NIST’s Roadmap Available

The “Location-Based Services R&D Roadmap 2015” just published by NIST www.nist.gov describes the research needed to establish seamless broadband public safety communications networks across the U.S. in the next 20 years.

The new roadmap focuses on location-based services to improve situational awareness for police, firefighters, emergency medical services, and for other first responders. The roadmap was commissioned by NIST’s Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program that has been doing research, testing, evaluation, and working on standards to support the first responder communications community.

“The roadmap will guide planning for public safety communications research including how to allocate the $300 million apportioned to NIST from the AWS-3 spectrum auction,” said Dreck Orr, Chief of the PSCR Division for NIST’s new Communications Technology Laboratory

The roadmap offers a vision of what public safety communications might look like in 20 years. It identifies software, device, and network R&D investments needed to achieve that vision. The roadmap points out opportunities for action suggested by federal, state and local governments, academia, industry, and the public safety community.

Several technology trends are noted in the report. Advances in wearable technologies and public safety applications are expected in 5 to 10 years. Convergence with the Internet of Things and full integration into public safety use is foreseen in 10 to 20 years. The current reliance on voice communications for public safety is expected to give way to primarily data communications in some environments in 10-20 years.

Location-based services encompass applications that use information about the physical location of a user based on GPS signals. Location-based services were chosen as the first roadmap focus area because enhancements are feasible that could have a high impact and return on investment.

The report identifies significant needs for location-based standards such as open standards to provide for data exchange and availability among different devices and systems. Achieving consensus and buy-in on such standards is critical and requires significant effort.

While voice, video, and data are already integrated in commercial handheld devices, the public safety community has yet to leverage the full scope of potential integrated services. These should include voice over IP, digital video broadcasting, and the Internet of Things.

The report identifies the needs for public safety performance metrics, including accuracy, speed, power, and availability as well as testing for integrated devices. Among other technology R&D needs, the report calls for finding ways to minimize battery consumption for location-based services systems which tend to be power drains.

Also, since public safety communications must cover all geographical areas, ad hoc networks such as portable systems need to be set up quickly and be developed so that emergency responders will be able to bring the technology to events.

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