As early adopter states start to migrate to managed emergency service IP networks, one of the key i3 requirements they will need to consider is how to provide logging and recording as a core service of their ESInet. Recently I sat down with Diamond Chaflawee, Director of Business Development for NICE Public Safety, to discuss what this means for PSAPs. Here is a transcript of that interview.
To start off, what trends are you seeing?
Diamond: Through our activities with industry partners, we are seeing RFP activity from a number of states requesting ESInets to be provided as a service, and some also specifying hosted Next Gen call handling solutions as a requirement as well. During a recent presentation I gave at a regional APCO conference, I had the opportunity to discuss this trend with participating agencies, and many of them also embraced the idea of logging and recording as service. They’re saying ‘I don’t have to record on site, I like the idea of having someone else manage my logging and recording system for me.’ While these concepts are still in the initial stages, I think the early adopters are definitely signaling a broader movement of where the public safety industry is heading – into the cloud.
Is there a specific i3 requirement to provide recording as a service?
Diamond: The detailed NENA i3 functional standards are still a work in progress, but the current version includes logging as a core service of the ESInet. In the i3 standard, this encompasses both multi-media recording and event logging. Essentially, the key steps in processing a call must be logged, along with any relevant call content, for example voice, text or video.
It’s probably worth mentioning here that ‘logging as a service’ as an overarching term is a bit of a misnomer because it seems to imply only the event logging aspect, when in fact the scope of the i3 standard is much broader and includes multi-media recording. That’s why I prefer to use the terms ‘logging as a service’ and ‘recording as service’ to differentiate between event logging and multi-media recording.
What’s the difference between event logging and multi-media recording?
Diamond: Event logging is all about logging the data associated with each 9-1-1 call as it travels through the ESInet. Before it can even get to the call taker, it goes through a number of steps and touches a number of external systems, as well as various functional elements of the ESInet. In every touch, a LogEvent is generated to log the request / action as well as changes to the call status (for example, to signify the call was in queue, answered, on hold, and so on). All of these LogEvents are logged by the logging service. It’s possible to tie each LogEvent back to the processing of a specific incident because the LogEvent contains unique identifiers related to the specific call, incident, agency, etc).
So, event logging is exactly what the term implies – it’s all about logging these internal and external events as a call is processed, from the moment it enters the ESInet to its conclusion. According to the NENA i3 standard all significant steps in the processing of a call must be logged, including external events – not just events within the PSAP.
The value this brings is the capability to retrace exactly what happened to a call. How did it reach PSAP A? Why didn’t it reach PSAP B? Was it diverted to an alternate PSAP because of an overflow situation? And what system components were involved? Through event logging, it’s possible to retrace the entire path a call traveled, including all of the call’s status changes and all of the functional elements that touched the call, even if it involved multiple PSAPs.
Event logging is also vital for monitoring network health, and detecting system failures and cybersecurity breaches. Logging and analyzing metadata also promises valuable insights into PSAP operations, from tracking how many calls each PSAP processed over a given period, to understanding how efficiently they’re being routed, and how quickly they’re being answered.
Multi-media recording, on the other hand, is all about recording the content of the call. And in the future ESInet realm, this could be voice, text, video and even telematics. The i3 standard states that all forms of media should be logged and that ‘recording should begin at the earliest point possible.’
The key takeaway is – multi-media recording is another vital function for PSAPs that can be implemented as a service on an ESInet. In fact, it’s not only feasible; it’s practical and beneficial as well.
There are solutions that only capture event logs and provide statistical reports on them. But having an integrated solution that records both the Voice over IP traffic and event logs can provide much deeper insights into how incidents are handled, and where improvements can be made.
So what are the advantages of implementing logging and recording as a service?
Diamond: Just as public safety entities are banding together to invest in Next Generation 9-1-1 networks, they are able to do the same for their logging and recording requirements. Instead of purchasing the hardware and software outright, in the future, they’ll simply be able to pay the ESInet provider a subscription to receive the service, based on what they need. The multi-media recordings and logged events will be stored on the private network and accessible through a secure, web-browser interface.
There are many advantages to this approach. Most PSAP technology purchases require a significant up-front investment and a separate annual maintenance contract. Even with this investment, some level of support is still required from in-house IT resources. In a hosted environment, the responsibility and costs are assumed by the service provider.
Instead of a huge upfront capital expenditure, PSAPs will pay a smaller, predictable ongoing subscription charge for the logging and recording service, so it can be budgeted as an operating expense.
Additionally, other costs related to licensing software and owning equipment – real estate/space, power, cooling, staffing, maintenance, security and backup/disaster recovery—are all eliminated, as well as the worry of securing additional funding for routine upgrades.
Hosted solutions also incorporate the latest resiliency and security measures that most agencies could never dream of affording on their own.
Ultimately, all of these factors mean that PSAPs can focus on their core public safety mission, rather than spending time managing and administering IT systems.
One question that often comes up is ‘Can other PSAPs access my multi-media recordings if we’re sharing the same system?’ How is this addressed in an ESInet environment where the logging system is shared?
Diamond: In an ESInet environment, access to multi-media recordings can be easily controlled by only allowing access to recordings based on specific channels assigned to each agency, and further restricting access privileges down to the user level based on functions and roles. So agencies will only have access to calls that were handled by them.
On the flipside, shared logging and recording does have one huge benefit, and that’s the innate ability to recreate an incident by following a 9-1-1 call from ‘cradle to grave.’
There seem to be many advantages to logging and recording as a service in an ESInet environment. Are there any disadvantages?
Diamond: PSAPs may have less control over a hosted application because it is not sitting at their premises, but they do have more control over operational costs — a factor that many believe is more important.
An obvious downside is reliance on network connectivity. As with any solutions residing on the ESInet, if you lose connectivity, you lose access to the logging and recording service application. And since it’s not on your PSAP’s local network, it’s even more outside of your control.
But this doesn’t necessarily make hosted logging and recording solutions less reliable. In fact, some would even argue that cloud solutions offer higher availability and reliability than on premise solutions due to their built-in redundancy, including network redundancy for example.
Datacenters can also be dispersed across multiple sites for load balancing and geographic redundancy. I spoke to one service provider at a recent public safety industry event who told me that his company even had specific distance and latitude/longitude requirements as to where redundant data centers could be placed.
Finally, the best way to allay concerns when purchasing software as a service is to negotiate a well-defined service level agreement (SLA) with clearly articulated service metrics, responsibilities, guarantees, and warranties.
Some PSAPs have asked if they’ll still be able to record calls locally. Can they do so?
Diamond: A PSAP can take advantage of logging and recording as a service for i3 media that travel over an ESInet, while still recording their other communications, like administrative lines, and first responder radio communications, locally and / or on a separate network. The important thing to know is that with the right solution, like NICE Inform Matrix, they can still bring all of these multi-media recordings and metadata together in a seamless, transparent way.