Changing the Lagging Face of Public Safety with Smart Networking Solutions (Part 4)
In part I of this series, Avaya Vice President and Chief Technologist for Software-Defined Architecture Jean Turgeon opened up a much-needed conversation about the current state of public safety and E911. My colleagues Mark Fletcher and Markus Bornheim followed up with pieces on E911 response times, lack of location data and the technology available to solve these issues. Today, we’ll explore specific solutions that can change the game for public safety and emergency services.
I recently went for my annual physical and had a conversation with the resident doctor about how technology is being used within the healthcare industry. After a few minutes, she made a comment that resonated with me, “I can’t believe in today’s digital age, we still use phones to make and confirm appointments.” You may be wondering what this has to do with public safety. Well, not surprisingly, this resident doctor (who is also a millennial) uses her smart device and data channels to interact with the world, and expects to use it for communicating with Emergency Services.
Given our world is moving rapidly toward more mobile-based smart devices and away from fixed phones, the big question everyone should ask themselves is, “What happens when I contact Emergency Services (911, 999, 112, etc.)?” Today, about 80% of calls coming into Emergency Services are from mobile or smart devices, yet the sad reality is Emergency Services doesn’t have the ability to interact with its citizens using data channels. Its voice channels only, which in 2016 is unacceptable!
Many PSAPs (Public Safety Access Points) are doing upgrades and modernization, but without the proper infrastructure and data networks much of it could be worthless. It’s time to start thinking about enabling robust end-to-end data networks within Emergency Services. These new data networks can be used for Inter Networked Agencies, allowing for overflow and interflow in order to handle mass call incidents and interact with smart devices or citizens.
Today only voice and telephones are used to interact with citizens as carriers are only providing a voice-based network to support calls to Emergency Services. PSAPs have no means to interact using data channels and apps like email, SMS, Web Services and more.
From a data perspective within many PSAPs today, you’ll find dispatchers and call takers likely having two separate systems on their desks, or a single system running a self-contained VDI (virtual desktop) software environment creating a virtual system. The main reason for keeping these two systems separate is because of the use of legacy architectures and the need for physical segregation of the systems and its respective data. One system (physical or virtual) is used for Emergency Services and is based on voice networks. A separate system (physical or virtual) uses a data network for internal communications like email, Internet, database access and more.
Now imagine a dispatcher speaking over the voice network to a citizen. If the dispatcher wants to interact with this person using the data network, they can’t because that system is strictly for internal use. The only channel they have available to interact with the citizen is voice on a dedicated network. The dispatcher (or call taker) can’t perform simple tasks like sending an SMS or email, or sharing a Web link or video showing the citizen how they might help themselves. So while they do have an internal system connected to a data network where they can browse the web, send emails and lookup information—it’s not on the PSAP Internet.
Moving forward, maintaining physical segregation of these networks through virtual services can be easy if leveraging technology like Avaya’s all-new end-to-end segmentation solution #EverywherePerimeter and its core capabilities of hyper-segmentation, stealth and elasticity (Jean Turgeon recently kicked off a three-part blog series that dives into each pillar. Read part I and part II). This new, all standards based, networking architecture can help address issues and provide the level of support and security required in a simplistic, yet secure fashion to bring technology to the PSAP.
ESINets are starting to be developed in parts of the U.S. as separate, parallel data networks within the PSAP, but this means potentially adding more costs, duplicating equipment/networks and adding complexity through firewalls and network administration. Additionally, long lead times are incurred when it comes to changes, adds and moves, ensuring there’s no disruption to the network services requiring long maintenance windows.
The ESINet, an IP based core network, still has security challenges because IP is the No. 1 hacked networking protocol in the world. Using Avaya stealth networking architecture to construct the ESINet allows you to build a single physical core data networking infrastructure for a greenfield network or to integrate with existing networks. With fabric, this network would be secure and invisible to IP hacking as the use of IP in the core isn’t required.
Using SPB (Shortest Path Bridging – the IEEE 802.1aq standard), once the Avaya core is built a multiple traditional core network infrastructures would not be needed. As Avaya uses a mesh-based architecture, full redundancy is achieved. Avaya’s hyper-segmentation technology can be used to create new VSNs (Virtual Service Networks). These VSNs are similar to creating virtual independent wires or networks. Since IP is not being used in the core, they can’t be seen by one another, which means data can’t be moved between each VSN independently, making them secure.
If required, the data networking administrator could create IP based shortcuts between VSNs, if they choose to allow data to flow between specific virtual networks. Administrators may want to do this for a migration or in the case of call overflow scenarios, such as a mass call event. Once the ESINet core is built, we can essentially leverage this secure environment and dynamically create separate networks as needed. As an example, multiple virtual networks running over this single core can also provide services like:
- Internal Secure Data Network
- Video Network
- Local PSAP Network
- Regional Network
- District Network
- Even a Voice Network being carried over the Data Network
Each of these services can be protected at the perimeter using a firewall for an extra layer of security and would all look and operate like independent networks.
This provides PSAP operators with the two separate secure networks they need, saving tremendous amounts of money and complexity in the backend. All of this together, makes it less scary to staff who may not be networking savvy. Leveraging Avaya Fabric Extend or SD-WAN (wide area networking) solutions provides the benefit of using a single Avaya Fabric to extended beyond just a local agency. You can leverage these services to extend beyond a local data center or campus network to other locations around the globe with the look and feel of a single fabric.