New Organization Aims to Promote Public-Safety Standards
Tuesday, June 12, 2018 | Comments
A new industry organization aimed at promoting open standards does not yet have the support of major standards-making bodies or the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) but will work to encourage support and participation from those groups.

Public Safety Technology Alliance (PSTA) Executive Director TJ Kennedy said that the alliance has not yet coordinated with the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) or the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) but plans to encourage relevant standards-making bodies to join and participate in the alliance’s activities.

Kennedy said that FirstNet will have a seat on the alliance’s executive advisory council and that the FirstNet board and the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) are supportive of the alliance’s effort.

PSTA Vice President and Secretary Jason Karp later clarified that seats on the advisory council are available for public-safety organizations, such as FirstNet, but they do not have to fill them.

A FirstNet spokesman said that the FirstNet Authority is not affiliated with the PSTA and has no plans to participate on its executive advisory council.

"Further, neither the FirstNet board nor the PSAC have taken positions of support for the alliance's efforts," the spokesman said. "The FirstNet Authority is supportive of and committed to ensuring open standards for public safety as those standards are established within the appropriate venues."

PSAC Interim Chairman Paul Patrick did not respond to requests for comment prior to press time. PSAC member Jonathan Lewin, who represents the Major Cities (Police) Chiefs Association, is a member of the PSTA executive board.

The PSTA will serve a complementary, but different, function from the PSAC, Kennedy said. “The PSTA complements FirstNet’s and the PSAC’s important work by fostering and promoting open best-in-class standards technology for the public-safety user community so the needs of the user community as identified by the PSAC can be fully realized in practice.”

Kennedy and several members of the alliance’s executive board announced the organization’s launch during the 2018 Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Broadband Stakeholder meeting in San Diego last week. Kennedy is the former president of FirstNet and cofounder of the Public Safety Network consultancy.

PSTA is not a standards-making body, but will instead focus on driving standards adoption and compliance by “identifying and selecting best in class standards,” Kennedy said.

The alliance will not only look at open standards from bodies such as 3GPP and TIA but also standards that stretch across the public-safety communications sector. If the alliance identifies a gap in open standards, it will also work to drive that standardization, Kennedy said.

The PSTA is comprised of three committees with different focuses and roles in meeting the alliance’s goals. The technical committee will recommend standards adoption based on a variety of topics and criteria. The technical committee will also review and test standards and then recommend standards to the board of directors. If a standard is approved by the board, the marketing and certification committee will endorse it as a “PSTA certified” standard; the alliance will publish a list of those standards on its website, Kennedy said.

The marketing and certification committee will work to raise awareness of the association, interoperability issues and the need for open standards. The membership committee will raise awareness to support membership activities.

Membership fees for industry members are based on annual revenue and range from $7,500 for the highest level of membership for companies making less than $25 million in annual revenue to $50,000 for the highest level of membership for companies making more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

The membership fee for academic organizations is $1,000, and there is no membership fee for public-safety associations, agencies and governments.

During their announcement presentation, Kennedy and others involved in the organization said that public safety’s participation and needs will be key components of the new organization.

Sonim Technologies CEO Bob Plaschke said that the PSTA will give public safety a way to manage and work with vendors, which are motivated by profits, to ensure that vendor offerings adequately meet public-safety needs.

The board of directors will include nine members, five representing public safety and four from industry. So far, the alliance has announced seven board members: Maggie Goodrich, former chief information officer (CIO) of public safety for Los Angeles; Michael Duyck, fire chief for Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue in Oregon; Richard Carizzo, fire chief of Southern Platte Fire Protection District in Missouri; Lewin, CIO for the Chicago Police Department; Sean Malinowski, chief of staff for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD); David Theel, captain for the administration division of Pima County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona; and Stuart McKee, chief technology officer (CTO) for state/local government, Microsoft.

Two industry members for the board of directors have yet to be announced. Those two board members have been confirmed and will be announced soon, Kennedy said.

An executive advisory council with up to 25 members will advise the executive board in its mission. So far, members of that board come from organizations including Harris County, Texas; the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS); AT&T; Verizon; TRX Systems; JVCKENWOOD; Sonim Technologies; Secured Communications; and RapidSOS.

A full list of the members of the executive advisory board has not been released.

"When it comes to saving lives, open and interoperable technologies are critical to ensuring that first responders can continue to communicate across networks to address their mission-critical requirements," said Mike Maiorana, senior vice president, public sector, Verizon Enterprise Solutions. "We look forward to lending our voice and broad expertise in public safety to help the PSTA advance its mission and ensure our first responder community has access to the best, open and interoperable."

AT&T did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The leadership of the PSTA is similar to that of the recently created The Public Safety Network consultancy. Kennedy and former FirstNet counsel Karp cofounded The Public Safety Network, and Karp serves as the vice president and secretary for the PSTA. Kennedy is also board chairman of executive advisory council member Secured Communications, and Karp is chief legal counsel for the company.

“The Public Safety Network (PSN) has been retained by the PSTA to provide strategic and operational management services for the organization and will report to the board of directors, similar to how the PSN provides services to its other clients within the public-safety technology sector,” Kennedy said. “As with any professional services organization that services multiple clients within the same sector, it is incumbent upon consultants and service providers to act with integrity and take reasonable necessary steps to ensure it is best representing the best interests of each client.”

Industry consultant Joe Hanna said he sees the PSTA as a noble effort because it could provide a voice to some companies that are on the edge of major efforts such as FirstNet but said the success of the effort will depend on how it is developed and if there are any unintended consequences.

One possible consequence could be confusion within the open standards process by adding another player in that process, Hanna said. For example, if there’s a difference in opinion of what standard to promote between different industry groups or standards organizations, which group should public safety listen to or adopt, Hanna asked.

When asked how PSTA hopes to spur adoption of its standards decisions and give weight to those decisions, Kennedy pointed to the alliance’s stated goal of including public safety and promoting industry and public-safety collaboration.

“By design, the governance and the committee structures of the PSTA are focused on collaboration between public safety and industry to discuss and recommend the best standards for public safety,” he said. “This means that the decisions on which standards are best for public safety are being chosen by public safety in collaboration with industry.”

Editor's Note: This story was updated June 13 with an updated statement from FirstNet.

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