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The “Public” in Public-Safety Communications

By Mike Collado
August 25th, 2015

IMG_1676The 2015 APCO Annual Conference was both pivotal and revelatory for the advancement of in-building public-safety communications.

Team SOLiD returned to APCO for the fourth year which, for a Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) manufacturer, makes us a veteran.

I recall feeling like a pioneer in 2012 while discussing in-building wireless solutions with AHJs (Authorities Having Jurisdiction) when the conference was hosted in Minneapolis during which the first board members were announced for the nascent FirstNet initiative. Little did I know then that SOLiD would host the newly-elected FirstNet CEO Michael Poth and newly-titled President TJ Kennedy as well as current and former board members Chief Jeff Johnson and Chief Charles “Chuck” Dowd at a cocktail reception to launch a new eBook called The Imperative which details the obstacles and options facing public-safety communications inside public and private buildings. (Thanks to the Long View Gallery for hosting our reception!)

(Check our APCO recap posts from 2012, 2013 and 2014 to map the public-safety evolution. And watch videos from industry luminaries Jonathan Adelstein (PCIA), Rob LeGrande (The Digital Decision), James Teel (Harris) and SOLiD’s Seth Buechley)

A pivotal shift has occurred within the public-safety industry whereby the topic of in-building is no longer met with a puzzled or skeptical look.

When SOLiD presented back in 2012, we observed in a blog post that “Based upon the number of heads that were both nodding in agreement and disagreement during the panel, the public safety and commercial cellular industries need more forums for debate and education as well as programs designed to solve the common problem of public safety communication.”

In contrast, an industry colleague was surprised that nearly every attendee in his presentation this year was familiar with DAS.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 3.24.02 PMBut while developing The Imperative (download a free copy here), it became clear – as its editor, John Celentano, states in the eBook’s opening pages – that, “…public-safety communications is not relegated to police, fire and emergency medical services (EMS). Its about the general public, too.”

This is revelatory because most people likely envision a fire fighter when they think of the words “public” and “safety.” As Don Brittingham, Vice President for Public Safety Policy at Verizon observed during our launch reception, the general public is the “public” in public safety.

Donny Jackson, Editor at Urgent Communications contributed to the foreward of The Imperative and writes:

“From a public-safety perspective, good indoor coverage for customers and first responders provides multiple benefits during an emergency response.

Initially, strong commercial indoor coverage lets consumers who are indoors dial 911 to report an emergency via their cellular phone—the device they are most comfortable using, and it should provide better location information in the near future. This can save valuable time in circumstances when seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

Once first responders are on the scene, a good indoor public-safety system allows firefighters, law enforcement and EMS to communicate better and more efficiently using LMR voice today, with the potential to leverage Band 14 LTE and transmit sensor data via myriad technologies in the near future. This data capability includes the ability to track the location of first responders, as well as monitor their health via biometric technology.

When first-response efforts have gone awry, communications difficulties almost always are cited as a key contributing factor. This is understandable, because organizing any endeavor—from the construction of a sports arena to planning a family reunion—tends to happen more smoothly when strong lines of communications are open.

In short, a facility with good indoor wireless-communications coverage for consumers and public safety is inherently safer than those that lack this functionality. Without good indoor coverage, there likely will a delay in reporting an emergency situation and the response effort often is delayed, which can lead to increased property loss, injuries and fatalities.”

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Chief Alan Perdue (Safer Buildings Coalition), Mike Collado (SOLiD) and Donny Jackson (Urgent Communications)

This observation was echoed on a panel moderated by Donny Jackson where I joined Chief Alan Perdue, Executive Director of the Safer Buildings Coalition (SOLiD is a member). Chief Perdue shared that the majority of 911 calls are made using a smartphone and that, similarly, the majority of emergency incidents occur indoors.

According to John Celentano, “…it is vital that both public safety and commercial cellular to work together to solve for public-safety communications.” 

The common denominator, however, is the Building Owner – the key stakeholder that can impact in-building wireless communications for both cellular and public-safety – who, unfortunately, remains noticeably absent from these discussions at APCO.

