How 5G Will Benefit Public Safety

By: Brendan Delaney | January 03, 2020
Photo of radios on a fire truck to illustrate how 5G will benefit public safety

We’ve all seen the commercials that show us how quickly 5G can stream a video. But it’s in the professional world where 5G will truly be transformative.

That’s especially true for the public safety sector, where 5G makes life-saving applications possible, like real-time drone surveillance, enhanced vision for firefighters in smoky rooms, and crisis negotiation robots.

What is 5G and why does it matter for public safety? 

5G is the fifth generation of wireless data technology. Just as the jump from 1G to 2G cell phone technology added the ability to text and 3G made smartphones possible, the introduction of 5G will bring capabilities not possible with the current 4G and 4G LTE technologies.  

For public safety agencies and the people they protect, 5G will create a whole new category of tools. 5G makes these tools possible in part because of its high network speed and lower latency, or lag time. 

Here’s a bit more on those two terms: 

High network speed: Most consumers understand this metric. Higher speeds mean less time to download large files, such as movies. For public safety agencies, higher network speeds will make it possible to send large amounts of data (such as high-definition video) over the wireless network in real time. 

Low latency: Latency is the time it takes a network to respond to a request. As technology news website CNET put it, it’s “the lag between the moment you try to shoot a space invader and the moment the internet server hosting the game tells your app whether you succeeded.” 5G promises to cut the lag to between 0.01 to 0.02 seconds, which is more than 10 times faster than current networks, and fast enough to conduct critical life-or-death operations via remote connection. 

What are the main 5G public safety applications 

Some of the specific fire fighting, EMS, and police applications for 5G are currently in development.  Earlier this year, Verizon announced a list of companies that are developing police and fire 5G applications at the wireless provider’s 5G First Responder Lab 

The initial spots in Verizon’s program went to the following five companies:

  • Adcor Magnetic Systems: Sensors to detect, identify, track and correlate on a digital 3D environment
  • Aerial Applications: Drone solutions to turn visual data into actionable insights
  • Blueforce Development: Situational awareness solutions and sensors to enhance field operations and communication
  • Kiana Analytics: A physical safety and security platform with engagement analytics for real-time location/situational awareness
  • Qwake Technologies: Augmented reality products to help firefighters see in smoke-filled, zero-visibility, and hazardous environments

These are not the only applications, a second cohort of 5G First Responder Lab applicants is currently being selected: 

How to prepare for 5G

The first 5G networks launched in a handful of US cities in October. But while 5G is here for some, it will likely be years before it’s widely available. The super-high frequency spectrum that allows 5G to transmit data like a firehouse comes with the drawback of much shorter range compared to 4G networks. That means wider 5G availability requires a massive national 5G infrastructure build-out that may take several years to reach some police and fire departments. 

Because of this, emergency service professionals should familiarize themselves with the coming 5G capabilities, but shouldn’t delay communications upgrades that use the current 4G technology.  

One key existing technology that facility managers in all types of venue's should consider implementing today is an In-Building Public Safety Communications System, a wireless indoor network built on 4G service. Regulations for in-building wireless coverage are being adopted by jurisdictions across the country. Most of these regulations take the form of standards set out by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and/or the International Fire Code (IFC). Both of these organizations provide building standards and code recommendations for use by municipalities. The codes cover everything from existing structures to new construction.

In-Building Public Safety Communications Systems support first-responder radio networks and bring secure connectivity to buildings including common radio dead zones like stairwells, elevators, and basements. Having a strong, consistent indoor service throughout a facility well will be especially important in the coming 5G world. 

ANS deploys reliable and highly customized public safety in-building solutions based on the spectrum environment (what radio frequencies are used locally by first responders), building parameters (wall types and thickness, as well as other building materials), and the local authority having jurisdiction’s (AHJ) code requirements.

Posted on January 03, 2020, updated on January 05, 2022

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