Motorola Solutions opened its new Mission Critical Solutions Centre - a €1million test lab and live demonstration facility - at the company’s European headquarters in Basingstoke, UK this week (26 June 2014). ‘Emergency services respond to terrorist bomb threat’, is just one of many test scenarios that can be played out at the centre.
The facility has been created to support the evolution of mission critical communications for public safety organisations. It has been designed specifically to address the needs for new applications and services that will support emergency service personnel tasked with delivering public safety on the streets in the years to come.
The company said that mission critical communications are undergoing a significant evolution as governments and public safety organisations begin preparations to add 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards-based LTE cellular technology to existing TETRA two-way radio environments.
With TETRA Enhanced Data Service (TEDS) early adopters of TETRA already have access to mission critical data services, including situational awareness video – Norway’s Nødnett TETRA network is rolling TEDS, for example.
However, in order to cater for higher bandwidth data applications such as high-definition video, and to support the wider use of data these public safety organisations are now looking at refreshing their networks and adding LTE.
Motorola said it is continuing to work with its partners and standards organisations to ensure that the functionality to support mission critical services is introduced into 3GPP LTE standards. This process has been started and is expected to continue through 2020.
Since Motorola Solutions’ first demonstration of public safety applications over a live LTE network in 2008, the company has continued to introduce functionality into TETRA solutions enabling inter working and sharing of data across both technologies.
In 2013, Motorola Solutions launched the MTS4L, a combined TETRA and LTE base station, and has now announced the launch of the LEX755 LTE broadband mission critical handheld device (for more on the LEX 755 see story here). This process will continue as further changes are introduced to the standards.
Mission critical test bed centre
Incorporating a working command and control centre with live TETRA and LTE mobile broadband feeds, the Mission Critical Solutions Centre offers the flexibility to support the development of applications and services that deploy both TETRA and LTE together, or LTE as a standalone public safety environment.
The Centre provides a test bed for combining voice and data into familiar mission-critical operations. Data gathering from cameras, smartphones, social media and sensors provides new levels of intelligence for public safety agencies, but also generates new challenges.
The Centre supports agencies to realise operations that can manage this increased flow of data and then extract useful intelligence. This can then be applied to meet operational demands, replicated within the facility, such as: incident creation; resource allocation; mobilisation; information analysis and distribution of real time intelligence to manage and then control an incident.
Paul Steinberg, senior vice president and CTO of Motorola Solutions, said: “The combination of TETRA and 3GPP standards-based high speed LTE mobile data networks for mission critical communications will have tremendous implications for the way that public safety is delivered in the future - from new devices that securely capture and communicate data, to ingestion and management of new forms and levels of intelligence.
“What becomes important is the ability to secure a single operational view, which can then be successfully communicated in real time for a unified response. Motorola Solutions’ Mission Critical Solutions Centre enables the most useful features from both TETRA and LTE applications in order to generate the next advances in public safety.”
Future public safety networks
Introducing the new centre at a demonstration day on Wednesday 25 June, Steinberg outlined some of the mission critical considerations behind its approach to next generation public safety communication solutions.
Public safety communication networks are expected to migrate to some form of 4G LTE. But Steinberg pointed out that the design of mission critical networks differs substantially from the way in which commercial mobile operators design and operate their mobile networks.
‘You need capacity designed for worst case days, such as the London riots or Boston bombing, where very localised public safety traffic doubles or even triples,’ said Steinberg. ‘You also have rural coverage requirements, as emergency services need 100% geographic coverage because they cannot predict where incidents will happen.
‘Public safety networks also require a heavy uplink traffic model – it’s more of a 50:50 split compared with consumer networks, which are typically 30% uplink traffic and 70% downlink. Data from the scene of an incident has to go up to command centres, but then it gets sent out again to relevant parties in the field,’ said Steinberg.
