HxGN RadioPodcast

Public Safety Now: Multimedia data flows in mission-critical communications

Recent developments in mission-critical communications are leading to a massive public safety transformation. With the implementation of Emergency Services Internet Protocol Networks (ESInet), agencies now have the ability to send and receive data-rich messages, including images, text, video, and other sensory-based communications. In this podcast, Mission Critical Partners’ Senior Vice President of Corporate Development, Darrin J. Reilly, discusses how public safety agencies can prepare for the oncoming escalation in multimedia data flows.

JW:  Hi, and thanks for tuning into Public Safety Now on Hexagon Radio. I’m your host John Whitehead, Vice President of Sales for U.S. public safety here at Hexagon Safety and Infrastructure Division. So, a lot of really interesting things have happened in the last few decades, and as everyone listening here knows, the world has gone through some radical changes. What we used to have was normally analog landscape. Remember, you’d pick up the phone, and for those of you old enough to remember, we’d actually have to dial a rotary phone. And then we got into some push buttons, and that seemed to be cool, but really over the last few decades we’ve gone into this digital reality where now, it’s everywhere. Well, as you know, we’re talking about public safety here, and the public safety world is not immune to this.

Today we’re going to discuss a really neat topic, and it’s the Emergency Services IP Network, or what you’re going to hear us call ESInet, and you’re probably familiar with that word, but I’ll just give you a little bit of a definition of it until we go into our discussion here later. Basically, it delivers voice, video, text, data, and calls into the PSAP, bringing those into the 911 center. All right. A little history on as ESInet, and kind of where it started, in 2000, Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest counties East of the Mississippi; they were the first one to implement ESInet in the United States. Following that, in about 2012, the State of Washington completed the first widespread ESInet implementation in the US.

So, there’s a lot of things, whether it’s cities, counties, states, they’re going all in on this ESInet. So, today we’ve got Darrin Reilly, he’s the Chief Operating Officer for Mission Critical Partners with us, and we’re going to discuss the ways in which how to implement ESInet, and how that’s transforming public safety communications. So, Darin, welcome and thank you for taking the time to join us.

DR:  Hey, John, thanks for including me in this podcast. Really exciting.

JW:  Yeah, it is exciting, and it’s a really neat topic as far as bringing that data in. And I gave a little bit of background, but can you tell us some of the main benefits of ESInet, and maybe a little bit more as far as what it is, and some of the benefits of it?

DR:  Yeah. Really, it actually brings to reality what we’ve seen in the commercial marketplace. If you look at the beginning of the cellular industry where it was primarily just voice, often referred to as “1G cellular”. It provided point to point voice communications, and then slowly but surely moved to 2G, which was really an efficiency on the spectrum that cellular used, and really people didn’t feel the experience of moving to a multimedia experience until 3G, and specifically to give it a specific example, the iPhone came out. And that’s really where through the network mesh on the cellular side, and now everyone knows 4G, and LTE, and 5G is coming out, enable that experience where really voice became pretty much a commodity, and the value drivers were applications.

Be it data, images, text, and things of that nature, we are transforming the emergency services world. It’s called the emergency services IP network, often referred to as next-generation 911, to be able to have that same type of experience where you could have those images of videos, those photos, things of that nature that will come into the public safety answering points here in the United States. Very exciting time.

JW:  It is, and we’ve talked about this on several podcasts here this year, and it’s amazing to me that in our everyday life, it’s what we do. You and I were talking a little bit earlier about your son, and some of the things he does in the gaming world, and in the connectivity. I mean, it’s just,  walk into my living room where I grab my cell phone or I grab my computer, and I’m connected.” I’m sending this data back, and sending this to my friends, and sending this to his up to my family; and now emergency services are coming into that realm, and the work that we’ve been doing here over the last several years, I guess I’ll keep it to, is really doing just that, and it is an exciting time.

How do you think, though, that the transformation affects communications? Thousands of PSAPs across the country – how do you think this transformation is impacting those centers? The PSAPs, the first responders? Is it making it better? How do you think it’s working?

