When the TV series “Inspector Gadget” originally aired in 1983, I seriously doubt the creators ever thought the concept could be implemented in reality. The Internet of Things, combined with the soon-to-be-deployed Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN), could change all of that. For you millenials that may not remember the series (or the 1999 movie starring Matthew Broderick), Inspector Gadget is a cyborg detective that can prompt different, kooky devices on/in his body by saying “Go Go Gadget….”. The devices vary from helicopter blades or extra hands that eject from his hat, to super-long robotic arms, to multipurpose tool-fingers, to jet-powered rollerblades; Inspector Gadget seemingly had a solution to just about any predicament he got himself into. He also had a really cool “gadget mobile” car that he could talk to and that could even drive itself.
Although the title character was a little bit of a dunce and the jokes were usually made at his expense, the concept that law enforcement could voice-prompt various devices on their person or vehicle would be a transformative and powerful evolution of public safety capabilities. Imagine if an officer on a high-speed chase could voice-prompt dispatch or request a read out of traffic patterns up ahead. Imagine if a SWAT team could voice-prompt a heads-up display that showed the blueprint of a building, or a heat-map identifying potential bad guys. On top of that, imagine if a responder’s weapon could “talk” to her other devices, such as a body-worn camera, “smart clothing” with bio-sensors, her radio, or CAD console. The potential increase in situational awareness is almost incomprehensible and the possibilities are endless.
The Internet of Things, as buzz-wordy as it may be, is coming (or is it already here?); first responders could reap major benefits if public safety requirements are baked into the development of such technologies early on. IOT inherently requires Internet access and a data network, which public safety does not have today. FirstNet is working hard to create the capability, though, and this type of “personal area networking” is already on the minds of public safety communications thought-leaders.
Of course, this kind of technology can also be dangerous. If it’s online, it can likely be hacked into, which presents serious vulnerabilities and perhaps untenable risks.
Nonetheless, applying the muscle of the Internet of Things to situational awareness for our nation’s response community is a powerful notion.