VDC Research: Video, Mobile Investments to Drive Public-Safety Technology Growth
By Matthew Hopkins
Tuesday, November 03, 2015 | Comments

VDC Research released a report that indicates public-safety agency budgets have increased during the past year, enabling organizations to invest in new technologies. The investments could take many forms, but VDC predicts that video and mobile hardware and software will experience the most robust growth during the next five years.

The report details mobile solutions in public safety based on a series of in-depth interviews with public-safety solutions providers and end users, as well as a survey of key decision-makers at public-safety agencies. The report examines how North American public-safety organizations adopt and engage mobile technologies to facilitate workflows and meet the demands of first responders.

The public-safety industry, by its nature, relies heavily on devices for both critical and noncritical communications. During the past decade, mobile technology has evolved quickly in the consumer space, causing a mass transition from landlines to cellphones and eventually smartphones. This evolution changed the way individuals communicate and allowed people to access and share data nearly anywhere.

Unfortunately, public-safety agencies, in an industry that is generally slow to modernize, were negatively impacted by the 2008 recession, with slashed budgets and stagnated technology upgrades. That delay accounts for the slow implementation of next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) solutions and text-to-9-1-1 capabilities, which are necessary given the new methods available for contacting and sharing information with 9-1-1 operators. The delay also inhibited the development of mobility policies at most public-safety agencies, hindering the greater incorporation of Long Term Evolution (LTE) devices and public-safety-specific mobile applications.

Mobile devices are already ubiquitous in the public-safety space, with first responders leveraging their personal smartphones to varying degrees to augment workflows. The value of these devices in providing greater situational awareness, evidence collection and collaboration is evident.

Moreover, younger workers continue to enter the field with mobile expectations and capabilities, placing pressure on agencies to develop mobile policies. While this process has remained slow to date, the increasing demand among first responders and the increased supply of public-safety-built mobile hardware and software is expected to encourage agencies to act. Finally, the emergence of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and the development of a standard for push-to-talk (PTT) over LTE will provide the opportunity for more sophisticated public-safety solutions.

In 2013, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International launched a public-safety applications community — www.appcomm.org — with 60 mobile applications. The site now lists nearly 200 applications, a sign of the opportunities available in mobile. Those applications are not traditional consumer applications but rather comprehensive solutions that could replace legacy methods of completing business processes, such as evidence collection and reporting.

Furthermore, cloud technology offers agencies the chance to incorporate new software services at a lower cost than before, and without the need for significant technological resources that are often hard to come by in the public sector. While security concerns prevent many agencies from moving to the cloud, the increasing adoption of body-worn cameras and the cloud-based evidence management platforms supporting them is helping break down some of these barriers.

Events during the past two years have resulted in a public cry for agencies to outfit police officers with body-worn cameras to increase accountability. Federal and state governments have answered the call by providing funding and encouraging the adoption of the technology, resulting in exponential growth in the demand for the devices.

Public policy has, by and large, failed to address the privacy, freedom of information and general use concerns associated with body-worn cameras. However, VDC predicts that the body-worn camera market will have double-digit growth during the next five years. The adoption of the camera technology will also likely directly or indirectly impact other technology decisions.


The amount of data created by the cameras is exorbitant and opens the discussion about cloud technology for storage and management. To maximize return on investment, many agencies may also choose to implement analytic solutions that provide insights on the video data obtained. In addition, the cameras work ideally with LTE devices to enable real-time video streaming, as well as act as an interface for the cameras. Acknowledging the link between these cameras and mobile devices, many body-worn camera vendors have already brought mobile applications to market that work in tandem with the devices and augment business workflows.

The opportunity for public-safety agencies to better incorporate data in their workflows and take advantage of the copious sums of information available to them is great. However, restraint should be exercised when analyzing this space because of the numerous obstacles impeding movement to new technologies. Legacy equipment, culture and budgets are just three of the important aspects to consider when predicting the pace of change in this space. Understanding this, and having studied mobile adoption in several other verticals, VDC believes that during the next five years, there will be significant investment in mobile to augment traditional, tried-and-true technologies, such as LMR.

To learn more about VDC’s public-safety findings, view the report here.

Matthew Hopkins brings experience in quantitative and qualitative research to VDC Research’s Enterprise Mobility and Connected Devices team. He supports a variety of syndicated research programs and custom engagements. Hopkins’ experience includes work for market research firm KRC Research, where he engaged in questionnaire design and data analysis for a number of Fortune 500 companies.

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