DR:  Well, I’m thinking it’s going to be making it better. Obviously, there is that, as you’re stating, transformation, and again you’ll look at how we have transformed as far as the average citizen going to a smart phone, which overnight when they came out with the term “smart phone,” they looked at it. If you recall the days of the flip phones, suddenly the flip phones became dumb phones, and the smart phones were exactly that. Smart phones because they could handle multimedia data.

At the end of the day, everything that we do, John, and I know you’re well aware of this, is to protect the citizens. That’s the mission, right? How can we better serve the citizens with the technology and services that we provide? And by doing that, in terms of first responders, command centers, clearly the public safety, and emergency call centers so to speak, providing better access, and how do they communicate down to the citizens?

And the reality is the citizens, when we look at the inbound 911 calls, as we all know, most people are fully aware, about 80% of all inbound calls, and this is about 240 million inbound 911 calls here in the United States on an annual basis. About 80% of those are coming from wireless end points, mobile endpoints, smart phones typically, or just wireless devices. And now, when you think about it, when they limit those individuals without that advent of being able to communicate via text, via images, via photo, video, etc., it’s is exactly that. It’s limiting.

And we have to adhere to how our citizens are about what they’re using when they’re at work, when they’re playing, things of that nature, and we have to accept that type of communication into the emergency services’ communication networks. And I’ve looked at kind of an example too, which is probably, hopefully, easy for a lot of people to understand is there’s a large, as we know, hearing impaired community, clearly, in all the communities that we serve. And if you thinking about it from their standpoint, for them to ask for emergency services in the old way of doing it, only analog, is a little more complex, and sometimes people forget that, right? And they’re mobile as well.

Hey, they’re working, they’re playing. They’re very active citizens that contribute to everything that takes place in the communities we live. And if you just look at it from that aspect, to have those individuals as well as everybody to be able to communicate into public safety answering points with the multimedia experience, it’s just good for the community as a whole.

JWK:  Yeah, I know when I was a dispatcher, there was special training on how to use the TDD. If by chance a TDD call would come into the center, there was special training for that equipment, right? You had to pull up a special keyboard back then, and this is mid ’90s, and Ma Bells of the world would provide this capability for the deaf community. And it is kind of exciting because I remember that being a little bit, I’ll say a little apprehension from the user point of view because TDD calls didn’t come in every day. At least in my center, they didn’t.

So, when they did happen, it was one of those things where you really had to get in your game, and say, “Okay. Let’s pull back on that training.” and “How do I end a sentence?” and ”How do I make sure that they’re …” What was it? GA, I think you had to type in for go ahead. And, “How did I communicate back and forth?” Well, the beauty of this is everybody texts every day, and we’ve talked about text in 911 and some of those. But the things we’re using in our daily life to me is exciting because one, it makes it easier for the public, but two, it makes it easier for the dispatchers.

They’re not learning a whole new set of skills just for that occasional call or that occasional text that our TDD that’s coming in. They’re actually using what they use in their everyday life, and that definitely makes it exciting. I was going to ask you how this affected the public at large? But I think we’ve kind of touched on that. I mean, don’t you think? I mean, if it’s making it easier for the deaf community, for example, to be able to communicate with the 911 center, I mean, that’s a huge plus right there in itself for ESInet.

DR:  Well, yeah. I mean, you can talk about the hearing impaired, and I think kind of layer foundation. At the end of the day that really helps them out, which is obviously incredibly key. But as you’re aware, I have a 24-year-old daughter and a 22-year-old son, and I have to remind them that they can actually still make a phone call with their cell phone. So, it’s interesting. I was having a conversation recently with my daughter, and she could not believe that many of the public safety answering points have a very difficult time accepting photos, videos, texts, and things of that nature.

That’s just the way that they communicate, right? So, I think sometimes when we look at the hearing impaired, to me, that’s just a no brainer, right? To be able to assist anything that we can from a technology standpoint to help them. But layering on that, it’s just simply the expectation of younger generations, often referred to as the millennials, and even beyond that on how people should be able to communicate. It just helps citizens’ safety at the end of the day.