We’ll be back with a separate post to explore the challenges and opportunities for the Building Owner to address the public-safety imperative.

Tell us what you observed at APCO that is pivotal and/or revelatory in the comments.

 

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Contributors to The Imperative: John Celentano (Editor), Donny Jackson (Urgent Communications), Clark Lazare (AT&T), Mike Collado (SOLiD), Manuel Ojeda (Morcom), Chief Charles “Chuck” Dowd, Chief Alan Perdue (Safer Buildings Coalition), Lori Blair (Hutton Communications) and Rob LeGrande (The Digital Decision)

 

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Chief Charles “Chuck” Dowd discusses the public-safety imperative

 

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Chief Alan Perdue discusses collaboration among venues, wireless operators and public safety

 

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Mike Collado (SOLiD) and Lori Blair (Hutton Communications) welcome attendees to The Imperative launch reception

 

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SOLiD Quad-Band Public-Safety DAS at the Hutton booth

 

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SOLiD’s Ken Haberer and Matt Atkins at the APCO Block Party hosted at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum

 

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Matt Atkins (SOLiD) and Chief Alan Perdue (Safer Buildings Coalition) at the APCO Block Party

 

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Delivering thought leadership at APCO

 

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Bike Art at the Washington Convention Center. There were also kitchen stools, kayaks and guitars!

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The Public Safety Imperative

By Mike Collado
August 10th, 2015

IMG_1214We live in a world where we take our personal safety somewhat for granted.

For the most part, the processes, procedures and functionality of our public safety systems keep pace with requirements. Commonplace “tools” such as fire call boxes, e911 systems and the radios used by emergency first responders have evolved out of necessity and have been fueled by innovation.

In many ways, wireless is paramount to public safety. (See our most-read public safety posts here, here and here)

Police, fire and (EMS emergency medical services) personnel must communicate and coordinate efforts when they arrive on the scene of an emergency. The general public also must be able to communicate. After all, if you or I can’t be notified about an incident or call for help, first responders won’t know to help us.

The importance of in-building wireless communications for public safety cannot be overstated. An estimated 80 percent of all wireless calls originate or terminate inside buildings. Similarly, a majority of emergency incidents occur indoors.

Creating safer in-building environments for occupants and first responders is paramount. Call it the Public Safety Imperative.

To be sure, The Imperative is shared by the public safety, commercial wireless and venue owner ecosystems.

To meet the challenges of The Imperative, the stakeholders must implement fire and building codes and standards for indoor public safety communications; develop and innovate a toolkit of robust wireless communication technology and networks; and identify business models to overcome the burdens of complying with an “unfunded mandate.”

FirstNet is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a new public safety broadband network (PSBN). But it’s scope is primarily focused on achieving outdoor communications, not indoor. It is vital that indoors does not get left behind.

We took the first step to achieving this vision several years ago to as a founding member of the Safer Buildings Coalition, an independent, non-profit organization focused on advancing policies and ideas that lead to more large and medium sized buildings being served with commercial and public safety wireless coverage. (Make a difference by becoming a member: info(at)saferbuildings.org or 888.600.1011)

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 3.24.02 PMNext week at APCO 2015 in Washington, D.C., we’re launching – in collaboration with Hutton Communications (read our partnership announcement from APCO 2014 here) – the inaugural publication of THE IMPERATIVE, an eBook in which we consulted with many of the industry’s leading experts and proponents in public safety communications to tap into their deep knowledge and experience on the topics of public safety codes, first responder operations, wireless technology, and telecommunications networks.

To receive a free copy, please stop by Booth #1709 (Hutton Communications) during APCO. Or follow SOLiD on LinkedIn and/or on Twitter for instructions on who to download THE IMPERATIVE.

Together, SOLiD and Hutton personnel will showcase in-building solutions including the SOLiD quad-band public safety distributed antenna system (DAS) with support for first responder and essential two-way radio frequencies including 700/800,150/450 MHz.

And if you’re an early riser, plan to attend the “Making Buildings Safer Through Wireless Technology” session on Sunday, August 16 at 9:30 AM hosted by Safer Buildings Coalition executive director Chief Alan Perdue (ret.) and moderated by my friend Donny Jackson, editor of Urgent Communications.

