The Promise of 5G for First Responders
It’s estimated that the number of IoT connected devices already exceeds the world’s population, with the figure predicted to pass 20 billion by 2020. And, according to the recent 5G predictions report from Ericsson , cellular IoT connections are forecast to increase from 1 billion in 2018 to 4.1 billion in 2024 (Figure 1). As 5G networks become established, they will enable an even greater range of capabilities and catalyze a whole new world of use cases—many of which aren’t even imagined yet.
5G is the first mobile technology generation that will truly go beyond connecting people. It is the enabler of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and will light up the IoT across a fully interconnected global ecosystem that is set to encompass and incorporate cities, communities and the full range of vertical markets and sectors that make the world work. It is set to provide the best network for those who keep the world safe. For first responders, 5G promises unrivaled connectivity and access to applications that will transform the way they work. With such a paradigm shift in how “the network” is defined, there is a huge amount of work to be done to fully realize the potential.
It has been established that the US is a leader worldwide in the next generation of mobile networks. To support the momentum of these innovations, network providers are striving to provide the latest technology to their customers, enabling them to stay ahead and connected to the world. Communication systems are expanding to embrace greater functionality and fulfill the potential for sharing information more quickly and easily. Communication among first responders will be able to be prioritized in a tiered strategy, ensuring that those responding to an emergency will have uninterrupted communications.
As we await the further rollout of 5G across the US and beyond, it is crucial that current implementations continue to be supported into the 5G future, not only to protect existing investments but to ensure the uninterrupted performance and quality of the service—both critical requirements for first responder networks. It is essential that today’s solutions for public safety are future-proofed, which means they must be based on 3GPP standards and capable of being upgraded to 5G once the networks are ready to support first responders with the required 99.99% service availability. IoT modules and data cards need to be mission-critical grade too—capable of operating across a range of environments and temperatures from -40°C to +85°C, and manufactured for high shock and vibration environments.
Public safety modules and data cards require ruggedness to support the extreme conditions these devices, sensors, routers and gateways will operator in. Meanwhile, they must support specifications that enable integrators and solution providers to create products such as rugged handhelds, body cameras and cellular portable hotspots that are small, light, easy to handle and consume less power.
The key benefits of the 5G network promise to be extremely high reliability and ultra-low latency, so the range of applications and services available to first responders will expand. As the networks evolve, the technology can be exploited for lightning-fast high bandwidth upload and download and near-instant network response times. This means the advent of true mission-critical grade high definition video, for example, so police forces using bodycams will be connected in real-time to command and control centers and colleagues. These unprecedented levels of visibility will ensure higher levels of safety and security and more informed responses for both officers and citizens.
Medical and More
For medical services, remote diagnostics will become more accurate with the availability of ‘instant’ data, and more complicated remote medical procedures will become possible with the aid of real-time video and robotics. For fire and rescue services, tackling wildfires and incidents involving hazardous materials will become much safer with drones able to stream live feeds of unfolding situations from the fireground.
From artificial intelligence to predictive analytics, 5G promises to create a whole new landscape of applications and services across networks that will be so sophisticated, so complex and so intelligent that effectively each “user”—whether that user is a sensor, a device or a person—will be able to have a personalized path to and from the specific information required. The potential for 5G to support our first responders is immense, the transformational capability infinite. With more than 30 million modules shipped to date in the US market, leading IoT module manufacturers are powering a wide range of mission-critical applications. For our part, we are looking forward to supporting our first responders into the next generation.
Published in Circuit Cellar Magazine Issue 350 • September 2019 — Get a PDF of the Issue