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CCW 2024 speaker focus: Aaron Page

Aaron Page discusses the importance of the ‘rising stars’ panel at Critical Communications World 2024

Aaron Page

Can you describe what you’ll be talking about during your session at CCW  2024. Why is it an important topic? 

As TCCAs 2023 Young Engineer of the year I jumped at the opportunity of leading a panel entitled ‘Rising Stars’. The panel is formed of a number of up and coming ‘young’ - under 30 - project managers and technical gurus across the public safety and mission critical communications sector.

The success of organisations, as well as wider communities and sectors, is often based on what we can refer to as ‘rising stars,’ and more generally ‘high achievers’ or ‘trail blazers’ who lead us forward with various best practices. Our panel looks at how we can be growing more ‘rising stars’ within critical communications, ensuring that we are preparing the next generation of senior leaders to continue with the critical work already underway. 

What do you see as being the big issues and challenges for the sector over the next five years?  

The critical communication sector is a complex field which requires almost perfect harmony across communication networks, hardware - such as radios and CCTV - and digital infrastructure, as well as the software running on all these systems. Consequently, the challenge to implement LTE alongside legacy systems is complex, but imperative to enable the use of data and video, alongside current voice services. We have seen this is possible. 

What is perhaps less clear, is how are we going to utilise all of this data, especially when we are struggling to utilise much of what we already have. For individual user groups such as emergency services, managing their radio assets and talk group utilisation can be challenging.

Yet, lacking this knowledge can lead to a number of things. This includes limiting the return on radio investment, blocking the redeployment of underutilised devices to where they are needed most, and impacting the ability to achieve effective communications via group and point-to-point calls.

But often they are not aware of the data available, what it means and how it can improve operational performance. This will only be further exemplified with additional data creation through MCX services and apps, as well as the desire to effectively retrieve key data/documents/processes.

What will likely be the most transformative development over the next five years in terms of the technology? What will that mean for user operations, as well as the broader market? 

Truly transformative technologies often take many years to enter a field let alone ‘transform’ a sector, and this is not considering the risk appetite levels of the mission critical field. However, two similar technologies continue to excite me with their potential to revolutionise the mission critical and public safety sectors. These are augmented and virtual reality. 

Giving virtual reality to a control room dispatcher will provide them an almost infinite screen real estate, and greater control to move between key software packages by using use hand gestures or voice commands (with the use of AI). This would require a significant change in how control rooms look, function and, at a high level, operate.

A specific area of increased concern would be resilience and how software packages integrate into a single environment. And for the broader market, a new set of standards for software built in a multi-vendor virtual control room environment. 

Giving emergency response officers augmented reality glasses could more effectively provide mission critical data. For example, police officers could have maps for foot pursuit chases, updates during covert operations and embedded cameras so dispatchers can ‘truly’ see what they see.

Fire service officers could have maps of buildings covering escape routes, thermal imaging built in and building gas/water schematics. Ambulance services could use augmented reality to overlay anatomy when giving medical aid, display results from IoT medical devices and bring up patient medical/allergy records from facial scans. All of which will be available in their field of vision, and can also be turned off at will. 

What opportunities do you see for the sector in the current environment? What big changes would you like to see in the world of critical communications? 

It is commonly appreciated that we are within the era of big data. Yet organisations often struggle to understand the data they have available, track the data that is truly useful or ‘meaningful,’ and often fail to bring that data back into future decision making.

Truly understanding an organisation’s radio utilisation, geographical deployment and individual device use cases can enable them to significantly change how they operate. This would commonly result in savings or improved resilience, scaled by the size of the organisation.

Consequently, there is a big opportunity for organisations to centrally understand things such as how many times a device is turned on - or when was it last turned on. Also, seconds of voice data created - understanding radio behaviours -, where devices are stored geographically, failure rates of device types, failure by geographical spread, fleet age/warranty, as well as talk group saturation. 

Similarly, when considering the processes around associated technologies and general radio asset management, improvements are often available and identifiable through simple modelling techniques such as flow diagrams and user journeys.

Such simple activities can ensure clarity, mitigate future failure points and improve operational effectiveness between organisations. However, these benefits are often not appreciated until the negative issues are realised.

At this stage organisations are often reactive, leading to quick solutions rather than infrastructural change.

The biggest of these opportunities will be the processing of unstructured data types, such as documents, images and files. This will be to improve data transparency, organisational knowledge management and data retrieval. It will be carried out via machine learning, artificial intelligence or deep learning.

What key messages or take-home points would you like people to get from your session? What will be most useful to them from a practical point of view?

Rising stars are critical to ensure organisation success, company growth, and at the highest level, ensure a sector flourishes. We need to ensure we support, encourage and empower people to become rising stars. This is not only to meet their best potential, but also to deliver that potential to the wider community.

From a practical view, the panel discussion will highlight a number of key elements. This is to not only support ‘creation’ of rising stars, but also ensuring organisations get the greatest return out of their most important asset: people.

Which conference sessions are you most looking forward to seeing?

I am excited to hear about the various developments across the sector within the Future Technologies discussion session, led by Robin Davis, TCCA Future Technologies Group Chair. I’m also looking forward to hearing about the specific developments different countries have made within their own mission critical networks.

This includes the UK (John Black), France (Guillaume Lambert), the US (Joe Wassel), Sweden (Ronny Harpe), UAE (Eddie Reyes), Spain (Jose Isidro) and many more.