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Motorola Solutions: Data Analytics, IoT And 4G Can Transform Public Safety

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Motorola Solutions says it can make cities safer places to live and is confident about its future following the sale of its enterprise business

Motorola Solutions says its vision of ‘smart public safety solutions’ present a major opportunity for the firm, which split from Motorola Mobility in 2011 sold its enterprise business to Zebra Technologies in October for $3.45bn.

The company says by making better use of data, providing contextual real-time information and making use of private and public LTE networks, emergency services can reduce crime rates, respond better to incidents and investigate events more efficiently and quickly.

With 50,000 customers, public safety provides the bulk of Motorola’s revenue and the company is convinced there is a gap in the market as the public sector strives towards greater efficiency in the face of budget cuts.

But working with taxpayers’ money presents unique challenges as costs are scrutinised and services are often vital. This means there is no margin for error, while public officials demand long lifecycles and compatibility with existing technology in order to maximise investment.

Public challenges

Motorola Solutions public safety (3)“In this current economic climate we’re seeing a familiar story: do more with less,” said Tom Quirke, vice president of Product Marketing at Motorola Solutions. “Unlike consumer and corporate world, [public sector organisations] can’t roll the dice and see if it works out. That’s not an option for them. It has to work from day one.

“Public safety needs to take a very distinct journey from consumer and corporate world.”

Motorola’s vision centres around converting various sets of commercial, government and public data into useful information, supported by sensors, better networks and services.

“We are moving from being a mission critical communications company to a mission critical communications company and a mission critical intelligence company,” added Quirke

Value in data

Many of the potentially useful data sets are “quite frankly incomprehensible” and include court records, stolen vehicle databases, CCTV cameras and crime records with public data like social media. This, if used properly, could be used to prevent crime from taking place – think of Minority Report.

Smart technology, such as heart rate and stress sensors, cameras attached to field workers and sensors in a holster that automatically trigger a microphone are just some examples Motorola believes can help provide real-time information and reconstruct the scene for post-event analysis.

This belief is driving Motorola’s investments in technology, such as acoustic radars that pick up soundwaves that detect when a gun is fired and where from.

“A staggering number of shots are fired but no emergency call linked to them,” added Quirke.

But all this data presents new storage challenges. Law enforcement officials must retain evidence for a number of years to cover the original investigation, trial and any appeal while proving it has not been tampered with. Even cropping a photo qualifies as tampering, so there must be an audit trail.

Private LTE networks

Motorola Solutions public safety (2)Of course, for any of this information to be useful in real time, it must be delivered quickly and in a manner that does not distract police, ambulance crews or firefighters. Currently, most communications are delivered over a radio network, which offers reliable voice but nothing else.

“What we’ve got to recognise is that most officers will have smartphones,” said Quirke, who believes cellular networks will carry this data in the future. This will initially take place using commercial infrastructure over a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), but specific LTE networks using dedicated spectrum could emerge within the next ten years.

Already, Motorola has created a mobile application that allows radio communications to be sent to a smartphone or tablet or vice versa. Further down the line, the company is also developing a middleware platform that aggregates all this information into a single app as emergency crews won’t have time to cycle through a myriad of apps.

However, there will always be a need for dedicated equipment, said Quirke, who says there often is not time to use a conventional device in an emergency, while firefighters may suffer from low visibility and need to rely on a single button to communicate.

“We believe we can embrace technology to make things safer,” said Quirke.

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