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Guest contribution: The beginning of the future

Bharat Bhatia | April 25, 2013
4G for a new era of public protection and disaster relief

"Access to information is critical to successful disaster risk management."          -- Margareta Wahlström, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction

Disasters graphic

On the night of 26 November 2008, a band of 10 heavily-armed terrorists launched an onslaught on the city of Mumbai. They sneaked into the city from the sea in rubber dinghies. The attack resulted in the death of 166 people and 308 injured. Similarly, the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami cost as much as 25 trillion yen (US$250 billion), according to Japanese Government estimates. These are arresting examples of public safety and disaster situations whose final outcomes could have been different had public safety agencies been equipped with technologies to access information critical to disaster management.

Natural disasters too present a major challenge to governments and societies. The Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing nuclear disaster, as well as the Southeast Asian floods, which so severely affected Thailand, were major contributors to many lives lost and US$294 billion in regional economic losses - representing 80 percent of global losses due to disasters in 2011.

It is private citizens and communities who pay the highest price during a disaster, be it manmade or natural. And it is the public safety agencies or first responders, who at the forefront, face extreme demands while fighting terrorists, maintaining law and order and carrying out large-scale rescue efforts.

What are the communication technologies that public safety officials use? Are they hardened, powerful, comprehensive and advanced enough to deliver against increasingly complex tasks?

4G, the Promise of the Future

Private communication networks have supported the needs of government and public safety agencies for nearly a century. These networks have undergone major evolution. No one could have imagined first responders would one day use their communications systems to run licence plate checks, to file traffic tickets or to monitor high crime areas from miles away via video surveillance systems.

While this is already happening, 4G networks mean even more powerful, innovative solutions to ensure better responses from first responders, based on rich, real-time information. They will be the driving force behind the powerful new network structure that will transform mission-critical public safety communication and applications in a manner not yet dreamed about. LTE is the standards based primary technology being considered by public safety agencies and governments for broadband applications in the foreseeable future.

Tomorrow's 4G mission-critical broadband communications networks based on LTE will make it easier to access more real-time information no matter where first responders are. The next-generation systems will support interoperability between existing narrowband mission-critical voice equipment and broadband equipment, support communications across multiple access technologies to enable first responders to cost-effectively use multiple networks to obtain more services over a wider range of coverage.

  • Officers will be able to run remote analytics leading to greater productivity and reduced costs;
  • Access video of a crime in progress or check maps enroute to the crime scene to decide how best to approach unseen.
  • Video surveillance cameras might automatically trigger an alarm to alert command centres about an accident involving hazardous material, and also simultaneously alert municipal authorities.
  • The ability to reduce gridlock in the city roads and improve disaster response will be enabled through dynamic mapping, weather and traffic flow applications.
  • Municipal workers during an emergency will be able to access step-by-step maintenance procedures remotely; and additional staff can be rerouted to address higher priority missions.


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