As law enforcement professionals gathered for IACP 2018, they heard a new term a lot – the Internet of Life Saving Things (IoLST) – especially in the context of how they and other public safety, security and healthcare professionals can use digital technologies to save lives or otherwise improve people’s health and safety. While the IoLST is a broad (and still evolving) term, it basically encompasses a subset of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that use devices, network connectivity, the cloud and other technologies to orchestrate data from device to cloud in ways that protect people and property. For example, new IoLST solutions could improve police officers’ ability to gather evidence and solve crimes, accelerate the response of EMS personnel to motor vehicle collisions, better protect firefighters from harm, or alert healthcare professionals to dangerous changes to the vital signs of patients recovering from surgery at home.
However, the emergence of the IoLST raises several questions, including: How exactly are IoLST solutions different from the Internet-connected public safety and health solutions that currently exist? What is enabling the growth of the IoLST? What are the key considerations that public safety, security and healthcare organizations should evaluate as they explore deploying an IoLST solution?
As a leader in delivering Device-to-Cloud (D2C) IoT solutions to public safety, security and healthcare professionals, and as a pioneer in enabling new IoLST solutions, Sierra Wireless can provide some answers to these questions.
Police officers, for example, have been using ruggedized, cellular or Wi-Fi connected laptops and tablets, as well as vehicles with Internet gateways, to look up license plates or check criminal records, for years. The IoLST represents an extension of these types of capabilities, which have mostly focused on connecting “traditional” computing devices to the Internet. IoLST solutions extend connectivity into more and new types of assets or “things” – video cameras, wearables, drones – while also leveraging the connectivity advantages delivered by both new high-bandwidth (4G LTE and soon 5G) and low-bandwidth (Low Power Wide Area) cellular networking technologies.
For example, Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies provide Internet connectivity at a lower cost, with better coverage and lower power usage than other cellular technologies. These capabilities support the deployment of new “Deep Edge” IoLST applications. These Deep Edge IoLST applications use small, processing- and power-constrained edge devices that are deeply embedded in assets, such as wearables, that can monitor a police officer’s heartbeat and other vital signs, sensors that can detect a vehicle collision at a busy intersection or an intrusion into a restricted area, or insulin pumps used by healthcare patients. Meanwhile, 4G LTE and 5G broadband technologies, in combination with dedicated public safety cellular networks like FirstNet, enable new video and other IoT applications that require extremely reliable, high-bandwidth connectivity, such as drone surveillance systems that can collect detailed information from a crime scene, EMS body-worn cameras that can deliver real-time video about patients from ambulances, or highway cameras that use cloud-based AI to detect driving behavior indicating that someone is driving under the influence, and then alert nearby police.
There are a host of factors driving the growth of the IoLST – but three of the key drivers are the rollout of FirstNet and other dedicated public safety wireless networks, the emergence of distributed data orchestration platforms, and the introduction of LPWA technologies. While first responders have had access to high-bandwidth 4G LTE networks in the past, the deployment of FirstNet in the United States and other public safety networks now provides them with their own dedicated, high-speed networks. With dedicated broadband connectivity they can count on, public safety agencies are increasingly exploring IoLST solutions that require extremely dependable connectivity, such as real-time bodycam video or drones equipped with video collection systems.
Another factor driving growth of the IoLST is the emergence of LPWA technologies, such as LTE-M and NB-IoT. These LPWA technologies offer significant cost, coverage, power and capacity advantages over other cellular networking technologies. These advantages are particularly important when it comes to Deep Edge IoLST solutions that use devices deeply embedded into clothes, infrastructure or other assets. For example, LPWA makes it easier to integrate low-cost sensors into firefighters’ helmets or masks. These sensors enable firefighters and their colleagues at the department’s control and command center (CCC) to monitor gas levels and temperatures as they work to put out a fire. In addition, LPWA’s coverage advantages help prevent these sensors from losing connectivity when firefighters need it most, such as when they enter a burning building. By making it easier and less expensive to embed small, low-cost Internet-connected devices with long lifespans into everything – from helmets to streetlights to clothes – while also extending coverage for these devices into remote areas, buildings and underground areas, LPWA enables a wide variety of new or enhanced IoLST solutions.
