Emergency Comms | Emerging Trends | IoT | ITU-T Standards | Standards
June 26, 2019

Can we use IoT to improve public safety? Big opportunities, but 5 key challenges

By Lazaros Karagiannidis, ICCS and AIOTI; and Omar Elloumi, Nokia and AIOTI

The Internet of Things (IoT) could be a game-changer for public safety.

IoT applications could bring greater situational awareness to first responders, improving the speed and efficacy of emergency response. And as IoT systems are integrated into public safety systems, IoT’s contribution to safety will expand through to prevention and mitigation of emergencies.

Smoke or fire in an airport building, for instance, could be precisely located based on information from IoT sensors, triggering automated emergency calls and notifying citizens on their smartphones as well as digital displays within the building. If the emergency affects the airport’s surrounding area, for example, by creating traffic jams on roads nearby, a Smart City IoT platform and a Traffic Management Platform could access and share related information with public safety agencies.

That is just one scenario of many. It is no wonder then that authorities are eager to leverage the power of IoT data to build better public safety systems.

Building better systems

“Industry, academia, and public safety personnel across all levels of government must work together to ensure a cohesive framework for adopting IoT in the context of public safety, to include developing actionable guidance and standard operating procedures (SOP) on IoT governance, technology advancements, and service-level agreements,” reads a statement from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) of the United States Department of Homeland Security.

“Alongside building citizen trust in IoT’s contribution to public safety, certain gaps and challenges in standardization and certification will need to be addressed if public safety systems are to take full advantage of IoT.”

Europe’s vehicle emergency call system, eCall, is the first standardized pan-European initiative leveraging IoT for public safety applications.
“Emergency communications must adapt to harness the life-saving potential of rapidly evolving technologies (Internet-based communications, Smart Cities, Internet of Things etc.)”, according to the European Emergency Number Association (EENA).

Key challenges to be addressed

But there is still some way to go to realize IoT’s potential to improve public safety.

This is partly because IoT and public safety have largely evolved as separate streams, with IoT focusing on data-driven automation and public safety mostly dealing with mission-critical voice communications and recently video/data communications.

Alongside building citizen trust in IoT’s contribution to public safety, certain gaps and challenges in standardization and certification will need to be addressed if public safety systems are to take full advantage of IoT. An indicative, non-exhaustive list of challenges and gaps to be addressed include:

  • IoT devices and platforms require open interfaces:

    IoT solutions have traditionally been vertically integrated, that is with limited possibility to exchange data with other applications.. Perhaps the most important aspect of integration will be the development of the interfaces between IoT platforms (e.g. for smart buildings) and public safety systems, interfaces which might even be addressed by regulation.

  • Device certification:

    If IoT devices can be used to report alarms directly to PSAPs, these devices must then be trusted to prevent misuse or false positives. Device certification could assist in building this trust, and such certification should cover all levels of the protocol stack.

  • Next Generation Public Safety Answering Points (NG PSAPs):

    NG PSAPs must evolve to integrate interfaces to IoT systems as well as legacy systems such as CCTV systems, advanced analogue or IP cameras with detection capabilities, Building Management Systems and intrusion detection systems.

  • Data interoperability standards:

    Differences in data formats have traditionally impeded the integration of systems involving multiple actors. Data interoperability will offer key stimulus to the development of IoT-enabled public safety.

  • Deployment sustainability:

    Expedite the development and deployment of IoT-enabled public safety, and sustaining this momentum, may require innovative funding schemes, ownership models, deployment strategies and potentially public-private partnerships.

Learn more about our vision of the architecture to support IoT-enabled public safety and the actors involved in its process in this AOITI whitepaper.

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Can we use IoT to improve public safety? Big opportunities, but 5 key challenges

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