VIDEO COMMUNICATIONS USED FOR PUBLIC SAFETY
“If a picture is worth a thousand words then what is the value of real time multimedia”
During emergency situation, having access to critical information and the ability to stream live video across cellular network reduces the unknown and provides real time visual information that would support information transmitted through traditional communication channels.
Live video streaming can help reduce the risk on the frontline, provide greater safety and deliver enhanced situational awareness via the latest multimedia technologies.
As video communications evolves and is put together with existing and new public safety communications networks, it is hoped the technology will offer mission-critical end users further innovative solutions to aid their important task keeping the public safe and saving lives.
Video technology increases human capabilities
Many people within the emergency services groups believe that video communications is the next ‘big thing’ and that first responders continues to look for innovative ways of using multimedia for prevention, protection and response to incidents. For the person at the frontline video communications will mean improved situational awareness, improved first responder safety, enhanced transparency and greater public safety.
Video utilises and amplifies a human’s capability to collect a vast amount of visual information. A few seconds of video can provide much more data regarding an incident and the possible outcomes of a situation that can’t be shared with still images.
A vast amount of information can be captured and considered via video communications that can’t be described in voice communications that might be available during an incident. Understandably video footage is extremely valuable for analysis after any incident.
While we can plan for the future, we must first deal with the here and now
Currently first responder services that are on the leading edge are already using video communications to help solve three key issues: deterrence, defence and response.
Video communications for training purposes feature greatly in deterrence and defence events, while video communications for mission critical responses, assessment and action is the main motivation of response events.
With advent of body worn cameras many first responder groups are looking at various ways of capturing video and then transmitting it to allow other responders and groups including management and specialist units to access vision in order to inform or even influence their response approach as the incident develops in order to deliver a safe and effective response.
Many Public Safety Agencies are using live video feeds from airborne drones, robotic vehicles and fixed video camera installations to gain real time images.
This data from an incident scene can be used to keep personal out of harm’s way and to provide a large amount of visual information to supervisors or advisers.
Empowering the command centre
There are many ways that video is used in business for communications and training purposes and with the development of technologies like Google Glass, body worn cameras and other solutions. This type of video streaming is creeping into the emergency services environment today.
One project that I’m aware of is a live video streaming app that is sent to the person at the scene or a person reporting an emergency to a central control (911, 999 or 000). The app is being tested by the Fire & Rescue Service in the UK. The app has been developed for smartphone which would allow callers contacting emergency services to stream live images of an incident directly to a command centre. This would allow control room dispatchers to make informed decisions and then send the right resources to an incident with the hope of saving time and resources.
It is now possible to stream video imagery of incidents in real-time to any compatible device anywhere in the world and, crucially, over a secure network. This might allow responders or specialist officers to view a live feed wherever they are, keeping emergency service personnel and members of the public safer.
Many cities have advanced video camera platforms with access to real time video from multiply cameras. Operational video communications would provide critical information to first responders and their management teams that related to major events, fires and other crimes. This data would provide the ability to monitor and detect possible activities separate to routine events, such as crimes incidents, fires and rescue incidents, disaster incidents and other public safety matters.
These video solutions improve and support major event management, improved traffic and pedestrian control, management of public assets on busses, trains and other incidents that may require evacuation planning or management.
Video communications challenges for public safety
As video streaming technology and mobile broadband networks develop it is hoped that many of these innovative solutions will allow first responders to access video images of what they are responding to or are already dealing with.
These technologies will allow them to make informed decisions and at the same time overcoming some of the current difficulties experienced communicating live data streams over the current mobile broad band networks.
Modern mobile computers and smartphones devices now have the ability to send and receive large amount of data and are capable of supporting video communications.
It’s now possible to take advantage of LTE mobile broadband network solutions allowing legacy emergency service networks and hardware to become interoperable in a much more efficient way.
Mobile broadband networks can do a lot, but in emergency services situations every communication needs to be prioritised ensuring the most important content will reach the relevant participant. Most probably public safety video will be the service to be limited when a network overload occurs or until these LTE networks have the bandwidth and reliability that first responders require.
High bandwidth, low latency, dedicated throughput, unlimited availability and geographic coverage are the key requirements for effective use of video communications. Dedicated public safety mobile broadband like FirstNet has great potential in this area, but even more capacity might needed in some circumstances.”
First Responders are often Second Responders
Practical pros and cons
When first responders are in the field and are able to communicate visual information this enables them to move accountability or clarification of the incident to a higher level in the chain of command, whereas over traditional voice, the scene needs to be interpreted by words and may not be as clear.
Vice Versa receiving video means the first responder in the field can be provided situational awareness information including maps, plans and other geo spatial information that could keep them safe.
Privacy of security
Security of live streamed video has been seen as a challenge. Whether distributed between first responder agencies, within a first responder agency or sharing with trusted partners. All participants would require software and hardware solutions secured to a level acceptable to all stakeholders and which meets regulatory and legislative responsibilities.
Episodes that require sharing of data needs delivered in real-time, whereas after the incident majority of it can be archived or discarded as required.
A multifaceted future?
Looking ahead the future of video communications will be critical part of communications providing an interesting case for augmentation.
A first responder drone live streaming the incident to the control room is not theoretical, it’s possibly too early to know how video communications will alter the landscape of mission critical communications end users operating in public safety arena.
However, one thing is clear that it possible here and now to integrate and share live video streaming during inter agency, cross agencies and other groups during any public safety incident.