Tech mission critical
Scenes of disaster splash across our TV screens almost daily. From collapsed factory buildings to terrorist attacks and deadly tornadoes, crises are simply part of our modern existence. Fortunately, we tend to learn from every episode and use experience and intelligence to be better prepared for the next calamity.
One of the essential – and increasingly sophisticated – elements of disaster preparedness and emergency response today is technology. Yet what the experts term “mission critical” technology – that which ultimately saves lives – is very different from the sleek consumer tech you and I are used to. Instead of depending on temperamental smartphones, for example, police and other first responders use highpowered radios to communicate over their own network (police officers around the world have ranked their radios as their most essential survival tool, over their guns). And with the impressive advances in connectivity solutions, such as LTE (or 4G) – wireless broadband technology that enables super-fast mobile Internet access – f irst responders have more information at their f ingertips than ever before. If they are equipped with the right technology, that is.
Last week, Finweek attended the annual Critical Communications World Congress in Paris, where public safety experts and technology companies gathered to showcase the latest innovations in missioncritical technology. Unsurprisingly, connectivity was a major theme; with technology group Motorola Solutions – a long-time provider of mission-critical tech – presenting the concept of “Safer Cities” using “future-proof ” and “intelligent” communications. While this may sound rather like corporate gobbledygook, the technology on display was anything but. And for overworked and under-resourced South African police and first responders (the Tshwane Metro and Ekhuruleni Metro police were present at the conference), these new solu- tions have the potential to transform local law enforcement and emergency services.
Motorola’s Connected Police Vehicle (CPV), for example, alters the dynamics of frontline policing. Serving as a “vehicle hotspot”, the CPV automatically scans its environment with multiple Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and video surveillance cameras. Images are automatically fed back to a central control room, where intelligence officers use data analytics to track criminals and guide the field officers. Another breakthrough innovation on show was the First Image Management System for TETRA Digital Radios. This handheld radio uses an integrated camera that allows images to be managed, authenticated and shared within a public-safety organisation’s existing workflows. Critically, this technology allows for the verification of captured images at any point and reduces the chance of evidence being deemed unusable in a prosecution. (Photos taken on a smartphone, for example, would be considered unreliable because they can be edited or deleted.) This device has already been procured by the Danish Health Services, to be used by paramedics and doctors who attend an emergency or crime scene to secure evidence. When thinking back to many bungled crime scenes and muddled prosecutions here at home (the Oscar Pistorius case comes to mind), one can’t help considering how such a device could radically alter local policing.
Motorola’s Connected Police Vehicle (CPV)