2017-06-07 | Hong-Eng Koh

Top 6 Challenges when Implementing new Public Safety Communications Technologies

Hong-Eng Koh, Global Chief Public Safety Expert of Huawei Enterprise Business Group discusses threats to public safety, the challenges posed by legacy systems, the impact of emerging technologies, and using collaborative communication.

When I headed the IT of Singapore Police Force more than 20 years ago, my principle was that operations drive technologies. But today’s technologies are evolving and developing at such a fast pace, many new processes and operations can be introduced through the use of technologies.

Today, I believe strongly that operations and technologies are in a cycle: operations still drive technologies, and technologies can drive innovation in operations. For example, in the city of Qiqihar in China, 5,000 private taxis are able to share real-time videos from their personal in-vehicle cameras with the local police on a secured wireless broadband platform to help the police solve crimes. This is a great example of Collaborative Public Safety.

But when taking a close look at the available technologies for Public Safety End users, I found that governments face serious issues in adoption of new technologies because of legacy systems and infrastructure.

There are some specific challenges faced by public safety organizations. These include:

  1. Command & Control: multiple public safety agencies with different emergency numbers and even different operations centers; agencies also have to deal with prank or repeated emergency calls, and are largely unaware of caller locations; agencies rely only on data and mapping, with poor awareness of the extent of threats.
  2. Communication: largely using voice only (e.g. TETRA, P25, analogue) with limited data; reliance on a separate network, mainly public LTE for broadband data which gives rise to problems such as high costs, additional devices, and threat of public network outage during major incidents; different agencies using different devices/networks; blind spots or damaged infrastructure.
  3. Cloud: hundreds of silo applications, especially across multiple public safety agencies; lacking in information sharing; difficulty in launching new services for both internal and community users.
  4. Intelligence: data silos across agencies and with different data types; dealing with new modus operandi and unknowns, especially among the massive databases; lacking in real-time data processing made worst by aging technologies.
  5. Surveillance: silo video surveillance sites lacking intelligent analytics; slow transfer rate even if the sites are connected; poor power and data lines in developing nations.
  6. Reconnaissance: poor security and identity management of sensors/devices; complex management of such sensors/devices from vast numbers of vendors; massive scale in terms of data and concurrency.

Another issue with developed nations/cities, which tend to have legacy technologies, is resistance to adopting new technologies despite the obvious benefits. We have seen developing nations/cities leap-frog by adopting state-of-the-art safe city technologies.