Making Inspector Gadget a Reality: Public Safety and the Internet of Things

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.


Inspector Gadget via Las Provincias


Guide to the Internet of Things

Public Safety LTE – A Global Challenge Warrants Global Collaboration

The United States has been working towards an effective and interoperable communications solution for its public safety community for many years; indeed FirstNet is on the verge of deploying a transformational LTE voice and data network for America’s first responders. LTE is a global technology, however, and it is worthwhile to take a look at what other countries are pursuing for their public safety communications systems. Some nations, like the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Canada are charging forward with a plan not unlike the U.S.’s. The UK, for example, is in the process of procuring services to replace the TETRA-based Airwave system with an LTE-based Emergency Services Network (ESN) between 2017 and 2019. The UK is currently down-selecting vendors and weighing proposals and plans to have a contract award in late summer 2015. While the UK’s ESN represents a significantly smaller landmass and user base than the US, FirstNet will be able to learn from the UK’s process and will benefit from the UK’s timeline, driving public safety LTE devices into market.

South Korea is also pursuing an aggressive timeline to deploy broadband services for their emergency services community by 2017, spurred by the Sewol ferry tragedy in April 2014 and associated telecommunications problems. South Korea’s Telecommunications Technology Association (TTA) is currently in the process of deploying a pilot network in three South Korean cities.

Global communicationThe US’s neighbor to the north, Canada, is deploying broadband services for their public safety and response communities as well. And has also engaged in many efforts with US authorities to collaborate on cross-border communications issues. Canada is pursuing a band plan identical to the US’s (10x10 block in the 700MHz band), which will make cross-border communications much simpler.

Many nations are already coordinating via the 3GPP standards process, and representatives from Canada, the UK, and South Korea recently presented at the US Department of Commerce’s Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Conference to share updates on progress and plans to move forward in coordination.

As evidence that LTE for public safety is truly gaining global momentum, the 2015 LTE World Summit is hosting an LTE Public Safety Expo Summit this week that will bring representatives from all across the world to discuss the following:

  • Key Features and Requirements for a Critical Communications Network
  • Step by Step roadmap towards the Next Generation Public Safety Network
  • How Public Safety LTE will close the Tetra lifecycle
  • Spectrum for Critical Communications
  • What if LTE fails? The Reliability of LTE for Critical Communications

Although each nation’s public safety communities will have different requirements and different deployment approaches, each nation will benefit from shared momentum and the development of a global public safety market for infrastructure, software, services, and applications.


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