Jun 15 2015

NIST Develops First Roadmap for Public Safety Communications Research

A new report says upgrades to location-based services could aid public safety personnel and make resource management more efficient.

The next generation of emergency response personnel will be aided by an arsenal of new technologies.

Indoor positioning capabilities and open data exchange are among the top public safety research and development opportunities for location-based services, according to a report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Commissioned by NIST’s Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program, the 2015 Location-Based Services R&D Roadmap (NIST Technical Note 1883) is the first of a series of technology reports designed to guide public safety communications research over the next 20 years.

Navigation systems, 911 GPS locators and other real-time location-based services already provide situational awareness to public safety workers and first responders. However, PSCR predicts that improvements to those technologies and to network coverage will offer a high return on investment in the form of better personnel and equipment allocation.

A NIST press release details the anticipated changes, as well as areas where further research is required:

Location services, including elevation data (e.g., which floor of a building personnel are on), are expected to become more widely available indoors, underground and in rural and extreme geographical settings in 5 to 10 years and ubiquitous in 10 to 20+ years, along with enhanced precision and analytics. A key software need is improved 3D visualization and mapping. Opportunities include potential collaborations with the “smart home” R&D community.

While big things are on the horizon for indoor positioning and location-based tech, the 2015 roadmap says the lack of industry standards could hamper progress. Public safety communications would benefit from open data exchange, and standards must be defined quickly to facilitate the adoption of new lifesaving technologies in all their forms.

To increase the accuracy of positioning systems, PSCR recommends that the public safety community invest in convergent services, such as Voice over IP, digital video broadcasting and the Internet of Things.

The report also notes that improving the battery life of location-based services and piloting use cases for wearables and augmented reality technologies could go a long way in modernizing public safety communications.