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Thursday, October 6, 2022

PERSPECTIVE: How First Responders Can Prepare for Potentially Life-Saving 5G Innovations

The promise of new and emerging technologies to better equip homeland security officers is immense. Today, emerging technologies are being used more for public safety, with everything from Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) helping with critical training preparedness, to automated facial recognition technology being used to more quickly screen travelers and event attendees. In the near future, 5G wireless technology will help improve the performance of many of these technologies, as well as assist in enabling the creation of life-saving innovations we haven’t yet considered.

5G will provide unprecedented speeds, massive bandwidth, and significantly lower latency. For homeland security, 5G will help play a key role when it comes to evolving response connectivity, mission operations and rugged devices and equipment. Its higher speeds and ultra-low latency will support near real-time situational awareness during emergencies, mission-critical communication across networks, mobile devices and sensors and smart video surveillance.

Here are a few key points to consider as 5G rolls out, and what first-responder organizations can do to prepare today.

Understand what 5G means and how it can best help you. Public safety agencies need to understand the numerous ways that 5G can impact industries. 5G presents a real opportunity for broader access to network-connected devices and can help with enhanced video analytics. In addition, multi-access edge compute (MEC) enables processing closer to the user at a network’s edge, therefore the distance information needs to travel decreases which reduces latency. With MEC video processing, 5G-connected cameras can help to see almost immediately, for example, if a silver alert is issued, identify the car type, and ping all cameras in a city to locate the car in near real-time.

Embrace network virtualization. More organizations are and should collapse their wireless and wireline networks to make way for a more holistic managed network through network virtualization. 5G and network virtualization (using software to perform network functions) helps enable service and application deployment without having to install additional hardware. Network function virtualization also allows organizations to virtualize some network components such as firewalls, gateways, and security tools, across any network. This helps allow public safety networks to be secure, flexible and resilient to meet the future demands of millions of connections on the network, while maintaining priority for public safety communications.

Know your current network offerings. Public safety organizations need a reliable and resilient communications pathway, and access to all the services they require. Be sure your organization has enabled services like wireless priority service, mobile broadband priority service and preemption and ask what else you can do on your network. Consider situational awareness applications you may not be using. Do you have near real-time access to the location of all of your assets and officers? Do you have interoperability between your LMR network and your LTE devices? Can you set up a temporary 4G LTE network if your mission takes you to a remote location without coverage? If not, make sure you learn more about all the capabilities your network and connected devices can provide to improve situational awareness.

Don’t wait to upgrade existing technology. Currently, many organizations are wondering if they should wait to update their technology until 5G is fully deployed. 4G continues to benefit from advancements and investment and will be the primary network for many users for years to come. So continue to update your smartphone, jetpacks and tablets for the latest enhancements 4G has to offer. But, start thinking about what else you can do with greater bandwidth and lower latency. We couldn’t predict when 4G launched that it would enable applications like Netflix and Uber. The “unknown” of 5G has incredible potential and should change the way the industry operates. Some promising early proof-of-concepts include one from Qwake, a company that’s been testing a 5G solution to augment safety and location positioning for people in what are often very dangerous situations. Using 5G’s near real-time low latency scanning information from high-resolution video and infrared and body sensors, firefighters wearing an AR embedded firefighter mask can “see” through the smoke.

Homeland security agencies deserve access to the best technology, and 5G has the potential to enable some of the most promising and beneficial technologies to keep our nation safe. Users in public safety should consider how they can leverage this revolutionary technology to create life-saving innovations.

The key – as with everything for security, safety and emergency services – lies in preparing today for whatever may come tomorrow.


The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by Homeland Security Today, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints in support of securing our homeland. To submit a piece for consideration, email HSTodayMag@gtscoalition.com. Our editorial guidelines can be found here.

Nicholas Nilan
Nicholas Nilan is the Director of Product Development for Public Sector at Verizon. He is responsible for the development and deployment lifecycle of innovative and mission impacting products and solutions for Federal, State and Local, and Education customers. Previously, he led Federal Marketing strategy at Verizon, and before that, engineering teams supporting mobility and Internet of Things deployments in the Department of Defense. He has been in the telecommunications industry for over 15 years and holds an MBA in Finance and Accounting from Regis University and an undergraduate degree in Political Science from York College of Pennsylvania. Additionally, he is on the Board of Directors for the Public Safety Technology Alliance and the Board of Directors and the Chair of the Emerging Technology Working Group for AFCEA DC.

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