As mentioned in Part 1, For FirstNet to be successful, relevant data, applications and processes must be shared across agencies/cities/regions. This means (a) the integration and sharing appropriate data, processes and events; (b) an application for first responders to collaborate, (c) a common dashboard (of events and alerts) and (d) a set of applications to be developed and deployed.
Integration and sharing of appropriate data, processes and events
For FirstNet to be truly successful in an emergency of disaster First Responders need to have the same information, follow a common set of processes and be alerted to a common set of ongoing events. This is (somewhat) easily accomplished within an single agency (ie the Police Dept). Many large scale events are not restricted to a single agency. Agencies work together for the common good. This commonality requires a sharing of appropriate data and processes. For example, 911 calls need to be shared with the Police and Fire Departments.(this occurs today) What if the event includes surrounding areas (say the NY tri-state area)? How are the appropriate 911 calls provided to the non-New York City first responders? Similarly, data may also need to be shared (video clips). From a process and event stand point, it is clear that all first responders need to be alerted if a particular “new event” occurs (ie 911 or 311 systems become overloaded as happened with Sandy), or if there a coordinated response is required where each set of first responders (and agencies) must “do something” specific to the “new event”.
Data itself must also be considered. A First Responder application may need to capture and post images and videos. Data will most likely need to be accessed by other First Responders. This data may need to be accessed in a disconnected (offline) mode.
FirstNet was established to help with collaborative communication. Building a new network infrastructure and having the voice applications reside on the common network is a phenomenal first step. There is a need to go beyond voice. First Responders may need the ability to “chat” with each other, share video clips or pictures etc. This requires a set of collaborative applications that all the agencies can share.
As previously mentioned, first responders would need to be alerted to “new events” and follow a set of processes. The question is “how” are they alerted? How is the entire emergency co-coordinated? How do the leaders “get the big picture”? This is where a common dashboard comes into play. It is with this dashboard that events and processes are displayed as well as providing a status of how well “we” are responding to the emergency.
Common set of applications
Many agencies either have, or will have a set of mobile applications that will run on the new infrastructure. But having differing applications for each agency’s first responders becomes counter productive. Imagine two counties working together on an emergency and each had their own 911 mobile applications. How would they be able to work together on a common call? How would they even know that a call was to be handled by both? It is my point of view that there is a common set of mobile applications that each agency’s first responders can quickly obtain, install and use on their devices. This set of applications would need to be developed and eventually deployed on devices.
As you can see, FirstNet requires an infrastructure and a way to collaborate across agencies, and regions. In order for this collaboration to occur, another infrastructure is required. This is the integration / collaboration infrastructure. The fact that this infrastructure must be accessible to all agencies in an emergency leads us to believe that a cloud based infrastructure is required. This could be an environment hosted by a 3rd party or hosted by a significant regional authority (eg a Police Department). If this were hosted by a regional authority, it is very possible that the infrastructure costs could be shared by the regional subscribers.
In my next blog entry, I will discuss the above components in more detail.