AUDREY’s image and voice recognition capabilities are promising to paramedics during emergency situations. Photo credit: DHS S&T/DRDC CSS

FirstNet updates roadmap for data-driven responders

Fourteen months after the release of an initial roadmap, the FirstNet Authority has issued a second version that reflects the changing needs of public safety agencies and advancing mobile technology trends. 

The upgrade to refine and update the 2020 roadmap’s focus areas is based on research and interviews with responders and technologists. It primarily addresses coverage improvement, mission-critical services and interconnectivity between land mobile radios and LTE devices.

In interviews, the FirstNet Authority found that first responders emphasized issues that impact daily operations, such as mission-critical services and expansion of coverage both in buildings and outdoors. Technologists tended to focus on real-time data analytics and non-intrusive user communications, among others, as the most promising long-term advances.

A common theme emerged, the roadmap said, related to data-driven situational awareness. Responders advocated greater reliance on data -- from location-based services, wearable sensors, autonomous vehicles and devices that detect data on the environment -- and the use of artificial intelligence for analysis and insight. Many called for 5G capabilities to support more extensive situational awareness that would soon be available from internet-of-things devices and other data sources.

At the same time, first responders are concerned about being overwhelmed by information overload and repeatedly suggested the need for robust data analytics and AI to process incoming data, the roadmap said.

The 2020 roadmap identified location services, including vertical location within buildings and indoor mapping, as a priority for increasing situational awareness. It also acknowledged that the public safety community will soon need tools to help process large volumes of data and turn it into actionable information.

When it came to voice communications, many respondents identified interoperability challenges, specifically with current land mobile radio systems. In response, FirstNet said it will continue to refine mission-critical voice and data features to allow full adoption by public safety agencies.

Security is still a work in progress. While a secure information exchange capability is essential for responders, the roadmap acknowledged that “many public safety agencies are unable to prioritize investments in technical expertise and resources to implement robust cybersecurity and Identity, Credential, and Access Management programs.”

While responders were also interested in device consolidation, application interoperability, autonomous platforms and biometrics, they continued to note that the increasing amount of data would also require tools for distillation, analysis and interpretation.

“Moving forward, the roadmap will continue to be an important document for incorporating public safety’s input into the FirstNet Authority’s investment process, as well as aligning our programs and activities to drive advances in public safety’s network,” said Brian Hobson, FirstNet’s  Senior Director of Roadmap Development. “It will help the FirstNet Authority direct resources to the most promising and impactful priorities, both short- and long-term.”


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