Feb 28, 2013

Police Broadband Data Use*

Police organisations around the world have recognised a critical need for fast, secure broadband data applications. Utilising a secure and reliable broadband service increases efficiency and security. It saves money, time and lives. The ultimate solution is to have the same application suite used in the office available to vehicle based officers. When implemented fully, broadband data capabilities enable an ‘office on wheels’ approach that is well appreciated by the officers themselves as well as their customers. This case study illustrates the setup that allows the Police to truly enter the 21st century in mobile

* The material collected for this case study is sourced from Goodmill contacts in general
and is publicly available information. Goodmill provides equipment for Finnish authorities. All
information regarding the following applications may or may not be used by these authorities.

Police Data Communication Needs

For many years, Police organisations around the world have been implementing land mobile radio systems (LMR) to improve the communication capabilities of their field operations. Some countries have been the forerunners and today boast digital networks with excellent coverage throughout the country. Some are adapting to this later, with roll-outs still ongoing in many territories.These systems, whether TETRA, TETRAPOL or P25 technologies, were designed for specific public safety voice applications and often use technology similar to the first digital mobile networks. Although these systems provided a great improvement over voice-only services, their networks now face great limitations due to very low data capacities. Data traffic carried over digital LMR networks may even jeopardise primary voice services.

The data solution required today must improve the main functionality of voice, while simultaneously offering data communication that meets the capacity and requirements of public safety. The requirements for current and future Police data connectivity are:
  • Coverage
  • Availability
  • Data integrity
  • Session persistence
  • Cost efficiency
  • Interoperability
Police Specific Services

The required services are the key reason to implement new data connectivity. Services that are needed today within vehicles include:
  • Image and file transfer
  • Location based services
  • Database queries
  • Biometric checks
  • Streaming video
Information sharing between jurisdictions is a valuable tool for increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of Police operations. This means collecting and forwarding data between various jurisdiction databases. These important applications are impossible to realise within the technological limitations of current voice and SMS-type data services. It is obvious that broadband capabilities which fit public safety requirements are essential in order to improve efficiency. This creates the next dilemma: What is required from a Police broadband solution technically and how can we afford it?

Using Hybrid Networks

Multiple network usage is the key to efficiently use new data applications designed for Police forces. The basic idea is simply to combine two or more relatively well functioning networks into one connection that meets the requirements of field operations. Multi-channel router technology offers the means to utilise existing parallel commercial and/or private networks. Multi-channel routers need to be populated with several wireless terminals supporting a wide variety of different radio technologies or operators’ networks. Routing of mission critical traffic should always be performed using the best connection available.
Services Used
The actual services Police authorities use with the data connection are many and varied. The future seems to offer limitless capabilities. The first step is to enable a very basic functionality, e.g. enabling e-mails with larger data files to be sent without interruption. The increased data capacity also significantly improves situational awareness; e.g. seeing in real time where all other units are and what their status is. With broadband capabilities, it is possible to drastically expand the area within which units can be surveyed.
Other immediately accessible services include real time blogging, where units can write their observations to specific shared pages on a region by region basis. This service in particular has been extremely well received. The safe connection eventually enables easier, secure sharing of confidential information. It is possible to call up a suspect’s criminal record, any outstanding/previous fines or even vehicle information. With this approach, all the needed tasks can be performed on the spot, while required documents can be created and printed immediately. This includes a wide variety of tasks:
  • Reporting an offense
  • On the spot fines
  • Sentence claims
  • Preliminary investigations
  • Crime enquiries
  • Technical investigations
  • Weapon register checks
  • Personal ID checks
  • Passport checks
The Set-Up for Police
The infrastructure can utilise both dedicated voice traffic applications as well as commercial broadband networks. Dedicated broadband networks may be also used in the future, while multi-channel data connectivity serves as a simple migration path towards that scenario. The router creates connections to the command centre and also connections to other authorities that are needed. Through the command centre gateway, the encrypted connection can fetch all required information the specific officers are entitled to.
A sample set-up for police vehicle connectivity
Shared Experience from Police
Police officers  have been extremely satisfied with multiband access systems. Multiband Routers have changed and continue to change field operations and management. This technology has been proven to save time, resources, money and lives. Thanks to this solution, Officers are able to spend longer ‘in the field’ and operate with greater efficiency. They can access the same databases as in Police stations and create reports without returning to the station. Because everyone has the same picture of the situation, users claim that co-operation has been elevated to an entirely new level.
Information is more transparent thanks to task handling, shared blogs and the collection of statistics. Co-operation between different authorities has also been improved. The reliability of data transmission and sharing of critical information has and continues to improve significantly. Misunderstandings are reduced because different patrols can now locate each other from a shared map resource. This has lead to gains in the command and control chain, with field management proving more efficient thanks to better allocation of resources.
Further to this, everyone who is part of the process benefits from improved legal protection, as information is now automatically updated to databases. Preplanning and crime prevention has become more efficient. Even informing the public, press and other media has improved.
The Future
New operative models are developed as experience with the systems grows, while users further recognise the capabilities of the system to handle more critical data traffic than previously assumed. Police organisations have stated that enthusiasm for changing traditional working methods enables them to utilise the TETRA and other IT investments more effectively. However, it is important to note that the multichannel data access approach is merely an enabler. Multichannel routing or other technology cannot replace Police officers in the field. In the best case, easy to use radio and IT tools may become the backbone of field operations and management!

