5 take-aways from last week’s APCO Emerging Tech Forum

Last week, I participated in The APCO International Emerging Technology Forum in Atlanta, Georgia. The purpose of the event is for industry leaders to get together to “discuss technologies that are on the horizon and address the challenges of the ever-changing landscape of public safety communications.” The event didn’t disappoint. There were informative sessions and discussions on everything ranging from FirstNet and NG911 to PSAPs and Cybersecurity risks. Here are some of my key take-aways:

  1. The opening keynote delivered by FirstNet President TJ Kennedy stressed the importance of capturing, analyzing and interpreting the multimedia data that comes into the Emergency Communications Center. The applications and tools developed to deliver this data to first responders will not only help them handle difficult situations better; they will also have the potential to save lives. Kennedy himself couldn’t have made the point better: “If the information we have is not in the hands of those who are out there responding then what use is it?
  2. On the NG911 and FirstNet fronts, there are no doubt legislative and technical challenges ahead, but progress is definitely being made! NG911 and FirstNet are the two halves of the Public Safety request and response activities, with the nerve center being the PSAP. NG911 and FirstNet will produce an entirely new landscape for dealing with emergency calls. The secret to success will be in the ability to securely coalesce the wide array of new, life-critical information, make sense of it, and turn it into actionable intelligence, in an easily digestible format that can be absorbed in emergency situations. At the end of the day, it must get the people in the field who take care of us and make us safe - the First Responders - home safely too.
  3. Essentially, call takers are trained to listen and to talk people through difficult, traumatic emergency situations; they are not trained to watch those events unfold. For this reason, I believe that separate ‘intelligence’ roles are bound to evolve in the PSAP.
  4. Increasingly, emergency incidents are producing vast amounts of incoming data. The problem is – too much information is just as bad as no information. So the key is to get the right information to the right people at the right time. In the future, new applications will apply intelligent analytics to identify and distill relevant data, and package it up in a concise manner so First Responders can quickly digest it. In describing these applications, one presenter used the phrase “turning grains of sand into paths to resolution.”
  5. PSAPs and Cybersecurity was a real hot button issue as well. It’s quite startling to hear about the number and frequency of TDOS attacks on PSAPs. It’s absolutely clear that any tools and applications that PSAPs use must have security baked in from the start.


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