Blue Light Futures report

New technologies including drones, telemetry, mobile apps and cloud computing will change the face of the emergency services in the United Kingdom by 2020.

In a landmark report, public safety communications expert Airwave sets out the challenges that the government, public services and industry need to overcome in order to realise the potential of data-reliant technologies.

The Blue Light Futures report offers seven recommendations that will help ensure the long term resilience of the emergency services and drive public safety. Chief amongst these is the formation of a multidisciplinary working group comprised of key government departments, public safety professionals and industry experts to ensure that we have the right data systems, security controls and risk management plans in place to fully realise the benefits of new technology.

The public must be fully educated and aware of the choices they can make about how they share their data and who might access it

A number of new technologies have already been rolled out by public safety professionals over the past five years, from the Metropolitan Police’s trial of body-worn cameras to the West Midlands Fire Service trial of its ‘999eye’ livestreaming app for the public to report fires.

Airwave, which runs the secure, purpose-built Network used by the emergency services to communicate, is also rolling out new technology to help the emergency services boost public safety, improve efficiency and save money. Currently fifteen police forces[1] across Great Britain have taken steps towards paperless policing through the uptake of Airwave’s suite of mobile data applications, called Pronto, on smart devices. The technology is designed to save officers valuable time by synchronising any information captured on the frontline with back office systems, dramatically reducing the form-filling process and enabling them to spend more valuable time on the front line to benefit the communities they serve. Forces have predicted savings of between £1.5 million and £18 million each year, depending on the size and scale of the force.

The next five years

The report outlines that many of the technologies that have the potential to transform the emergency services already exist, but are either not being used to their full potential or need to evolve to provide significant benefits. With development, intelligent application and a platform capable of hosting the data they create, Airwave’s Blue Light Futures report details how today’s innovations could transform the speed and accuracy of emergency responses:

• Drones: can access hard-to-reach locations, lowering the risk to responders and improving services to citizens.
• Telemetry: the EU has recently mandated that a telemetry system be installed in every new vehicle by 31 March 2018, so that emergency services are automatically notified of incidents.
• Mobile apps & cloud technology: use of mobile applications combined with a centralised emergency services cloud service could lead to streamlined working practices and knowledge-sharing behaviours that ultimately save money and time on administration

Securing the future: Airwave’s recommendations

Each of these innovations will create, rely on or carry significant amounts of data. With this come a number of major challenges that will need to be addressed sooner rather than later. At a time when the need for secure, reliable and resilient mission critical communications is greater than ever, Airwave makes the following recommendations to confront these challenges:

1.    Upgrade wireless networks to ensure that they offer sufficient coverage, resilience and availability to cope with increasing volumes of mission critical data.
2.    Ensure data protection is of the highest priority and all data handling systems are encrypted and protected against hacking.
3.    Agree clear guidelines and regulations for how public data should be shared.
4.    Ensure technology risks are comprehensively and honestly considered, thoroughly evaluated and that any necessary mitigation plans are suitably robust for each new technology.
5.    Build a single, centralised, and secure cloud-based, emergency services data management system that is capable of storing and processing the vast quantities of data, from multiple sources, that emergency services will rely on in the future.
6.    Responsibility for driving these agreements and developments forwards should be taken by a multidisciplinary working group, such as the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP). This should include representatives from all of the emergency services, the Home Office, the Criminal Justice System (CJS), the Department of Health (DH), and the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
7.    This multi-disciplinary working group should encourage nationwide uptake of new technologies and data systems in a way that is consistent, maximises the benefit of the technology, and continually strives to define and achieve best practice.

Euros Evans, Airwave CTO, says: “Technological advancements are critical to the future of the emergency services and public safety. From paperless policing to telemetry and even drones, innovation has the potential to revolutionise the blue light services, improving efficiency, boosting public safety and saving taxpayers millions.”

“The key challenge now is for government departments, public safety professionals and industry to come together and do the heavy lifting needed for these technologies to bear fruit. We recommend the formation of a multidisciplinary working group, comprised of government agencies, public safety professionals and the technology industry. This group should ensure that we have the data systems, security controls and risk management plans in place so that we can realise the phenomenal benefits of new technologies”

“This same group should also, as a matter of urgency, agree clear guidelines and regulations for how public data should be shared and under what circumstances. The public must be fully educated and aware of the choices they can make about how they share their data and who might access it.

 A full version of the Blue Light Futures report can be viewed Here