JW:  No, I completely agree. And I think that has become the norm and reaching out to 911 should be easy. I know we’re focusing a lot on the texting, but whatever that is, getting that information into the 911 center and over to your telecommunicators, it should just be natural, and it shouldn’t be something that you have to sit there and think about. And so, that’s why this is so exciting.

So, I think that there’s probably some changes that have to be made, as you start talking about ESInet, and bringing ESInet into an area or into an agency. So, can you give me any current procedures, explain anything for handling some of these multiple media data that are coming in for emergency responders?

DR:  Yeah, without a doubt. I mean, from a policy, and procedure, and setting up, and of course, John, we could go down various rabbit holes in a professional way to talk about the technology changes, and things of that nature. But at the end of the day it is technology, and we as providing technology, and services, and obviously with Hexagon providing kind of world class technology as well, that’s going to be done, right? But at the end of the day, the policies and procedures on the inbound areas that are emergency call centers, there’s a lot of things that they have to change because historically, obviously clearly, they’ve been handling just that voice, inbound communication for a service requests that happens to be clearly an emergency, a fighter, an accident, etc.

But now with the advent of video, and images, and things of that nature, how can they handle that once it’s received, then there’s a responsibility as to who can see it, how it’s shared internally to law enforcement community or fire dispatch, or a joint facility, etc. But then how do you retain that? Where is it retained? Who has access to it if they have to bring it up for a court case or if something’s going to the court? So, there’s a lot of things that they have to look at from a policy procedure that beyond just that, and I think we’ve seen a lot of things in the national media or even local media, and video capture.

Who has a video, be it body worn cameras, in car, etc., CCTV. A lot of things that definitely has to be captured that ultimately can go into the court systems, and how it’s prosecuted, and things of that nature. So, just kind of reacting what took place from point of entry to the overall report, and what took place based upon that request.

JW:  Yeah. And I think that I can just imagine knowing some of my friends that are in the 911 centers, running them or working in them, there’s a little bit of apprehension, right? Because you’re going to have to make some policy and procedure changes to some of the points you just made. Not only are your personnel ready to accept visual representation of a 911 call, but then the what’s next? How does that become part of the solution? And I think you briefly touched on that. The technology should be able to bring that in, and have that become part of that call for service.

But I think the policies and the internal procedures are probably some people are a little apprehensive about, and I could see that almost being a little bit of a scary thing for most people. And I think one of the keys is, and we’ve said this again on numerous discussions that we’ve had, but don’t do this in a vacuum. There are a lot of agencies that have gone before us, that have already kind of hoed this road, if you will, you can use an old saying, and reach out to the NENAs, reach out to your neighbors, and find out what’s going on. Do you think that that’s a fair assessment?

DR:  Oh, without a doubt. I think we always got to think about it clearly to the person. Obviously, the citizen that’s calling in, and then end of the day, the clear mission that all the first responders and emergency response individuals want to achieve is speed of response, right? Because seconds do matter, obviously. But also to the person who’s receiving that call. If you think about the reality, like you just said, if they see images, and photos, and videos, and stuff like that, what is going to be the impact to them to move on to the next call, etc?

Is there going to be post traumatic stress syndrome beyond the norm that clearly some of those individuals handle and have to deal with already in the analog world, so to speak, where it’s only voice. As you well know, and you’ve been in there, and I’ve been serving the market for 30 years myself, it’s a very, very, very challenging job. You have to be able to handle these emergency calls. It’s very rewarding as far as to be able to help the citizens that they serve, and things of that nature.

But at the end of the day, they deal with some things that people don’t want to be fully aware of, and thank God they do, right? And now, if they start seeing the imagery affiliated with that, then we have to think about how do we train them? How do we handle after the fact? Things of that nature.

