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The future of real-time communication in public safety and security sectors

Real-time communication

In Security Middle East Magazine, Mobile Tornado’s Luke Wilkinson, explores how real-time communication safeguards frontline workers.

Effective and secure communication is the backbone of services provided by public safety and security sectors. While the stereotypical “Roger, Roger” may be a familiar phrase, the reality is that we all rely heavily on the expertise and swift actions of security personnel and first responders to ensure our safety in both routine and spontaneous situations. But who safeguards the well-being of these essential workers? The answer is their dispatch controllers, whose ability to communicate in real-time is a vital component in protecting those on the frontlines. Effective real-time communication enables dispatch controllers to coordinate efforts, disseminate crucial information, and make informed decisions that can ultimately save lives.

Unfortunately, three key issues still affect workforces in public safety and security sectors, limiting their safety. These are poor communication quality and timeliness, dispersed and separated teams, and cybersecurity vulnerabilities. To combat these issues, public safety and security organisations need secure and dependable real-time communication solutions. Push-to-talk over cellular (PTToC) has emerged as a popular real-time communication method, surpassing two-way radios, as it offers improved voice quality, range, and advanced features such as live video, GPS tracking, and data encryption. But how exactly is PTToC helping the public safety and security sectors tackle their current challenges and improving operational efficiency?

 

Overcoming poor communication quality and timeliness

The public safety and security sectors have long relied on effective real-time communication to coordinate responses and ensure the safety of both personnel and the public. The need for instantaneous communication in these time-sensitive industries has contributed to the rise of PTToC technology. It’s no surprise then that Polaris Market Research forecasts the global push-to-talk market to hit USD 61.28 billion by 2030.

This market boom can be attributed to the significant advantages PTToC offers over traditional radio systems, including broader coverage, higher reliability, and seamless network switching without dropped calls. In particular, rail companies, security providers, airport operators, and emergency medical services are embracing the enhanced capabilities and superior user experience offered by PTToC solutions, surpassing the limitations of traditional radio systems. A standout feature of PTToC is its ability to integrate with other digital communication tools, including video.

In critical situations, push-to-video at the scene of an incident allows command centres to get a clear, real-time understanding of what is unfolding. For example, footage from an officer’s body camera can provide invaluable visual context, allowing a workforce to make more informed decisions and coordinate an effective response plan. With live video, responders can get a head start on assessing the situation before arriving – identifying immediate threats, the number of people needing assistance, and the best route to take.

 

Connecting the dispersed workforce

Personnel in the public safety and security sectors often operate in with limited cellular coverage – from remote construction sites to overcrowded events. In such situations, PTToC’s ability to leverage different cellular network generations, from 2G to 5G, ensures remote workers can stay connected and access critical information in real-time, without relying on traditional radio systems with unstable coverage and poor audio quality.

Not only are security and public safety workforces often dispersed, but the number of lone workers is continuing to rise in these sectors. In fact, the Lone Worker Safety Expo found that the number of lone workers in the UK has increased by 25% over the past five years, leaving these professionals more vulnerable to potential threats or accidents. Ensuring the safety of lone, remote workers has encouraged many organisations in critical sectors to utilise the dispatch console included in most PTToC platforms. The dispatch console serves as a command-and-control centre for management of workers in the field, allow the dispatcher to track and speak to workers, coordinating support if needed.

To combat risks associated with lone working, many PTToC platforms offer recording features and one-touch SOS alerts. Lone workers can instantly send an SOS alert or recording to their team, providing location and context for an immediate response. Workforce management solutions often include checking features, requiring workers to respond to regular alerts, allowing quick support dispatch if needed. PTToC ensures remote workers feel secure and supported, knowing help is just a click away.

 

Addressing and protecting against cyber threats

As reliance on digital communication technologies increases for first responders and lone workers, the threat of cyber-attacks has grown significantly. The Zayo report revealed a substantial number of DDoS attacks targeting telecoms in 2023, with around 37,000 attacks in the first half and nearly 13,000 in the latter half.

With sensitive information transmitted over wireless and cellular networks, hackers actively seek vulnerabilities to exploit security systems. The rollout of 5G technology, while offering enhanced capabilities, also increases the attack surface for cyber threats.

To combat these risks, public safety and security sectors are fortifying their communication systems. PTToC solutions incorporate encryption protocols and can be deployed through a SaaS model, enabling seamless security updates and real-time threat protection. This proactive approach helps organizations stay ahead of cyber threats.

Additionally, PTToC platforms often include Mobile Device Management (MDM) capabilities, granting dispatch controllers comprehensive control over device features, settings, applications, and user permissions. Devices can be configured for single application mode (PTToC only) or multi-application mode with whitelisted third-party apps, ensuring absolute security and proper usage.

As the public safety and security sectors face increasingly complex challenges, advanced communication and collaboration tools are becoming more crucial. Traditional two-way radios are no longer sufficient to address current communication challenges of poor audio quality, dispersed workforces, and cybersecurity vulnerabilities. PTToC provides these critical sectors with the capabilities and tools they need, including real-time video communication for enhanced situational awareness, lone worker safety features for remote personnel, and robust security measures against cyber threats.

Looking ahead, the future of public safety and security will be defined by the continued adoption and seamless integration of transformative technologies like PTToC. As these solutions become more widespread, they will drive improvements in real-time communication, operational agility, and ultimately, the ability to protect lives and safeguard communities more effectively.