Mission-critical coverage for safe cities

Issue 8 2021 Government and Parastatal (Industry)

Public safety organisations are not only tasked with building protected communities, but must do so while addressing the requests of government, law enforcement, first responders and citizens. The network they all rely on must overcome complexities, including budgetary constraints, which are always a consideration when planning and implementing network enhancements.

Teresa Huysamen.

“Technological advances and real-time data availability have transformed public safety from a reactive model. Predictive and preventative measures are possible to avert, respond and solve imperative safety and security issues. Whether it is crimes, terror threats, emergency deployments or traffic matters, robust sensors and cameras can provide notification of activities or conditions that can be beneficial to government agencies and first responder interventions,” says Teresa Huysamen, wireless business unit executive at Duxbury Networking, local distributors of Rajant technology.

In times of emergency response and during events when the public’s security is critical, real-time situational awareness ensures proper allocation of efforts and resources in line with changing conditions. Rajant’s network provides local connectivity that enables first responders and security teams to broadcast telemetry and video live from the scene back to offsite commanders. Central command can then rapidly assess resource needs and deploy appropriate personnel and assets as situations evolve – mitigating lag times in response when time is of the essence. The high-capacity network also easily runs bandwidth-intensive CCTV and supports communications for surveillance drones.

“Throughout emergency response situations, Kinetic Mesh provides mission-critical coverage with ultra-reliable network resiliency, using InstaMesh to dynamically self-optimise and ensure availability. It simultaneously supports multiple real-time applications to track locations and movements of response teams, monitor environmental conditions and livestream video from the frontline perspective to improve safety and effectiveness,” says Huysamen.

Key considerations

“When we think about network requirements for public safety applications, there is ‘a continuum of needs’. Long-term, permanent requirements, short-term, planned pop-up events and completely unplanned situations each pose unique challenges. However, in all instances, certain non-negotiable criteria dictate the choice of broadband networking options. These include security, ease-of-use, reliability/redundancy, scalability/flexibility and cost. Compared to alternatives, wireless mesh performs consistently well,” says Huysamen.

Security: When dealing with the public safety sector, the first concern that comes to mind is security. “Whenever we talk about cabled, hardwired systems, as opposed to wireless, people immediately assume the wireless is somehow less secure – that it’s more hackable. That’s a misconception we need to address,” Huysamen says.

The security of a network is a combination of the cryptographic solutions it employs as well as the degree to which system administrators adhere to best practices, such as password management. This pertains equally to hardwired and wireless mesh networks.

When advanced encryption and authentication algorithms are engineered within each node of a wireless mesh solution, network security is far more of a ‘given’ than it is within hardwired networks, for which system administrators must be actively vigilant in addressing cyber-safety threats.

Ease of use: As with any type of network, an IT professional must handle the initial system configuration of a wireless mesh. However, once that’s done, it is straightforward to break down and then re-setup. Nodes can be swapped in or out as needed and the network automatically adjusts; everything autonomously connects with each other.

For systems like Rajant’s, which offer mobile, M2M connectivity, nodes can be assigned to changing assets as needed. “For example, this week, a radio transceiver might be attached to a camera as part of a temporary video surveillance network. Next week, it might be deployed as part of a public address system. As long as network configurations remain constant, no IT professional is needed to reuse the transceiver in a different setting or to reassign it to a different asset,” Huysamen points out.

This ease of set-up is beneficial at any temporary event, but is extremely important in emergency scenarios where every second counts. With wireless mesh, public safety officials can arrive at a scene and within minutes, have a secure, multi-channel, broadband network up and running, capable of sharing video, audio and data between all invested parties.

Reliability, redundancy and low latency are important in public safety. In mission-critical applications, you obviously can’t have signals dropping, audio breaking up and video acting ‘glitchy’. Network configurations that ensure redundancy, sufficient bandwidth and low latency transmission contribute to that reliability factor.

Wireless mesh systems that offer a true peer-to-peer solution are free of all gateways. Each node is engineered with its own full routing capabilities in these systems, eliminating any single-point-of-failure. This level of redundancy is a huge advantage for public safety applications.

Scalability and flexibility: The nature of public safety involves planning for the unexpected. A seemingly isolated incident, initially responded to by a single agency, can quickly escalate into a community-wide threat. A network that seamlessly scales up as needed, to support the communication and logistical needs of a widespread, multi-force response, is crucial for a successful, coordinated effort.

Practical applications for mobile connectivity include assigning transceivers to drones, robots, police and emergency vehicles, public transit, road maintenance and construction vehicles and assets, cargo containers, body cameras and much more.

Cost: For budget-conscious municipalities and government agencies, a wireless mesh is particularly attractive when evaluated in terms of total-cost-of-ownership. Mesh networks involve a one-time purchase, with no perpetuating licencing or data-use fees. Full scalability allows customers to buy as many transceivers as needed for immediate use, with the option to add more over time. As nodes can be repeatedly repurposed, a single network can be useful for countless situations or events, with each node capable of supporting the transmission and connectivity needs of any type of asset.

Wireless mesh also reduces the overhead required for IT support. Cybersecurity is hard-baked into the system and as mentioned earlier, configurations can be left in place across successive deployments as long as the LAN consistently connects back to the same network.

Applications enabled

Kinetic Mesh enables a range of public safety applications with extreme reliability and robust security, providing fully mobile communications when and where they are needed.

Situational awareness: Video surveillance, perimeter security, CCTV, drone surveillance, livestreaming from incidents and events.

Specialised safety teams: Bomb squad robotics, HAZMAT robotics for material disposal, real-time communications, M2M communications.

First responder and security communications: Emergency preparedness, emergency response, alert broadcasts, intra- and inter-agency communications, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications.

Event management: Event monitoring, crowd control, live video feeds.

“If only point-to-point networking were required, then you would have options. Today, however, fully mobile coverage is a necessity for urban or rural municipalities, whether infrastructure exists or not. If striving to become a ‘smart city’ or transforming to a best-of-breed ‘smart city’ solution that enables the mobility of robotic systems and drones, Rajant Kinetic Mesh is ideal. Rajant’s BreadCrumb nodes extend the range of LTE and integrate seamlessly with satellite. Nodes can be deployed easily and rapidly anywhere, on any asset, to extend or enhance operational coverage, especially for ad hoc special events and emergencies,” says Huysamen.

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