European FREESIC Project Creates Gateway for Interoperability Across Borders
By Michelle Zilis, Managing Editor
Tuesday, August 05, 2014 | Comments

The European Union (EU) project Free Secure Interoperable Communications (FREESIC) was designed to enable interoperable emergency communications regardless of borders via a communications gateway. The project, which began in February 2012, concluded following a field test in June and a final report that was submitted to the EU Project Office at the end of last month.

“The FREESIC field test was held on 5 June in Luxembourg, and it successfully demonstrated the various FREESIC capabilities to an international end-user audience representing seven different EU countries,” said Daniela Macáková, EU project manager, Ardaco. Ardaco is one of nine members that made up the project consortium.

The FREESIC project wanted to enable highly secure and cost-effective interoperability across European communications infrastructure, according to the project’s website. The driving technology is a universal, open-standards gateway with customizable adapters that enable third-party infrastructures to connect to the FREESIC Unified Communication Network.

“The FREESIC project proposed a solution with several innovative aspects, such as a network-of-networks concept as well as a generic WEB 2.0 (do it yourself) approach,” said Macáková. “From the user perspective, network management tasks will be facilitated through the collaboration site based on WEB 2.0 components that allow end users to configure their own interoperability attributes.

“Thus the FREESIC represents a cost-effective solution using existing communication infrastructures already deployed by organizations. These infrastructures can be integrated to the FREESIC Unified Communication Network with minor implementation effort using the sample implementations provided.”

As long as the system integrator developed an adapter to FREESIC, agencies can use whatever devices they operate to connect with other agencies already connected to the network, Macáková said. To set up interagency talk groups, an agency can use the collaboration website, which is akin to a social network of Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR) organizations, similar to sites such as LinkedIn, she said.

“Thus each interoperating agency, via FREESIC, needs only to develop one adapter to achieve multilateral interoperability with other agencies,” the website states. The specifications of the gateway are provided as shared JAVA source code with sample implementations and additional tools for enhancing the configuration. Any type of communications system can be easily integrated at minor investment. “Moreover, the system integrators do not need to share any of their own assets, specifications or source codes they consider as business sensitive information or own intellectual property,” the website said.

The 5 June live demonstration achieved multiagency cross-border interoperability via push-to-talk (PTT) capabilities integrated from Tetrapol, VoIP and analog systems in the Czech Republic, Poland, Luxembourg, Spain and Slovakia.

After the tests, stakeholders were asked for their feedback. “The subsequent analysis of their responses has shown that — on the one hand — not all of the FREESIC benefits/capabilities discussed are commonly available to the stakeholders in their current working environments, and — on the other hand — that most of the questionnaire responders considered these benefits/capabilities to be of importance,” said Macáková.

Respondents identified possible use applications, several activities the technology would allow them to do that they are currently unable to do, and benefits that are worth changing current business processes and procedures to accommodate.

“These findings lead to the conclusion that FREESIC constitutes an awaited tool with several desired features, which offer a number of new essential possibilities,” said Macáková.

The European Commission’s Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) oversaw the program as well as its predecessor, the Seamless Communications for Crisis Management (SECRICOM) Project, and the follow-up project, the REDIRNET.

The SECRICOM project set up interagency PTT talk groups and acknowledged the possibility to use mass-market devices in emergency communications and provide end-to-end encryption.

“The principal motivation for the FREESIC project arises from issues identified during the work on the SECRICOM Project where the majority of FREESIC partners were involved,” said Macáková. “The SECRICOM Project identified legal, organizational and operational barriers that negatively impacted on effective multiagency interoperability during crisis events. Even when an efficient technical solution such as SECRICOM was being used, these barriers were never overcome totally.”

FREESIC addressed the issues associated with different doctrines and processes between agencies and countries; significant budgetary pressures; trust and security concerns; commercial barriers; and IP rights, which were all identified as non-technical barriers from the SECRICOM project.

REDIRNET will seek to extend the interoperability of PPDR agencies for further IT systems, including access to databases, cameras and sensors, Macáková said. FREESIC focused only on voice communications at a crisis event. REDIRNET work began March 2014 and is scheduled to demonstrate results in mid-2016.

“Several consortia partners are currently or have recently presented FREESIC to many PPDR organizations in various EU countries such as U.K., Luxembourg, Slovakia and Czech Republic,” said Macáková. “Also, one partner — the University of Luxembourg — is planning to establish a spin-off to exploit the results of the FRESSIC and related projects (such as SECRICOM and REDIRNET).”

For more information about the project, visit www.freesic.eu.



 
 
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