5 Public-Safety Technology Trends
Tuesday, July 26, 2016 | Comments
Public-safety wireless technology and communications are changing and developing before our eyes, and it’s exciting. One event that highlights public-safety cutting edge technology is the annual Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder (PSBS) meeting. The latest PSBS, hosted and organized by the Public Safety Communications Research Program (PSCR), was held in San Diego, June 7 – 9.

1. LMR is with us for a long time. This theme was repeatedly discussed, and there seemed to be a new realization of the inescapable co-existence of LMR and Long Term Evolution (LTE) systems for many years to come. It’s probably the result of push back from thousands of agencies operating LMR systems. The objective is to “protect your investment through the intersection of the two technologies. Extend the life of your existing system while beginning to build the new,” PSCR speakers said.

2. A systems interface bridge is key to LMR-LTE interoperability. PSCR is encouraging the industry to develop LMR-LTE system interface devices and encouraging standards development organizations (SDOs) to develop LMR-LTE interface standards. They want interface devices that are affordable, standards based and consistent. They intend to make one “spigot” available for all other technologies, referring to the mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) legacy interworking interface being created by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). They will not create interfaces for Project 25 (P25), TETRA, analog or others. As an example, PSCR said the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) TR-8 committee may choose to modify the P25 Inter RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI) standard to enable a direct connection to an LTE system.

3. MCPTT faces many challenges. LTE mission-critical voice is specified in the legislation, according to PSCR speakers, “as soon as we can,” and “as good as LMR.” They went on to say, “We won’t set a date to require migration but want the technological foundation so it can occur.” PSCR’s mission is to accelerate the development, not the deployment, and they want it completed within two years.

The 3GPP TS 22.179 specification has established stage one requirements for MCPTT over LTE. Release 14 will include mission-critical communications interworking between LTE and non-LTE systems. Key elements to develop are MCPTT, which includes caller ID, emergency alerting, group call, and direct mode or proximity services (ProSe).

Direct mode has significant engineering, operational and product design challenges because of the nature of the LTE network. Device-to-device (D2D) operation will take place on the uplink frequency. This may require two receivers within each device to enable continued operation on the network while switching to and from D2D operation.

This could impact user equipment (UE) costs and will require design of products that do not currently exist. Two types of UEs, one for public safety and another for the remainder of users, may also be required. Public safety may also require a different form factor because users can’t operate a swipe screen with gloves. I was told, although it’s not confirmed, that Qualcomm has not yet committed to put public-safety features in its ProSe/direct mode chipset, which is its off-network version of ProSe.

4. Migration to LTE won’t be forced. LTE will attempt to attract adopters and hasten the migration by bringing voice and data functions into the common services core and offering expanded services not available with LMR. Two examples are expanded emergency call options and enhanced talker ID. Two levels of emergency call will be “emergency,” to the initiator and, “immediate peril,” for the less critical that may affect others. Caller ID will offer more information than LMR users are used to.

5. There are new product development opportunities for UE. The demand for wireless technology and communications within the public-safety and public-services sector is increasing rapidly. There was much PSCR discussion about various UE devices that could operate on LTE systems. The top three areas of interest were said to be, vehicle to “X” communications, internet of things (IoT) and wearables. A product testing and certification process prior to UE operation on LTE systems will support the “do no harm” principle.

PSCR momentum is growing. The staff has increased to 90 people, up from 30 just a few years ago. The program is now funding 10 separate departments, up from three a few years ago, and managing 38 active research projects and spending $150 million on prize challenges during the next six years. PSCR received $300 million for research and development (R&D) as authorized from the Middle Class Tax Relief Act, section 6603 to “inject funding into accelerating the transition to future technologies.” PSCR is launching an innovation accelerator in five areas, including location-based services (LBS), public-safety analytics, mission-critical voice over LTE, LMR and Long Term Evolution (LTE) interoperability, and user interfaces/user experience (UI/UX).

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Chris Lougee is the principal of 5X9 Communications, providing professional services to the LMR industry. Lougee recently retired after 25 years as vice president of Icom America. He may be reached at chrislougee@5x9comm.com.

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