9 Takeaways from CCW 2015
Monday, June 01, 2015 | Comments

Curiosity about the technical evolution of mission-critical communications brought a record number of delegates to Barcelona, Spain, for Critical Communications World (CCW) 2015. The augmentation of TETRA systems with Long Term Evolution (LTE) was paramount in the session topics as well as vendor offerings. Users of every size are trying to piece together the broadband puzzle to make sound procurement decisions regarding their mission-critical networks.

The information presented at the conference could fill volumes. I have condensed a few of the key takeaways from the sessions below. For information on product announcements from CCW 2015, click here.

1. Voice is still the most important piece of a mission-critical communications system. Users of mission-critical communications are conservative and cautious and will not jump on the voice over LTE (VoLTE) bandwagon until it is proven to be reliable. With the safety of entire communities at risk, this could take some time. There is simply too much at stake.

2. Broadband use for mission-critical communications is here to stay and will continue to grow. Currently, the primary use of broadband is for non-mission-critical data. The question that consistently surfaces is: When does non-mission-critical data become mission critical?

3. The economic feasibility of private LTE systems is limited. Most public-safety agencies will need to rely on commercial broadband networks for mission-critical data. Even with standards on the horizon, many users are skeptical of using commercial networks in emergencies. How long will it take after standards have been established and implemented for agencies to transition to commercial LTE for mission-critical data? There is also the looming question of who is liable when there is a system failure.

4. Incorporating mission-critical data into systems is going to take a lot of time and money. If it is done right, it can save money, reduce response time and save lives. If it is done wrong, it will open Pandora’s box. Big decisions have to be made: What is mission-critical data? How long does it need to be stored? How can it be secured so it cannot be altered? The list goes on.

5. There is a lot of talk about BIG, smart data. The type of big data that can help avert an incident, reduce response time or solve a problem depends on the culture of the region in which it is implemented. It must be customizable and helpful. If it is not carefully planned and implemented, it could be daunting.

6. The distinction between mission-critical communications and critical communications continues to blur as more agencies coordinate with utilities, water and other critical industries that are vital to the survival of the communities in which they serve.

7. TETRA Enhanced Data Services (TEDS) is struggling for adoption as several vendors are taking the leap of combining TETRA with LTE and bypassing TEDS. This could prove problematic because of LTE reliability issues. TEDS users would certainly like to see more competition for TEDS products.

8. The use of social media for mission-critical communications will continue to increase. It’s a viable, easy-to-access source of information for situational awareness that can’t be ignored.

9. The goal of an app is to be so intuitive the user doesn’t know they’re using an app. If an officer has to think too much about how to use an app, response time will increase instead of decrease. The age-old rule applies: Keep it simple.

Broadband is creating a paradigm shift in the mission-critical communications industry. By all accounts, it is several years behind the commercial wireless market, but with good reason. When lives are on the line, the reliability of a system is paramount. Until standards are in place and proven, mission-critical broadband will be slow to adopt. Until then, non-mission-critical data will continue to be incorporated into systems because heaven knows, we are all connected at the hip to our smartphones.

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