New technologies never happen fast enough for early adopters. And when they do, the laggards then find themselves in catch up mode in the full knowledge that stakeholders in early adopting corporations are already profiting from the benefits of those technologies.
“Mission-critical communications (MCX) technologies are well on the way into the hands of early adopters, and the word "critical" is not for nothing a part of the name – many lives are dependent on this emerging technology,” says Pierre Hagendorf, CEO of MCX-enabler Softil.
Mr. Hagendorf adds: “The MCX industry is rapidly advancing in its breadth and market availability. The promise of ubiquitous public safety broadband across the globe is fast becoming a reality and each and every new advance brings the full MCX revolution a little closer.”
As the world’s leading enabler of MCX solutions with blue-chip corporations serving all critical industries across the globe, Softil is well placed to elaborate:
MCX Service Availability
In 2022, expect to see more and more service providers offering public safety broadband services. MCX servers are advancing their feature sets as better MCX devices and applications become available. More service providers will therefore begin to feel comfortable in offering MCX solutions to avoid being classified as a technology laggard.
Police officers, firefighters, EMS technicians – all first responders have something better to do with their hands than to just hold a communication device. Instead, expect to see more and more wearable devices on the shoulders of first responders in 2022. Wearable devices with built-in LTE/5G connectivity and support for MCPTT – public safety professionals will be quick to appreciate that.
We’ve said it before, but we want to say it again … dual-mode devices are in the pipeline. Familiar-looking radios equipped with LMR and MCPTT over LTE/5G capabilities are slated to appear next year and for one simple reason – such devices are a key to the success of the MCPTT revolution. MCPTT enabled radio devices offer comfortable and a reassuring form factor while bringing first responders into the world of public safety broadband, helping with migration and augmenting coverage as necessary. In 2022, expect to see manufacturers offering dual-mode radios and being put into daily service in public safety broadband networks.
Advancing Situational Awareness Applications
There is no shortage of situational awareness applications, each boasting its own secret sauce, often focused on a specific vertical segment – firefighters, police, utilities, mining et al. As MCX services become universal, expect to see such applications enhanced with MCPTT, and potentially with MCVideo and MCData capabilities. Having a common communication platform greatly benefits all users, enabling basic communication interoperability among all of first responder agencies, even those unable to use situational awareness applications directly.
Private LTE had been around for as long as LTE had been in use. Now, with MCX servers and devices becoming more readily available, a Private LTE system can offer full MCX capabilities using off-the-shelf components for servers, devices, gateways, dispatch, and so on. Utilities, mining, oil rigs, and many other industries need modern and reliable group communication solutions that are easy to deploy and reasonably priced. MCX-enabled Private LTE systems fit the bill perfectly, so we expect to see more and more offerings coming into service in 2022.
Today, the cloud is the de facto method of service delivery – continually available, robust, and secure, the cloud simplifies service access, no matter what the service. Public Safety is not an exception – using the same components as in any commercial LTE mission-critical deployment, MCX can be delivered as a service. Certain service elements such as priority and preemption might be lost in the process, but the same MCX capabilities can still be provided. When offered through the cloud, MCX can be fully integrated with other cloud-delivered applications and services, enabling workflow optimization, business logic implementation, and more. In 2022, watch out for cloud-based MCX services being increasingly available, especially in non-public safety verticals such as utilities, transportation and mining.
Satellites for Mission-Critical Communications
When it comes to reliable communications, it is all about connectivity – a speech packet must traverse the network from point A to point B, no excuses. While LTE and 5G networks continue to be built out, there are still "white spots" on the coverage map where network connectivity is just not there. One of the possible solutions is to use an ever-increasing enclave of low-orbit Earth satellites (LEOs), the number of which is expected to reach 18,000 in just four years time to improve coverage for public safety communications. Next year, Softil expects to see the increased use of satellites to provide both MCX backhaul and direct MCX communications.
Modern trains are moving faster and faster, and that means all aspects of communication both between train and the railways and all of involved personnel from engineer to maintenance crew, conductor to dispatcher, are more critical than ever before. The set of standards collectively known as FRMCS had been developed in UIC, 3GPP, and other SDOs to facilitate the transition from the current GSM-R to 5G-powered broadband communications. The standards development process is advanced enough to facilitate field pre-deployment as early as 2022 – this development is being monitored closely by everyone involved in railway communications.
PSBN and NG911 Integration
This one is a no-brainer. Both MCX and NG911 are broadband-based technologies that address the same pain point. It makes perfect sense if a citizen video from the scene of any accident can be routed through the NG911 network directly to the responding police and firefighters’ MCX-enabled devices. Undergoing transition of first responder communications from the standard radio to the MCX-enabled modern communications devices, powered by the growing number and capabilities of the public safety broadband networks such as ESN in the UK or AT&T FirstNet in the USA, enables such integration. We expect to see NG911/MCX integrated solutions appearing on the market in 2022.
Dispatch, often called command and control, is a critical success element of any type of group communications, whether in public safety, utilities, transportation, or any other industry which relies on managed group communications. As the deployment of public safety broadband networks increases, dispatch technology adds MCX as another communication means to enable the one-stop capability for all group communications and adding video and a range of data to the mix. MCX dispatch solutions are mostly at pre-trials, but we expect 2022 to be a game-changer with MCX dispatch moving past trials into commercial deployments.
Recording is critical in public safety. Today, recording solutions have to integrate with hundreds of flavors of radio technology solutions with each and every integration being custom, unique and not reusable. MCX-powered broadband public safety networks require new recording solutions that can seamlessly record multiparty voice, video, sensor data obtained live from the MCX servers. Such solutions are critical to the deployment of MCX solutions in the public safety market and we expect to see many trials and initial deployments in 2022.
MCX, IoT, and AI Integration
Ubiquitous mobile broadband powers a multitude of technologies – Internet of Things, Industrial IoT, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality and MCX are examples. All these technologies can achieve better data integrations for the greater good. Sensor data coming from IoT applications can greatly assist first responders; the timely use of AI can assist a police officer in working a crime scene; and Augmented Reality can greatly assist a rescue crew working at the pit face of natural disasters. In 2022, we should see more and more integrated MCX applications coming to market enabling first responders to do their jobs better, faster, safer, and more efficiently.
The upward movement of emerging technologies is rarely fast and may even be unnoticeable until the peak has been reached. Public safety broadband is now in its upward motion stage, and we expect that the year 2022 will see MCX technology becoming a global commercial phenomenon.