‘Mission critical networks need dynamic role/incident prioritisation: when a first responder has a vital video the bandwidth on that network has to be reprioritised to get that information through in real time. The question of subscriber data ownership also needs to be addressed. The emergency services need to control the information.’
Other issues that have to be addressed include: group calling/one-to-many communications – the current LTE standard does have a way of doing this through eMBMS (enhanced multimedia broadcast multicast services); and network resiliency – most base stations used by commercial mobile operators will operate for only a few hours at most if their power source is knocked out. Mission critical networks are designed with much longer power back up solutions.
Future mission critical network deployment models
As public safety LTE (PS-LTE) develops a number of deployment models are being suggested:
• A standalone PS-LTE network on top of existing TETRA/P25 two-way radio networks, such as the USA’s FirstNet project
• Some form of hybrid public private partnership (PPP) arrangement – Mexico has an idea to lay out a nationwide mobile network, cheaply operated and shared by MNOs with prioritised usage for public safety users
• Mobile operator leveraged solution where public safety users and consumers share the same spectrum and network and the former are just high grade service users, such as is being proposed in the UK.
Steinberg commented: ‘This is not sorted out yet, but my prediction is that it will be a PPP solution with maybe some use of commercial carriers.’
However, the mission critical communication functionality developed for TETRA and other public safety wireless standards is not in the LTE standard yet and is unlikely to be completely included in the standard before 2020. A fully developed ecosystem of standard compliant devices and infrastructure is therefore not expected to develop much before 2025-30.
Partnership with Ericsson for mission critical 4G LTE
Manufacturers looking to introduce mission critical LTE products are therefore having to work ahead of the standard. Motorola Solutions has been working with Ericsson to converge mission critical radio and broadband architectures.
Steinberg said that the two companies favour an over the top (OTT) approach to adding mission critical functions to the LTE standard, as opposed to Huawei’s eLTE approach which has ‘embedded’ its solutions deeper in the network. Steinberg believes the OTT approach is keeps things open and more flexible.
Steinberg said that Ericsson is looking after the LTE RAN (eNodeB base stations etc), the lower LTE core (MME - mobility management entity; and serving gateway); and the upper LTE core (HSS – home subscriber server, PGW – packet data gateway, PS PCRF/QoS broker – public safety specialised policy rules function/quality of service). All of this needs to be able to communicate with the range of mobile devices employed by end users.
Motorola is concentrating its expertise on the two layers above: the first covers interoperability services, including mobile VPN, priority manager/unified services, land mobile radio interworking and potentially IMS (IP multimedia services).
The second comprises the application layer covering regional and national public safety apps including legacy apps, broadband apps, NextGen 911/999 calling, multimedia computer aided dispatch, messaging, video, maps/LBS, RMS and PSTN.
Ericsson’s approach to mission critical LTE
John Cunliffe, CTO for Region Western and Central Europe, Ericsson, said: ‘The advantage of moving public safety onto 4G technology is that it has the benefit of scale. A lot of what we do is about generating scale, because that makes it affordable. 4G can support a wide variety of application therefore.
‘LTE has been adopted by both USA and China – it’s the first time the whole world has adopted the same wireless technology, so we have an end-to-end ecosystem that can include public safety. We have created an ecosystem that supports innovation around applications and we have aligned and synchronised our roadmap with Motorola to develop mission critical apps for 4G. In addition, we can support both dedicated and shared networks scenarios for public safety.
Micael Martell, CTO for Public Safety LTE at Ericsson, outlined the collaboration process with Motorola. ‘The network doesn’t work as a bit pipe. We can’t use the network for public safety as it is now, as the way it operates is not how it will be used for public safety purposes.
‘The devices and apps will ask our network to do things for them, but the network still needs to be standardised to support everybody, so we stay within the frames of the standard to do this, which is a bit tricky at times. We have to find ways to detect congestion and to create mechanisms in the network to let those priority public safety packets through. Public safety organisations must be able to trust us,’ said Martell.
