Why people can feel safer in smart cities

(Advertorial) The smart city not only makes urban living easier, but it also enables authorities adopt new ways to protect the public. The greater availability and easier access to all kinds of city data is helping the safety and security services to be more efficient. Hybrid networks have an important role in smart cities

How do you know you’re living in a smart city? It may not seem obvious, but there are some tell-tale signs for urban dwellers.

Perhaps your bus journey is quicker, with green traffic lights always showing. Maybe you don’t have to wait as long for an elevator to your destination floor. You notice that crime figures are on a downwards trend; you feel safer. Or you’re using an app that tells you what parking spaces are available.

Smart electricity and gas meters are another sign. Behind the scenes, smart grids are helping to manage demand and supply and ensure that energy is produced and consumed efficiently and cost-effectively.

A smart city collects large volumes of data from devices such as connected sensors, video cameras, lights and meters. The data is analysed and combined with information about behaviour of its inhabitants to provide new ways to improve infrastructure, public utilities and services. Data analytics also helps to find the most efficient way to run systems, from road layouts and parking, to hospital capacity, power provision and zoning for business and retail premises.

Smart cities can improve public safety

As cities become smarter they become increasingly dependent on the underlying data-gathering systems, whether small data updates from an environmental sensor monitoring traffic pollution, to continuous streams of large amounts of data from video cameras.

At the same time, public safety organisations are looking into new operational efficiencies by taking advantage of mobile broadband. The fast access to data in the field is the basis for new ways to take care of public safety and security. In addition, data capabilities can help organisations improve the efficiency of their operations.

The link to smart cities is clear. When public safety users can access the wealth of data generated by the smart city, new ways of maintaining public safety come up. For example, city inhabitants can send photos or video of incidents or crimes, and virtual reality and augmented reality can put incident commanders right at the scene. Data on the types and location of crimes and social media posts can be analysed and patterns recognized. Thanks to this data, police officers know to patrol high risk areas. Access to smart city cameras, sensors and other systems bring new possibilities to public safety users, such as clearing road lanes to allow police vehicles to get to accidents more quickly.

With police, paramedics, firefighters and hospitals all linked into the network and sharing information – both voice and data – emergency response can be faster and more efficient. Lives can be saved.

Shock-proof networks for smart city safety

Mission-critical communications for public safety are typically delivered using dedicated TETRA and Tetrapol networks. These ultra-reliable networks ensure public safety communications are available even in exceptional circumstances, for instance when the infrastructure suffers damage, or the commercial mobile networks experience extremely high levels of traffic. When an incident strikes, commercial networks typically become congested as people try to get online or contact the emergency services and friends and family.

However, these dedicated public safety networks do not have the capacity for new bandwidth-hungry apps that many public safety authorities are looking to adopt to enhance their operations.

The key is to get more data capacity for mobile applications, such as video, database queries and pictures, yet without losing the vital aspects of reliable voice, security and interoperability.

On the other hand, the reliability that is so essential cannot yet be met by commercial broadband LTE solutions. They simply don’t have the priorities, group communication and many other capabilities needed to replace TETRA/Tetrapol networks in mission-critical communications.

Although work is under way to make mission-critical voice available on commercial broadband networks, standards-based products are still many years away.

Hybrid networks offer the best of both worlds

The most cost-effective solution for delivering mission-critical reliability and broadband capacity to public safety users is based on the hybrid network model.

In the hybrid network model, a public safety organisation can continue with a TETRA or Tetrapol network for mission-critical voice and data, while introducing mobile broadband services step-by-step. These services can be based on a dedicated broadband network, commercial services as a Secure MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator), or a combination of the two.

Using a hybrid network means investments can be made gradually as and when needed, offering long-term benefits by bridging existing narrowband networks and future solutions.

The broadband network can be developed in different ways depending on which applications are needed and the level of investment that can be supported. One way of evolving towards broadband services is to start with a Secure MVNO service, using several Mobile Network Operators’ (MNOs) services to achieve improved coverage and reliability. This is particularly suited to providing mobile office applications. Dedicated broadband capacity can be added as needed to improve coverage, or when applications become more mission-critical.

Hybrid networks and the smart city – a perfect combination

The public’s safety and security is the top priority for all city authorities. With the development of smart cities, new capabilities are becoming available to help public safety organisations become more effective and more efficient.

Making reliable broadband services available to emergency services users in the field is a major step towards safer cities. And the most effective way to achieve that is the hybrid network. The hybrid network model is the way to reap the benefits of both mission-critical communications and professional broadband solutions.

Four cornerstones of a successful hybrid network…

Seamless connectivity and collaboration are vital for successful operations in a hybrid environment. Four cornerstones - devices, apps, management systems and service levels - provide the building blocks for further development and new operational models.

Hybrid devices

A smooth move to a hybrid network requires that the users’ devices can access both the PMR network and the broadband (LTE) network. While a user could have two separate devices, this is not only cumbersome and costly, but also limits the user’s ability to combine the functions of the two networks.

The Airbus Tactilon Dabat is the world’s first device to combine a smartphone and a TETRA radio in one package, and it lets users access reliable TETRA services and advanced data applications at the same time. Tactilon Dabat brings the advantages of smart-phones to professional TETRA users, removing the barriers to combining professional voice with easy data access.

Hybrid apps

Teamwork involving a wide range of people is essential to maintain the safety and security of smart cities. With the Airbus Tactilon Agnet solution a team can be extended to include additional vital resources when needed, regardless of which devices team members are using. Furthermore, critical apps can be made available for use by TETRA and LTE users.

Hybrid apps enable new services and ways of communicating. The Airbus Critical Apps Ecosystem and the SmarTWISP program are developing innovative apps for mission-critical and business-critical users.

Hybrid management

Without a tool for subscriber management in the hybrid environment, organizations would have subscribers separately provisioned into each network. There would be no link between a PMR subscriber and the equivalent entity in the broadband network.

With thousands of users on a typical PMR network and broadband network, managing every user individually and separately in different networks would be enormously time consuming and expensive. It would probably be impossible! Subscriber Management tool handling users in PMR and broadband networks is needed.

Service levels

Providing communication over a hybrid network calls for real-time insight. This is straightforward for a TETRA or Tetrapol network, but a hybrid network may involve one or more Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). How will the service operator know that every operator complies with their Service Level Agreements (SLAs)? How can the operator know that the users are getting the agreed communication service levels?

Airbus Viewcor® answers the challenge by providing service quality analytics and visualizing the network’s service level. With ViewCor, the hybrid network operator can see what kind of service users are receiving from the MNOs, in real-time.