JW:  Yeah. You’re absolutely right. And I think for years, dispatchers like myself, we get off of a call, and you start talking amongst yourselves there at the comms center. I think there’s always the anecdotal discussions of, “Man, I wish I could see that. That sounded like a good accident or that sounded a big fire or that sounded like something. Man, I wish I could see that.”

And I think now, we need to be prepared for when that goes from just something that we’re saying out loud to, “Yeah. You might just see that, and you might just have that now sitting there on your desktop, and how do we handle that.” To your point, we’re going to make sure we’re taking care of our dispatchers and our staff that, historically, maybe they just had to listen to it and that was traumatic enough. But now there’s some other key factors there.

DR:  Well, the other thing too, John, is you well know, I mean, typically, rightfully so,  the press we’ll be looking at, and we’ve been able to hear at the 911 call on the 6:00 or 11:00 news based upon the type of call. Well, that’s fine. Sometimes you’re listening to the call, which is okay, right? But if you have a multimedia experience coming in, how do you protect the privacy of the individuals that maybe they don’t want their image, obviously, on the 11:00 or 6:00 news, and things of that nature?

So, there’s a lot of factors from how do you redact the youth, as an example, an image of the youth that might be in a video or an image, and things of that nature. We have to be aware of how we be very, very cognisant of that.

JW  Yeah. No, I agree. No, I completely agree. We’ve touched on a few of them already, but do you see any other downside or risk with the multimedia information coming in? Is there anything else that we should be aware of?

DR:  No, I think it’s just preparation, preparation, preparation. And the reality is it’s already there. The citizens are having that multimedia experience that they’re using every single day, and now we just have to bring that in at a faster rate into the emergency services response. And I think at the end of the day, it’s going to happen. We just have to prepare on how best to make that happen.

JW:  Yeah. I know back years ago, we would talk phase one cellular to bring in the phone number, and the occasional cell called that would be handy. Then we went into phase two, and now I need to know can I figure out where that person’s calling me from, and triangulation, and all of those things, so I could see kind of where that person’s at, and this is just another evolution in that continued call cycle of just bringing that data in. And I’m telling you, the ESInet, having that network in place, sounds like a huge benefit for agencies, and to what we said at the very beginning, it is a very exciting time for sure.

Is there anything else that you would tell agencies to kind of get prepared if they’re looking down this ESInet road, and how do they kind of work towards that transformation, and being prepared for this?

DR:  Well, even beyond. I mean, here we are talking about going from voice inbound requests for emergency response, and then to a multimedia experience, obviously. But with the advent of 5G, that’s really going to enable the internet of things or sensor based items that will be automatically dialing for response. So, probably the easiest example would be a smartwatch that has a health meter in there,  as you probably know with the iOS or the Apple phones, right? You can have, actually, a heart indication as far as how your heart is monitoring and things of that nature, and that’s the same thing.

So, ultimately, there’s going to be a lot of sensor based inbound requests for emergency response. Automatic crash notification where it can do imagery as far as exactly the extent of the crash. So, you’re bringing in an image of the vehicle that comes in with that automatic call. As you well know, air bags are deployed now typically on cars that are equipped with OnStar, and other type of telematic related items. They know that the air bags were deployed. Much more sensor based items that are going to be coming in.

So, how do they be responsive to that? How do they handle that? How they capture that? How they store it? How to retrieve it? So, those things are definitely coming.

JW:  It’s very exciting, and it’s all about getting that help out there quicker, and faster, and getting data in. If now all of a sudden, we have vehicles and sensors telling us what’s going on, it even alleviates the little bit of delay that someone may have just dialing 911, if now all of a sudden alerts are being sent on their behalf. And we’ve seen that over in the alarm world with the PSAP just cutting off minutes in handling just alarm calls that are coming in the door. It’s going to be very exciting as we watch the analytics and the reports coming out on how this is making things quicker.

So, great stuff Darrin, and I just want to give a big thank you to our guest today, Darrin Reilly. Great topic, a lot of good information there. To hear additional episodes or learn more, visit hxgnspotlight.com. Thanks for tuning in.