Feb 14, 2013

Using Hybrid Networks in Public Safety Broadband

Most of the current public safety broadband challenges can be tackled by smartly using not one, but several existing networks. By combining readily available networks the access can be improved significantly, the reliability and resiliency is not of a single network, but of an independent combination. Availability and quality of service are what the operators can jointly offer. The network infrastructure providers will naturally develop the spectrum efficiency to maximize the efficiency of their network and roaming could be provided between networks, using the best one available.
What do these combined networks then practically have to offer? The challenge is the always online connectivity especially when we are in moving vehicles. The recent studies show sometimes as low as 70% availability for any single 3G network even in the best coverage areas.
Table 1. Example of single and multiple broadband network availability.
The usually discussed needed availabilities for dedicated PS broadband are at the level of 99%. It is clear that providing that kind of availability over dedicated networks incorporates huge costs when applied over a larger region. It is understandable that the single carrier approach that occasionally provides these low availabilities is not sufficient. Luckily the statistics help with the multiple network approach. With two 3G networks, as presented here, as low as 64% over first network and 76% over the second one provide a combined availability of over 99%! Just by using two networks the availability needed can thus be met. And introducing 3rd network enhances that even further. When the switch over from network to another is seamless, one can claim that this approach provides for the needed technical functionality that is acceptable for critical communications already today.
The ultimate counterargument is always that there will be situations when none of the commercial networks will function. They can be blocked due to other traffic, there are areas where commercial networks don't exist  or power could be cut off. In these cases there remains a need for priorisation, QoS or even dedicated networks. Different dedicated LMR technologies, like TETRA,  need to be there as a back up also for data. 
There is, however, a chicken and an egg problem here. The broadband solutions  are needed in daily operations today. Should we postpone the introduction of broadband data to PS because of possible rare incidents or could we introduce a concept that works now and can be upgraded to meet the requirements of future as needed regulatory decisions are made? I think broadband should be introduced today and upgraded later. But not just any kind of a solution. We need a future proof solution that is capable to meet most of the demands of criticality today! 
The solution requires for router equipment in the vehicle with very special features that are unmet by established router manufacturers today.

