IoT Blog
IoT Blog

Three ‘Must Haves’ for Public Safety Vehicles

by Benoit Tournier, Director of Marketing, Transportation
Connected devices are changing how first responders handle emergencies. Paramedics can access patient records or use telemedicine to begin treatment while en route, improving patient outcomes.  Firefighters can access building plans, determine the number of occupants in a building, find the best access and exits, and arrive prepared. Police dispatch centers and officers in the field can share surveillance video, process vehicle plate and driver license information faster, and use GNSS tracking to provide more coordinated incident responses.

These capabilities assume that devices in and around a vehicle are always connected. In the past, devices each depended on separate broadband connections. As more devices and applications were deployed, however, this configuration increased management complexity and created scalability issues.

Today’s best practices recommend a communications architecture based on a vehicle area network: an on-board router that acts as a secure wireless platform for all computers and devices associated with the vehicle. This effectively turns each vehicle into a mobile office.

Infographic - In-Vehicle Technologies

This approach highlights three key requirements:

  1. Purpose-built vehicle routers: Public safety applications are best served by ruggedized vehicle routers designed specifically for the purpose of providing a vehicle networking platform. The latest vehicle routers can connect to the WAN (Wide Area Networks) using LTE Band 14 and 28, the wireless spectrums dedicated to first responders in North America (B14) and some countries in Europe and Middle East (B28) . These bands optimize the availability and quality of service, while fallback on 3G and 4G/LTE commercial bands extends coverage with smart failover management. To ensure ease of integration and connectivity to apps and devices, vehicle gateways support LANs (Local Area Networks) such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) and vehicle telemetry. There should be enough capability to provide fast, concurrent connectivity for multiple mission-critical applications and devices such as: live video, vehicle telemetry, laptops and tablets, handheld terminals, body-worn cameras, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV or drones), or automatic number/license plate recognition (ANPR or ALPR) cameras.

  2. Seamless, ‘always on’ broadband: Applications need seamless switching between WANs as vehicles move through areas served by different providers, network technologies and service quality. Sierra Wireless designs for this challenge with: external antennas on routers that deliver higher sensitivity and wider range than internal antennas in laptops, a unique policy engine that automatically scans and selects the best available WAN connection, and sub-second network switching to provide uninterrupted connectivity and optimal quality of service. Erratic vehicle power sources also affect connectivity, so our vehicle routers come with built-in surge protection to cope with inconsistent power, eliminating the need for external power conditioning.

  3. Seamless vehicle location and tracking:  For Public Safety teams, effective situational awareness means access to vehicle location data at all times. Sierra Wireless’ latest vehicle routers support next-generation GNSS satellite tracking for fast, precise, and reliable vehicle location data. Even so, emergency vehicles may lose satellite positioning when entering tunnels, underground settings, or driving in urban canyons of tall, glass-covered buildings which create areas of multipath propagation which confuse or block satellite signals. To overcome this challenge, Sierra Wireless utilizes an Inertial Navigation System, an integrated dead reckoning solution that takes over automatically when GNSS positioning isn't available. The system calculates the current position by utilizing data from sensors (accelerometer, speed pulse, gyroscope, etc.) and continues providing accurate location data to enable tracking until GNSS signals are once again available.
Consolidating communications via a vehicle router also means apps and devices in and around the vehicle only need wireless LAN connectivity; this reduces both device cost as well as management and maintenance complexity.

Sierra Wireless has more than 15 years of experience helping public safety organizations deploy reliable and cost-effective wireless solutions. Start with Sierra for the only proven commercial solution—today—that can switch seamlessly between the FirstNet Band 14 in US and major U.S. commercial networks. To learn about FirstNet deployment, watch the webinar FirstNet is Coming and check out the resources available on the Sierra Wireless applications web page for First Responders.