Martell said that the two companies were looking at how to use the existing standards to help deliver the desired mission critical functions on 4G in an intelligent and reusable way. ‘We need Motorola’s input to create features in the network that can support the devices and apps.’
Martell said that there are ways to deliver prioritisation within the existing 4G standard. ‘There are 9 priority levels, but in fact the standard allows for 254 levels, although no one has implemented this except for Ericsson – it is not much effort to do this in fact.
‘If you take the congestion issue where a major event might trigger huge number of connections to the network, then everyone should be able to use it if it’s a shared network. But we need to keep a window open for public safety users to get in to the network and then use the prioritisation resources to ensure they get through,’ said Martell.
He added that Ericsson is looking at some 30 different mission critical features at the moment. Asked how it was possible to avoid creating proprietary solutions for features given that it is working ahead of the 4G standard, Martell said that there were in fact not many options for most features and Ericsson feels it has a very good idea of how the mission critical 4G roadmap will develop.
Both Ericsson and Motorola said that most of the key issues such as push-to-talk over LTE, group calling/one-to-many broadcasting and direct mode (or proximity services as 3GPP refers to it, where radios talk directly to each other without using the network) have been solved. It remains to be seen how close their solutions are to how the 4G standard evolves.
There are also physical radio issues that need addressing including the fact that a TETRA radio broadcasts are 2W, while mobile phones operate at around 200 miliW. As regards apps, Martell said: ‘We need to standardise the way applications ask for things – not try to standardise the apps themselves.’ Steinberg agreed: ‘We need to standardise the enablers and keep things open to encourage developers to innovate and create new apps.’
Real Time Crime Centre
Steinberg introduced Motorola’s latest 4G ruggedised handheld device in the shape of the LEX 755, which was first seen in May at Critical Communications World 2014 in Singapore. The touchscreen, Android-based device features Motorola workflow applications on top
He described it as step towards to real time crime centre of the future. In the future police officers wearing bio-harnesses with sensors, body-worn cameras and augmented reality head displays could be relaying a wide variety of real-time information back to command and control centres.
The crime centre can get real time information either from vehicles or officers on foot providing automated face recognition/number plate recognition, audio - such as gunshot detection, video capture, voice console, database look-up in the field and video analytics.
For example, an officer with a head display unit could get augmented reality information on a building, facial recognition and vehicle number plate recognition. 360 degree real-time intelligent sensing can detect motion where there shouldn’t be warning the officer of a potential threat from a particular direction.
In a vehicle stop, a vehicle-mounted camera with motion analytics could warn the officer that a second car has arrived behind him, which he might not hear in a noisy street, and send him an alert.
The police car cameras and on-bard computing system can do the licence plate recognition, feed it into the system and pull up information without the officer having to do anything. If the officer approaches the stopped car, proximity detection systems let command know he has left the car.
Context awareness/coordination can also be sent in real time to the control centre. If a suspect fleets and the officer sets off in pursuit, the bio-harness lets the command centre know the officer is running. If he has a body worn camera, command can also get a live video feed of the action.
Notification can be sent if the officer draws his gun and if he fires it. ‘All this can be done today,’ said Steinberg, ‘and it can all be brought back to a central point.’ He added that Motorola is not attempting to invent all these kinds of applications itself, but 'is working prolifically with partners to develop them'.
‘There is a lot to work out,’ he said. ‘If you take the Google Glass idea as an example, first responders have told us they want something that doesn’t occlude their view. So, we are working on the optimum type of display to figure out how much information to display on the unit to help the responder do his job without distracting him.’
Steinberg said that some of the ideas Motorola is looking at for next generation public safety include: advanced analytics for video and audio and anticipatory computing; context-aware devices/wearable ecosystem (biometric watches, holster sensor, Android device sensors etc); converged communications, including PANs – personal area networks; and incident area wireless networks.