Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Creating the Public Safety Network

Creation of a next-generation public safety communications network needs to be led by a single non-profit organization according to a report recently released by a NIST Federal Advisory Committee. NIST supports public safety communications and operates a testbed at its Boulder Colorado campus.

The report compiled by NIST’s Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology (VCAT) was discussed at a number of meetings where input was collected from the communications and public safety communities as well as the public.

The network will support voice, video and data transmissions, and ideally be at the disposal of all first responders whether they are medical, emergency, law enforcement, or military personnel if they happen to be the first on the scene where events are taking that are threatening public safety.

Public safety communications reach across many geographical, jurisdictional and technological lines, involving federal, state, and local agencies, as well as private organizations and even volunteers. All of these entities have different procedures, budgets, and existing technologies that must be coordinated to create an effective communications solution for the country.

The report concludes that a public safety communications network should:

• Incorporate commercial technology where appropriate
• Extend commercial technology to achieve robustness
• Provide for backward compatibility or interoperability through standards adopted and developed where feasible and be interoperable with existing and new 911 systems
• Give high priority to cost-effectiveness, ease of use, and affordability
• Take advantage of the internet and other packet-based technologies to support multi-media communications and mobile ad hoc network formation
• Incorporate strong, federated authentication and other security technology to positively identify and authorize personnel and equipment permitted in the system
• Incorporate advanced position location capabilities, including indoor and underground locations
• Make extensive use of open national or international standards and where appropriate open source software
• Adapt to new technologies as they are developed

Go to www.nist.gov/director/vcat/upload/Desirable_Properties_of_a_National_PSN.pdf to view the report.