without any need to know his references, protecting the user privacy.
Each user can select his preferred communication media (for example he can choose the phone calls instead of SMS and e-mail): in this way the “social” digital divide is overcome, obtaining the “social inclusion” of the citizens that cannot use the modern communication media.