In addition, the growth of the IoLST is being driven by the emergence of data orchestration to distribute logic and processing across cloud, and IoT edge devices. With distributed data orchestration solutions, public safety agencies can update endpoints with new IoT application configurations and rules as frequently and dynamically as they can update software running on the cloud. This provides public safety agencies with the flexibility they need to improve their IoLST applications on a continuous basis, or reconfigure these applications depending on the situation or use case. For example, a firefighter’s IoLST-connected helmet or gas mask might be sending the temperature, gas exposure and shock at predefined times or in response to specific expected conditions. Data orchestration platforms enable the CCC to quickly and easily change these rules triggering the data processing in the helmet and data upload to CCC, depending on the mission.
Of course, public safety agencies and other organizations should conduct an extensive, rigorous review of any IoLST application designed to help protect people and property before deploying it. However, these three considerations should be part of any such review.
First, organizations should evaluate the security of the IoLST application. Successful cyber attacks on any IoT application pose financial or reputation risks for the application’s owner, but in the case of the IoLST, a successful attack can also make it more difficult for first responders or public safety officials to protect people and property. There are many factors to consider when evaluating an application’s security, but one of the first to examine is whether the application is deployed with an end-to-end D2C platform, supporting secured Firmware upgrades Over the Air (FOTA). By tightly integrating devices, network connectivity and the cloud, D2C IoT platforms make it more difficult for cyber criminals to find a weak point in the application they can exploit. In addition, data orchestration provides more flexibility to the IoLST solution. Moreover the FirstNet app catalog evaluates applications for security, so securing an IoLST application from this store ensures the app meets FirstNet’s security requirements. Finally, even applications designed with robust security can be successfully attacked if their users do not follow security best practices. For more information on evaluating IoLST application security, and how to make an IoLST application as secure as possible, read the Sierra Wireless blog, 5 Best Practices to Reduce the Risk of a Successful IoT Cyberattack and white paper, IoT Security Challenges, and review other Sierra Wireless security blogs and resources.
Second, is the IoLST solution robust enough to operate in extremely harsh indoor, vehicle or exposed outdoor locations? Unlike consumer IoT solutions, if an IoLST solution goes down, people’s lives might be at risk. In addition, first responders often must conduct their work in difficult environments, putting a lot of stress on IoLST solutions. Whether the IoLST solution is using a gateway or a drone, mask, or other asset with an embedded module, public safety agencies and other customers should ensure that these devices have been tested to withstand demanding conditions, so they can be depended upon during emergencies.
Third, are the devices that will be used for the public safety applications in the U.S. FirstNet certified? If not, does the device provider have experience working with FirstNet? This is an essential consideration for first responders, as devices deployed on FirstNet must be FirstNet certified. Lack of certification does not necessarily rule out a device, since FirstNet is still being rolled out and many devices have been submitted for certification but have not yet received it. However, if the device is not yet certified, you will want to confirm that it has been submitted for certification. In addition, finding out if the device provider has other devices that have already been certified, as well as experience in public safety and health IoT solutions, would indicate that their devices are likely to be certified in the future.
The IoLST is in the early stages of its development, with public safety agencies, mobile network operators and IoT developers still finding new ways that the IoLST can help make first responders more effective and otherwise improve public health and safety. With the IoT having already transformed our homes, offices, stores, factories and supply chains, we can expect that the emergence of the IoLST will also change the way we protect people and property.
Start with Sierra to find out more about how Sierra Wireless’ Device-to-Cloud solutions enable the development of IoLST applications that re-imagine how we can make our communities safer.
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