Hybrid Network Approach in PS Broadband 

Overall Picture of the Needed Router Solution
The more flexible the used  WAN link configuration is, the more flexibility, reliability, resilience and security can be provided. The router solution needs to include a wide variety of links, a top of class encryption capabilities, fast switch over from network to another and a possibility to remotely manage and to have an overview of the connectivity.  The system needs to be able to provide seamless services to vehicle that include, but are not limited to:
  • Image and file transfer
  • Database queries
  • Location based services
  • Biometric checks
  • and ultimately streaming video

These services can be used in critical environment only by using routers that are specifically designed for the purpose. This includes special hardware, software and management features.
PSS Router Software Requirements
The most important software feature for the router system is the capability to switch over from network to another seamlessly, without any service interruptions. Mobile IP tunneling implemented by few manufacturers is a part of the solution. This technology hides the network changes from the termination point and enables fast switch over without unnecessary VPN negotiations. PS customers always use encrypted traffic, so various levels of VPN tunnels are used by different user organizations. MIP also guarantees session persistency so that the users are not required to re-authenticate to their backend systems every time a link is changed. But MIP cannot handle the fast switch over just by itself.
The mobile networks are extremely dynamic and having data streams to and from moving vehicles increases the demands of the connection. The networks are mainly designed to serve nomad customers and systems that solemnly depend on networks’ routing capabilities cannot follow a fast moving vehicle. With just protocol based routing the switch over decision cannot be made quickly enough. The only feasible solution is to use predefined routes and predict at all times the best possible routing for any the used links. This enhances the capabilities for decision making about when the network switch over is necessary. For this very same reason load sharing or data bundling over multiple networks seldom provides any advantage.
The router software requirements include also the capability of autonomously control the used modems. The modems tend sometimes to stay in “hanging” mode and look like they are connected to the network, but no data is transmitted. This and other similar dysfunctions need to be detected by the router and software needs to wake the modems up.
PSS Router Hardware Requirements
The router market offers quite a few appliance hardware solutions for router developers. These appliances are not designed to handle the specific requirements of critical PS communication. The first needed requirement is flexibility. When the connectivity is introduced to wide areas, it is often demanded that various routers have quite different hardware configurations. This is mostly emphasized in the WAN link flexibility. In many cases two links might be enough to fulfill the criticality demands, but there are cases where 3 or even 4 links are necessary. These links need to include all UMTS technologies (3G and 4G), but also capabilities for all CDMA based technologies and even satellite connectivity.
Robustness of hardware is a must in these demanding applications. Although the routers are located inside the vehicles, the shock resistance and IP classification needs to be high. It is clear that consumer products or slightly upgraded consumer products will not offer the long time durability required.
Router demands also carrier class hardware approach when it comes to updating the software. When remote software update is implemented, the router needs to test it before taking into use. This requires double memories. There is also needed a software functionality for fall back to elder functioning version if something goes accidentally wrong.
Sometimes just software based booting of the equipment is not enough. It is upmost important that the hardware has functionalities to mechanically switch the power off. This mechanical power switched, controlled by the software, are one element of a perfect solution for PS. Similar functionality is needed in the power back-up. The vehicle on battery should be used, but with starting the vehicle the power to the router should be remained. Special up to 30 seconds back-up without extra battery is thus needed.
PSS Router Remote Management Requirements
A horror for the PS broadband user is just a box with no remote monitoring, configuring or set-up possibilities. The demand is that the connectivity to all routers, even to thousands of units, should be monitored from a one secure system from a secure location. The communication between the management server and the router should not depend on which links are used for the actual network connection and it should always be encrypted. Software upgrades shall be made easy in a way that even large amounts of routers can be updated simultaneously. The routers in themselves should not have fixed IP address requirements for security reasons. The contact to management should always be initialized by the router. Easy management interface that can handle the number of routers and does not require any special coding expertise is needed.
Finally, the status of the routers and their links including connections, modems and even  SIM-cards should be made possible to monitor over large amount of routers with a simple graphical interface.
Special purpose router equipment, a multichannel router, is required in all furture scenarios of providing broadband data to Public Safety. No general appliance based or originally for consumers developed routers can meet the requirements for secure always on-line connectivity in vehicles. The solution has special requirements for software, hardware and remote management. When all of these areas are considered in the design, the ultimate target of providing critical connectivity can be met cost efficiently.
As one PS officer who has been using this type of a solution since 2011 put it:

“Multichannel routing system provides savings in time, resources, money and lives”
This is what a hybrid network approach can provide for public safety today. And with right system the upgrade to future networks will be easy.

