FirstNet and Technology at IACP

By W. Brent Lee, Law Enforcement Official, Retired

I recently had the opportunity to attend the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference and exposition held in Philadelphia, October 21-24. While wandering through the exhibition floor and checking out all the cool “cop stuff” (guns, helicopters, vehicles, and badges) I came upon a very pleasing sight. Firstnet\AT&T had a large booth and display where they provided information and presentations by their representatives.

Why call it “pleasing” you may ask? Because along with all that other “cool stuff,” sitting in the middle of the vendor floor was what I believe will change the future of Public Safety. I spent a few minutes talking with representatives I knew and meeting new ones. I watched as they presented what FirstNet will provide and just how much it will benefit law enforcement going forward.

Being the keen observer ex-cop that I am, I noticed FitstNet’s version of ‘follow the yellow brick road’ or in this case FirstNet’s logo squares leading to a second booth. I’ve wondered, and my guess is you have also, who are their potential partners and how can Public Safety representatives meet and get to know them? Well, AT&T and FirstNet provided just that with an opportunity for police executives and other attendees to meet with, discuss, and see the latest and greatest from a number of companies.

Needless to say, you would be surprised as to what is available out there and all ready to augment the National Public Safety Broadband Network. I spent some time talking with Inmarsat Government about satellite receivers and services available today, pre-FirstNet deployment. Additionally, Mutualink provided information about their secure inter-agency and cross-jurisdiction communications solutions. There were others in the booths with everything from hand held devices to drones.

Just a little bit about some other devices and application that caught my eye. First up, Sonim’s new XP8 for Public Safety. For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to see, touch, and attempt to destroy this device, you don’t know what you are missing. We all know that today’s cellular phones are vulnerable to a lot of things, heat, cold, and water, just to name a few. Trust me, nothing affects this thing! You can beat it against metal, drop it from who knows how high, submerge it in any liquid and it keeps on working. Oh, and by the way, it has a camera so it can accept software and be body worn for those applications.

Speaking of software driven body camera applications, I had the opportunity to speak with the representatives from Visual Labs. For those of you who don’t know, they offer software solutions for body worn cameras. Visual Labs can work with anything from today’s cellular phones to hardened devices, unlike some other vendors whose software only works with their own devices. One last little comment about body worn cameras. There has been a lot of concern about officers not activating the camera during critical times. I want you all to know there are companies working on solutions to that problem. In fact, as you know car cams can be activated when the lightbar is turned on or when the driver’s door opens. While at IACP I discovered one application that activates when a weapon leaves its holster. It is amazing what can be done to ensure there is a visual record these days!

Okay, enough rambling on about technology supporting the future and Firstnet. I would encourage all of you who are first responders to research what is out there. It is you who benefit from these services as FirstNet deploys.

W. Brent Lee is a retired Law Enforcement Official, public safety consultant and Past President of APCO International with over 30 years of first responder and public safety experience. Having spent nearly half of his career managing communications functions Brent is a major supporter of FirstNet and all it will bring to public safety.

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