The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s (DHS S&T) First Responders Group (FRG) is enhancing the spectrum for public safety through datacasting technology. FRG’s Video Datacasting Project transmits encrypted live video and data over existing broadcast television signals to a targeted audience within public safety.
When television switched from analog to digital broadcast transmissions, it created opportunities to utilize the television stations in new and varied ways, including delivering encrypted and targetable computer data.
The process works by taking advantage of a public broadcasting station’s bandwidth that is normally used for television programming. Datacasting reallocates a portion of their spectrum to transmit video, data files. and other critical incident information (e.g., building blueprints and live security video) that is specific to first responders anywhere within the signal coverage area.
This method reduces the need to rely on other overwhelming communication channels, such as commercial cellular networks.
“Datacasting is a broadcasting mechanism capable of one-to-many content delivery which reduces congestion on public safety agencies’ networks,” said FRG Program Manager Cuong Luu. “This vastly impacts how video and data is currently shared by responders, providing better collaboration, and continuing to leverage current infrastructure costs of the public broadcast television stations.”
When the necessary hardware is installed at the television station, recipients use a datacast receiver connected to their computer so that they can receive the information broadcasted from the Public Broadcasting Service stations. From there, users in the public safety realm can download needed information while in thefield at minimal cost and effort, while remaining invisible to the general public through the digital television signal.
“We have folks that are watching cameras 24-hours a day. So when something happens, they report to the officers what they are seeing. But something always gets lost in translation. The advantage to this is we can send video directly to the officers (and,) they can look at an image and know exactly what they are looking at,” said Chief of Staff for the University of Houston Police Department LT. Bret Collier.
Datacasting has been successfully used at two pilot locations, Houston and Chicago. The Houston pilot’s success was publically recognized among top innovators in the security industry as the Grand Platinum winner at the 2015 Secured Cities Exclusive Security Innovation Awards luncheon on November 12, 2015.
Currently, FRG is looking for more pilot locations for fiscal year 2016.