Analysts and experts often focus on the potential impact that IoT will have on the consumer market, but few mention how significant the benefits will be for public safety. The ability to connect everything means opportunities to not only improve response times for first responders during emergencies, but also to engage in largely preventative measures in order to prevent infrastructure problems in the future.
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Just like any other type of technological improvement, it’s important that the traditional groundwork for innovation is established. For example, LinkNYC, a project that established Wi-Fi hotspots across the entirety of New York City, only succeeded because it had a modernized telecom infrastructure already in place to build off of. The same could not be said for connectivity in deprived rural areas. The FirstNet initiative, where frequencies in the 700 MHz LTE band is being used to create a dedicated public safety network, is laying the appropriate groundwork for these IoT gains.
Here are five changes that first responders should expect to see in the very near future.
Improved response times
In cities such as NYC or LA, one of the biggest challenges for first responders is getting to the scene, often because of gridlocked traffic. While the sound of sirens and flashing lights will get other drivers to move, it’s often very difficult in heavily congested areas. With the use of IoT in driving, smart traffic signals and GPS will allow first responders to more easily avoid traffic, taking routes designed to most rapidly get them to their destination.
Early warning systems for medical emergencies
In the event of a health emergency, every second can be critical. As more smart health monitoring devices come online, it will be possible for first responders to receive early warning signals from individuals. In those cases, help can be on the way before an incident has taken place. We’ve already seen a mass market appeal for devices that monitor heart rates, like Fitbits and Apple Watches, but there are emerging technologies that look to monitor more organs and body processes to identify issues before they occur.
The end of high-speed chases
A USA Today story cited more than 5,000 deaths as a result of high-speed chases since 1979. For the police officers who have found themselves in pursuit, the prevalence of connected (and self-driving) cars can and should eliminate these incidents. A simple call from police to a company like Tesla can result in a vehicle automatically — and safely — being brought to a stop. While this scenario may have legal implications, the technology to achieve this is readily available.
It’s relatively simple to use GPS to identify the coordinates of where someone is, but far more difficult to identify their altitude. This has often meant that it’s impossible to know exactly which floor a firefighter in a multistory building in on, and this has left countless firefighters in harm’s way. This is changing rapidly, as a variety of approaches, ranging from Wi-Fi to magnetic field usage, are improving the ability to understand exactly where a person is in a building.
Failing infrastructure is always a talking point in the discussion of the economy, but it is also directly related to public safety by preventing accidents before they happen. Failing infrastructure can lead to death through falling debris, increased traffic congestion leading to more accidents, and other disasters. Filling a city with sensors to monitor buildings, roads, bridges and other forms of infrastructure can help keep up with changes before they become disastrous.
In truth, the coming IoT revolution will impact nearly every market in ways we haven’t yet begun to consider. For public safety professionals and first responders, though, some of the changes will happen in the near future and will lead to being able to perform their jobs in safer environments.
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