Critical Communications World, 2019 – TCCA’s largest event in global public safety communication – was held in Kuala Lumpur in June. Mission-critical communications are essential to maintaining safety and security across a range from daily operations to extreme events including disaster recovery. A UN report estimated that economic losses from natural disasters could reach USD 160 billion annually by 2030.
I attended the event as a guest of Motorola Solutions – one of the leaders in this field. Many people associate Motorola only with phones not knowing that they have been the cornerstone of some of the largest critical communications deployments around the globe. For instance, Victoria Police completed its AUD 50M+ rollout of Motorola Solutions managed services, enabling almost 10,000 police officers across Victoria access to mobile devices loaded with smart apps, and data when and where they need it most.
Motorola’s ability to provide customers with a private network which is secure, robust and redundant in the event of disaster has also been one of the reasons for their success in the industry. In the event of natural disasters or terrorist attacks, situations can arise where networks will not be available to send and transport any information. Having a secure and private network is critical. That explains why some of the largest police departments in Asia work with Motorola and these include Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.x
Motorola acquired Australian mobile application developer Gridstone in 2016 and Avigilon, an advanced video surveillance and analytics provider in 2018. These acquisitions demonstrate how Motorola is innovating in the areas of software, video analytics and AI.
Public Safety Moving to a Collaborative Platform with AI and Machine Learning
Andrew Sinclair, Global Software Chief for Motorola Solutions sees AI enhancing future command and control centres and allowing greater analytics of emergency calls. Call histories and transcriptions, the incident management stack, community engagement data and post incidence reporting are all important elements for command and control centres. Using AI to sieve through the information will empower the operator with the right data and to make the right on-the-spot decisions.
The Avigilon acquisition, enhances Motorola’s AI capabilities and less time is spent monitoring videos, giving first responders more time to do their jobs. The AI technology can make “sense” of the information by using natural language technology. For example, if asked to find a child in a red t-shirt, the cameras can detect the child and also create a fingerprint of the child. The solution enables faster incidence detection by using an edge computing platform. It gathers the information and processes it to relevant agencies making the search operation faster and more streamlined. The application of AI in the video monitoring space is still in its early days and the potential ahead for this technology is enormous.
The other area that can empower first responders better are voice activated devices. The popularity of Alexa and Echo in the consumer world will see greater innovation in the application of public safety solutions. For example, police officers responding to an emergency may have very little time to look at screens or attend to other applications that need touching or pressing of a button as time and attention is essential is such scenarios. The application of voice activated devices will be critical for easing the job of the police officer on the ground. This will not only save administrative work on activities such as transcription, but also help in creating better accounts of the actual happenings for potential court proceedings.
While it is still early days for a full-fledged AR deployment in public safety, there are potential use cases. For example, firemen standing outside a building to make sense of the surrounding area could use AR to send information back to the command and control centres.
The Growth of Cloud-driven Collaboration
Seng Heng Chuah, VP for Motorola APJ talked about the importance of all agencies in public safety to be more open and collaborative. For instance, currently most ambulance, police and fire departments work in silos and have their own apps and legacy systems. To achieve the Smart City or Safe City concept, collaborating and sharing information on one common platform will be key. He talked about the “Home Team” concept that the Singapore Government has achieved. Allowing all agencies to collaborate and share information will mean the ability to make faster decisions during a catastrophe. Making “sense” of the IoT, voice and video data will be important areas of innovation. Normally when a disaster happens, operators at command and control centres – as well as onsite staff – face elevated stress levels and accurate information can help alleviate that.
The move towards the public cloud is also becoming more relevant for agencies. In the past there was resistance and it was always about having the data on their own premises. In recent years more public safety agencies are embracing the cloud. When you have vast amounts of data from video, IoT devices and other data sources, it becomes expensive for public safety agencies to store the data on premise. Seng Heng talked about how public safety agencies are starting to “trust’’ the cloud more now. According to him, Microsoft has done a good job in working with local governments around the world, and their government clouds have many layers of certifications as well as a strong data centre footprint in countries. The collaboration between agencies and more importantly agencies embracing the cloud will drive greater efficiency in analysing, transcribing and storing the data.
The Rise of Outcome-based, Services-led Opportunities
Steve Crutchfield, VP of Motorola Solutions for ANZ, talked about how Motorola is a services-led business in the ANZ market. 45% of Motorola’s business in ANZ is comprised of managed services. The ANZ region is unique as it is seen as early adopters and innovators around public safety implementations. Organisations approach Motorola for the outcomes. Police and Ambulance for example in the state of Victoria use their services on a consumption model. Customers across Mining, Transportation, and Emergency Services want an end-to-end solution across the network, voice, video and analytics.
The need for a private and secure network is significant in several industries. In the mines, safety is of priority and as soon as the radio goes down it impacts productivity and when production stops that can results in huge losses for the mines. Hence the need for a reliable private network that is secure for the transportation of voice and video communication is critical.
Crutchfield talked about how the partner ecosystem is evolving with Motorola working with partners such as Telstra and Orion but increasingly looking for specialised line of business partners and data aggregation partners. Motorola works with 55 channel partners in the region.
Motorola Solutions is an established player in providing an end-to-end solution in the critical communications segment. The company is innovating in the areas of software and services coupled with the application of AI. Dr Mahesh Saptharishi, CTO at Motorola Solutions talked about how AI will eventually evolve into “muscle memory”. That will mean that there is far greater “automatic’’ intelligence in helping the first responders make critical decisions when faced with a tough situation.
In the end the efficacy of critical communications solutions will not just be the technology stack, but the desire and ability for cross-agency collaboration. As public safety agencies analyse large volumes of data sets from the network right to the applications, they will have to embrace the cloud, and which will help them achieve scale and security when storing information in the cloud. From the discussions, it was clear that the public safety agencies have started acknowledging the need to do so and we can expect that shift to happen soon.
Motorola will need to keep evolving their channel partner model and start partnering with new providers that can help in delivering some of the end-to-end capabilities across Mobility, AI, software, analytics and IoT. Many of their traditional partners may not be able to be that provider as the company evolves into driving end-to-end intelligent data services for their clients. The company is playing in a unique space with very few competitors that can offer the breadth and depth of critical communications solutions.