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BAPCO show looks at future of comms

What critical communications for public safety might look like in the 2020s was featured at the BAPCO 2020 conference and exhibition, at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry, this week. The annual two-day event ran dozens of talks, from product suppliers and end users, offering opinions and case studies.

As one conference room heard, while there are a lot of buzz-words – AI, drones, and big data – the emergency services are after solutions that will solve operational problems. One panel discussed what might be the changes in tech for the next five, and ten years. Speakers offered the prospect of communicating with the 999 services not only through voice; but data. The ESN (Emergency Services Network) is – despite delays – due to be operational, finally, which will mean the end of Tetra radio in the UK. What might be the benefits in the field; the ability to access a police, fire or ambulance intranet so as to finish a task while at the scene, on the street. This will mean change in the role of the control room call taker, to a contact manager, it was suggested.

Rather than the public being able to make emergency contact through an app – which in a stressful situation, someone might not be able to find – callers might be able to send pictures, or video. ESN, the conference heard, will have an immediate impact on how public safety agencies go about their business. New products could mean a move away from a 999 model of, ‘you call, we go’, towards more of a service provision. Thereby, you the member of the public report something, an incident that you can track online the status of. As for the dispatch side, a control room directs resources; but it may revert back to earlier ways, whereby local people were managing their own workloads and a control room was keeping a check on whether incidents were handled, and if something was forgotten.

Such a tool as drones would be an element in providing such a service; and another speaker, Lincolnshire Police Insp Ed Delderfield, the county force’s lead on drones, set out on day two how the force is using drones – and is due to replace its DJI consumer models with larger and more powerful ones – to save lives and ‘catch bad guys’. Drones are routinely in use, whether to search in the dark for missing and vulnerable people, or suspects on the run, or for monitoring events such as Lincoln’s Christmas market.

Besides particular tools, the conference also heard of the prospect in ten years’ time of data services coming together, rather than data being in silos. Public safety agencies may then be able to share information about an incident, across boundaries, ‘on the fly’, or based on a set of rules depending on type of incident. Amanat Hussain, of design consultancy Issured, made the point that there’s so much data around, that if you were to provide that to your front-line staff, ‘woods and trees come to mind’. In other words, public safety bodies will require data, and analytics to make data, ‘that is contextually relevant to public safety’. He suggested that tech will affect differently the call-handling operator; the superviser managing staff; and the commander of the same critical incident.

Amanat Hussain told the conference that we are beginning to see AI, particularly around pattern recognition; for example, taking the ‘huge amount’ of social media, and seeing if a command centre can make intel out of it, of use to responders – rather than waiting for an incident to happen. He spoke of a ‘transformation’, in terms of how public safety services are provided.

Pictured from day one is a demo of a drone by H-Robotics, after a talk by co-founder Dr Pippa Malmgren. The British firm makes commercial drones and autonomous vehicles.

BAPCO’s next event is in Newcastle, on November 11 and 12. Visit https://www.bapco.org.uk/.

For more on comms, see the May 2020 print edition of Professional Security Magazine.


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