Takeaways From IWCE 2015

IWCE Agenda A few weeks ago I wrote about IWCE 2015 and the sessions that were on my list of must-sees. Reflecting on this year’s conference, I think it was one of the most educational and empowering in recent memory. The keynote speakers and town hall sessions alone were worth the trip. Attendees heard from Roger Cressey about major cybersecurity concerns facing citizens and the government today, as well as from DHS leadership in Dr. Robert Griffin and Chris Essid, and were also able to hear from Dereck Orr about the Public Safety Communications Research program’s vision of the future R&D landscape for public safety. FirstNet’s acting Executive Director TJ Kennedy discussed the organization’s progress to date and the next major milestones in the strategic roadmap.

Here are a few of my main takeaways from the show this year:

FirstNet still the hottest topic

IWCE Floor

FirstNet remains the hottest topic and draws large crowds. This year’s FirstNet track was significantly more substantive and offered many valuable opportunities to hear from different FirstNet and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) officials about topics like outreach, early builders/BTOP progress, and the State and Local Implementation Grant Program status. It's clear that FirstNet has really ramped up their hiring efforts and has grown the team substantially. Based on audience questions it appears that FirstNet’s outreach and consultation process is really paying off and has resulted in much needed clarity for state and local public safety officials. That being said, the anticipation over an eventual FirstNet RFP is palpable.

Future-looking topics not yet center stage A surprising number of sessions were focused on future-looking topics like Smart Cities and Big Data; however these sessions were only lightly attended which highlights the fact that those ideas have not quite grasped the attention of many stakeholders to date. I would anticipate that next year’s show would be even more geared towards “Internet of Everything”-like topics and will be more widely attended.

State governments stepping up State government officials are really stepping up their game when it comes to educating their stakeholders about FirstNet, the National Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN), broadband technologies, and what they can be doing in preparation.

Public safety community embracing idea of NPSBN The first responder community seems to be getting more comfortable with what the NPSBN will likely look like on Day 1 as well as the technical complexity of LTE. Additionally, the fear that Land Mobile Radio (LMR) will be prematurely abandoned seems to have lessened. Public safety officials appear more comfortable with the idea of having both LMR voice and LTE data services for the foreseeable future.

Although this week’s FirstNet Board meeting did not end in a vote to approve a draft RFP, FirstNet does seem to be on track to release the draft RFP in the very near future. Given that, this summer is bound to be an especially interesting time for this effort and cause.

Did you attend IWCE 2015? What were your takeaways?