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How Next-generation Communication Technology Will Advance the Public Safety Ecosystem

By Jesse Robbins

A new breed of push-to-talk (PTT) mobile devices allows public safety teams to communicate across their organizations and between emergency agencies with the touch of a button.

The Orion Sync from Orion Labs is a standalone, smart walkie-talkie with unlimited range. Accessing Orion’s voice platform allows coworkers to speak with one another around the world in real time.

Public safety teams need more than traditional land mobile radio (LMR) systems can provide. The National Emergency Number Association reports an estimated 240 million calls are made to 9-1-1 in the United States each year; thus, the need for a reliable platform to enable communication and coordination among multiple responding agencies is paramount. Today’s complex security and logistical challenges demand that public safety teams maintain high situational awareness, integrate the correct data, stay in sync and remain safe on the job. By implementing the proper tools to make better decisions faster, public safety teams can eliminate gaps in operations, better serve their communities and, most important, save lives.

Mobile, wearable and voice technologies are advancing to the point where they can quickly reach the millions of people who serve and support public safety organizations every day. Adopting new technologies and creating a new public safety ecosystem will better serve first responders. Public safety communications directors must know how to make use of new technologies to provide the high level of service that their communities have come to expect. Mobile devices, instant connectivity and geo-location are digital technologies that improve the way public safety professionals are able to carry out their jobs. Adopting mobile technology is critical to the advancement of the public safety ecosystem.

Real-Time Voice Communication

First responders can use voice communication tools to focus on the current, often high-risk, task at hand. According to Orion Labs’ “Voice in the Workplace Report,” 85 percent of professionals have expressed interest in using voice tools to improve workflows among their organizations. Advancements in voice technology tools allow for teams both on-site and back at the home base to collaborate and keep their time-sensitive deliverables on schedule. Heads-up, hands-free communication not only reduces the distractions associated with text-based communication and manual data entry, but it also reduces the risk of human error — a common concern among public safety and logistics workers who often work long hours.

Historically, first responders have relied primarily on traditional LMR systems to stay connected during mission-critical situations. The market has evolved to enable radio bridges between legacy systems to extend the range and reach of current equipment without requiring new hardware or signal-boosting equipment. These radio bridges connect to most existing LMR systems, such as radio over IP (RoIP), and do not require the overhaul of existing setups.

That said, there is a new breed of push-to-talk (PTT) mobile devices on the market today that allow public safety teams to quickly communicate across their organizations and between emergency agencies with the simple touch of a button. These durable, lightweight and portable units are enabling better experiences and increasingly becoming the primary communication tool for public safety agencies, both large and small alike. Agencies are discovering that limiting text-based communication allows workers to keep their heads up and reduces back-and-forth time by relying on instant, real-time communication with colleagues anywhere in the world.

Public Safety Preparedness

Digital technology empowers and supports connected teams to increase efficiency, improve processes and significantly enhance response times. Public safety organizations must harness digital technology to not only improve their reactive team’s capabilities, but also to innovate and grow their proactive capabilities.

To ensure success and increase public safety preparedness, public safety organizations can adopt the following next-generation communications tools:

●     Mobile appsallow officers to access a range of information via commercial and police-specific apps. Easy-to-use apps can stay connected in real time.

●     Wearableskeep teams’ heads up and productive to collaborate efficiently and effectively without carrying bulky radios. Wearables leave field officers free to interact with victims or suspects, as well as allowing taking statements to become faster and more secure. Integration with wearables extends into mainstream consumer devices, such as today’s most popular smartphone brands, to make your everyday device important. This also eliminates the need to carry an additional handset that may be bulky and heavy.

●     Advanced location servicesenable public safety agencies to pinpoint location, both indoors and in high-rise buildings, with floor-level and room-level accuracy. Agencies using this technology deliver enhanced situational awareness and improved operational efficiency in GPS-deprived environments.

The Future: Ubiquitous Networks

Public safety agencies already use mobile broadband networks alongside traditional LMR tools. Those networks are working out how to best serve their users. The First Responder Network (FirstNet) Authority’s mandate is shaping the conversation at this time. However, any network capable of prioritized, resilient internet access with dedicated backhaul is suited to the task. The FirstNet network has the first and clearest set of known expectations, crafted by the U.S. government.

The FirstNet network is the nationwide communications platform dedicated to America’s first responders and public safety community. It is being built with AT&T in a public-private partnership with the FirstNet Authority to prioritize the important work first responders do. It offers technology, features and functionality designed to properly handle the rigorous, specific and niche demands of first responders. With this much-needed technology upgrade, first responders can connect to the critical information they need every day and in every emergency.

By implementing FirstNet-certified applications and voice technology tools, public safety teams can be confident that they have a trusted solution that meets FirstNet requirements for relevancy, security, data privacy, mobility, resiliency and scalability.
Private LTE networks will also offer a reliable, resilient and managed option to use the same technologies with their own dedicated backhaul and spectrum.

Current Market Deployments

Orion’s next-generation solution enables teams from different organizations to communicate with one another in real time, solving the challenge of interoperability, enhancing public safety workflows and saving lives. The Orion Voice Platform team’s communication and collaboration technology uniquely addresses this challenge by providing first responders with a FirstNet-certified app and intuitive service that delivers unlimited range and enables teams with easy access to clear channels that receive priority on networks.


Ongoing digital transformation efforts in public safety organizations continue to present opportunities for teams to build safer communities. For organizations today, it is easier than ever before to find the tools and devices that meet the specific needs of their team. New technologies are providing even more ways to improve communication efficiency on and off the field so public safety leaders can ensure team members’ safety and success.

Jesse Robbins is founder and CEO of Orion Labs, a platform for instant communication across a constellation of connected clients and devices. This article ran in the August issue of AGL Magazine.

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