Feb 4, 2013

Public Safety Mobile Data Development

The demand for cost savings and improved efficiency are a constant demand to public safety organizations everywhere.  Simultaneously the mobile connectivity has changed the lives of everyone. With the boom of handheld smartphones every user understands the benefits and capabilities of the wireless internet. TETRA has served well until now, but its low bandwidth data solutions don’t meet modern demands. It is difficult to understand why an expensive public safety vehicle shouldn’t have the same or better capabilities than most of the 1st world teenagers today have in their pockets.

Efficient modern public safety organizations demand access to databases like patient records, criminal registers, stolen car registers and even building drawings.  A key imperative is that this data is always up to date; otherwise our security and health is endangered. Also other modern applications are needed now and near future. Online, distributed video streaming is probably the most wanted application at the moment. All of the modern PSS services require thus secure, resilient and redundant always online connectivity.

Public Safety Broadband Network Development

The driver in the PSS broadband network development seems to be the possibilities that new LTE technology will provide. There are still many approaches what the development will be, but all of them have the idea that ultimately the whole communication in PSS will be done over high data rate IP networks.
First option is to have totally dedicated network for PS sector. The benefits of this solution are the full control over the network, flexibility to changes when needed and dedicated capacity. The major disadvantage is the price, the build-up and ramp-up time and the final coverage and availability achieved with the invested money.
Second alternative would be to build just dedicated radio access network. In this scenario the PS would build own dedicated base stations, but would rely on commercial core. The benefits would be that PS could specify the RAN requirements and would have dedicated RAN capacity. Disadvantages are similar to own dedicated networks in RAN cost redundancies.
Third option would be to assign dedicated channels for commercial networks. Benefits of this are needed and assured RAN capacity that would be provided cost efficiently. The future flexibility in the pressure of commercial networks could be challenged and thus close co-operation with the commercial carriers would be a requirement.
Fourth option is based on an enterprise –type approach. In this case the network would be fully shared, but there would be a special service layer implementation. This would provide high cost efficiency and flexibility in service level agreements. On the other hand, this solution has problems of guaranteeing dedicated capacity to PS users.
Fifth and the most service orientated approach is a fully shared retail network. This would be highly cost efficient and would be simple to operate and this approach can be implemented already today. The disadvantages include the inability to give dedicated capacities, would provide for less service flexibility and could mean higher user fees.
Land Mobile Network Influence
There are also public safety digital solutions for voice and limited amount of data that have been implemented worldwide. These TETRA, Tetrapol, P25 and similar networks often have wide coverage areas, and bare significant costs to today’s operations. The ultimate questions are thus:
  • What will be the future network model for broadband data
  • What will be the role of installed digital LMR networks
  • And what is the migration path for to converge mission critical voice and data
The sector is using already today quite a few applications where not only the Land Mobile Networks’ data capabilities are used, but also noncritical data applications. These solutions often include vehicle computers with a single broadband link. All mission critical data is using the limited capacities of the LMR –networks. The used services require more and more critical data applications and hence the discussion around transitional dedicated networks.

The criticality is the key enabler for the future data applications. When the current applications are taken more and more towards enabling criticality, the requirements for the transition need to be taken into more close attention.
Filling the Gap Today

Let’s look at the general requirements a bit more closely.  If we consider the alternatives for the future development presented previously, the funding is the major influencing factor. With the current economical situation in the world, it would be unreasonable to think that a major part of the countries would either build their totally own dedicated broadband networks or even build the access networks required for the critical operation. The alternative of implementing dedicated channels or dedicated service layers seems monetarily more appropriate. This, however, will require a creation of policies, partnerships and planning that will take their time. These novel approaches will also require still research, development and testing. As still all is possible and still price effective, this kind of approaches will certainly provide the paths towards future implementations.

The alternative of using existing commercial networks, would be easiest to implement but questions the most important aspect of the future services. Will commercial networks ever fulfill the criticality demands of PS data? If we could overcome the challenges of guaranteed access, quality of service, reliability, resiliency, interoperability, spectrum efficiency and high availability with current networks, we could use existing solutions for mission critical data. This would also mean that no transitional network phase is needed. This is certainly an interesting thought.