Thanks for reading.

As always please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Don’t Have a Cow, Man

By Mike Collado
July 14th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 3.41.10 PMWe’ve all experienced or heard about road rage. Is subway rage next?

Nearly five million people have seen the Facebook video of a young woman in the Hong Kong subway, wailing about her dead mobile phone and stomping her feet, while her fellow riders look on, unperturbed.

She has become a meme because we recognize ourselves in her.

(Related, an iPhone user on the London Overground – not Underground where there is no cellular service – was arrested for charging his phone.)

The average user picks up his or her phone more than 1,500 times a week, starting at 7:31 in the morning and ending at bedtime. Our dependence on mobile phones can spiral quickly into frustration when glitches strike, or we forget to recharge our phone’s battery.

Ironically, if her phone were charged, the young lady in the Hong Kong subway could enjoy fast wireless service while waiting on the platform and sitting in the car as it travels through tunnels thanks to a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) deployed by RFE, a BAI Group company in Hong Kong and a sister company to New York based Transit Wireless (Transit Wireless deploys SOLiD in the New York City Subway).

Here in the U.S., we are not so lucky. Only a handful of subways have extended their wireless equipment into their tunnels in order to provide wireless service throughout the system.

One of those subway systems is also the oldest: the Boston MBTA where InSite Wireless has deployed SOLiD to enable Sprint and other wireless operators.

Subways are one of the few public spaces in urban America where many users have to end their calls when they go underground. Sure, there may be WiFi, but most non-millenials primarily still use their phones to talk.

To achieve the vision of our connected world, it’s really a question about business models and manners. IOW, does it makes sense for the wireless stakeholders to invest to enable cellular throughout the platforms and tunnels? And are we ready for the chatter and heads glued to screens?

Either way, to avoid having a cow on a busy subway car and wind up in social media infamy, it’s probably best to make sure your smartphone is charged before setting out!

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The Middleprise: I’m Kind of a Big Deal

By Mike Collado
July 9th, 2015
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Source: Skyline Marketing Group

Our industry has been all a-twitter of late over the big and complicated “middleprise” opportunity within the in-building market.

In a summary of the recent DAS and Small Cells Congress, Joey Jackson and Sean Kinney (RCR Wireless) pronounced that “middleprise” is the new industry term for the enterprise market that is defined as venues having 100k to 500k square feet and where neither conventional DAS nor Small Cells are optimal solutions.

From across the pond, David Chambers (ThinkSmallCell) observed that “the most exciting segment is the “Middleprise” large enterprise and venues.”

Jim O’Gorman (Communications Engineering LLC) declared that “the DAS market is in migration: Tier one venues those greater than 1 Million square feet like stadiums, arenas and large college campuses are nearing the saturation point – integrator and carrier are now considering DAS for smaller footprint environments. We’re currently in Tier 1.5 about 500 K to 1 M square feet; but moving to Tier 2 roughly 100 K to 450 K.”

John Celentano (Skyline Marketing Group) crunched the TAM to find that “Tier 2 represents the next wave of IBW deployments. Buildings in the 100,000-500,000 square foot range represent the sweet spot for IBW systems… This segment is estimated at a lofty $19 billion.”

We at SOLiD agree that the middleprise is a big deal.

At DAS Congress, we had the privilege to spend time with industry experts including Earl Lum (EJL Wireless Research); Bob Johnson (Duke University); Nazim Choudhury (iBwave); and Chief Alan Perdue (Safer Buildings Coalition) to wrestle with the challenges that uniquely manifest in the middleprise such as the technology toolkit; business models; design and infrastructure; and public-safety.

Here’s a video of what we found out:

 

 

In our next posts, we’ll take a deeper dive into the middleprise challenges and opportunities.

For more coverage, check out these articles from AGL and RCR Wireless.

Hear what others are saying and join in the discussion at the Middleprise In-Building Wireless Forum group on LinkedIn.

What are the biggest challenges for enabling the middleprise?

 

 

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