Public safety organizations use technology to improve operations in a variety of ways, from streamlining recordkeeping to facilitating identification through biometrics and protecting first responders from liability with body cameras. Solutions that are widely deployed, however, are only a sample of the technologies that could benefit public safety organizations — if they had a communications network to support them.
5G changes everything. This next-generation mobile network enables access to all forms of vital information, real-time data sharing, and faster response times, helping first responders to operate more efficiently and provide enhanced services to their communities.
5G and MEC: The Unstoppable Combination
The long-awaited rollout of the fifth generation of mobile networks is finally underway. Users are gaining the benefits of faster speeds — up to 100 times faster than 4G — and low latency. The lag in communications that some users experience will be all but eliminated. 5G also supports a higher volume of devices, making smart systems that share data with public safety officials feasible. The new network also features a lower energy demand than 4G, reducing power consumption by up to 90 percent and decreasing costs.
One of the biggest advantages 5G offers public services is network slicing. This capability gives network providers or administrators the ability to “slice” the network into multiple virtual networks. Then, they can give priority to particular users or devices — a crucial feature for public safety organizations that must have reliable, on-demand service.
5G’s rollout coincides with increased adoption of multi-access edge computing (MEC), the final piece of the puzzle to bringing advanced capabilities to public safety. MEC enables high-performance computing at the edge, so all data doesn’t have to transmit to the cloud or a data center. For IoT systems designed for public safety, MEC ensures that mission-critical tasks are accomplished without delay and eliminates risks that bottlenecks or outages can create when public safety communications — often in life-or-death situations — must get through.
5G’s Impact on Public Safety
With the launch of 5G, public safety organizations can experience immediate improvements in areas including:
Although some networks currently provide dedicated access to first responders, data communicated through those channels isn’t always easily shared with the 9-1-1 call center or other public safety officials. 5G enables new architecture for 9-1-1 centers so that they receive data in real-time, improve visibility of first responders’ locations, and dispatch more effectively. Additionally, 5G will pave the way for easy accessibility to data from smartphones, smart devices, and smart homes, if they are part of the network.
Public safety will also break free from communication limitations. In addition to voice and text, 5G’s speed and reliability will facilitate easy transmission of videos and documents — whatever first responders and administrators need to quickly and efficiently do their jobs.
Caring for patients in rural or remote areas is a challenge for health professionals. 5G not only supports applications that give doctors quick and reliable access to large files such as medical records and imagery; it also provides wider coverage. Telemedicine for people who are currently underserved and off the grid will finally be feasible. 5G can also connect first responders directly with ER doctors who can use real-time video to provide guidance in the field. In addition, 5G has the speed and bandwidth to support virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) that first responders may find helpful in emergency situations in which they must provide care.
5G allows networks to give priority to emergency vehicles as they travel — and it does it with much greater efficiency than any system now used with 4G. Traffic control systems with 5G can connect with each vehicle on the road to create the current network and control traffic signals to maintain traffic flow and clear the way for emergency vehicles.
Whether during an emergency or just a busy rush hour, traffic control systems supported by a 5G network can also communicate with drivers’ onboard navigation systems to help them find the best route.
Additionally, 5G lays the groundwork for quick, reliable data sharing necessary for safe assisted driving and autonomous vehicles.
5G provides law enforcement officers immediate access to information that now takes minutes — or hours — to retrieve, such as vehicle registrations, background checks, and identity confirmation. In addition to quick access to data, it can also enable first-responders to transmit voice data to applications that decrease paperwork they need to complete after an incident.
Additionally, robots have begun to play a critical role in police or firefighting operations. They can surveil areas, access confined spaces, and enter toxic or dangerous environments, performing tasks that would be extremely dangerous for a human to do. 5G enables reliable remote control of robots in emergency situations and real-time access to the video or sensor data they’re collecting.
The effectiveness and quality of surveillance systems will improve with 5G, enabling higher-resolution data to transmit in real-time, the deployment of more cameras and devices, and highly controlled systems that leverage drones or autonomous vehicles. Furthermore, the speed of 5G integrated with the edge capabilities of MEC can enable systems that take action when people cross perimeters or breach security, for example, by triggering alarms or notifying authorities.
Finally, What Public Safety Has Been Waiting For
The European Emergency Number Association (EENA) predicts, “5G will usher in the age of invention … 5G and artificial intelligence will mean billions of connected elements, huge amounts of data and all of them in the cloud. It will change how we share files, make online purchases, and reproduce content.”
Public safety organizations can see the potential 5G has to enhance current processes and enable the use of advanced technologies. It is, however, surely just the beginning of the impact this next-gen mobile network will have. With fewer limits to how, when, and where information is shared, public safety will be free to reimagine and invent processes, ultimately helping to create more efficient services and a safer world.
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