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No need for walkie-talkies with smart emergency communication

A powerful smartphone app provides secure communications between emergency service and security personnel. It enables on-the-spot teams to download pictures, video footage and important data they need to assess a fast-changing situation.

Digital Economy
Security

When first-response personnel arrive at an emergency, they usually communicate with other team members and with their command centre via walkie-talkie radio. But this has limited range and functionality. The EU-funded CoP1stRespond project has created a smart and highly functional communications system based on existing mobile phones and networks. This could replace walkie-talkies and expand the way frontline personnel securely receive and transmit information to include images, which voice-only walkie-talkies cannot do. The CoP1stRespond platform uses advanced encryption and exchange protocols to integrate cameras, GPS and Internet of Things (IoT) devices that can be accessed in real time on any smartphone – Android or iPhone. “It’s a bring-your-own-device system. But it’s secure,” says Dan Peleg, CEO and co-founder of GlobeKeeper Tech, the Tel Aviv-based company that developed the system. “Even while they are on the way to the scene, first responders can receive video from the field on their mobile phones, so they know what to expect,” Peleg adds. The system mimics the walkie-talkie’s ease of voice communication. “It supports push-to-talk and also an open line. You click on the smartphone screen and speak. When you stop speaking, the communication stops,” Peleg explains. “If no one clicks the talk button, no one can hear the person with the phone app. That reduces noise and clutter in the network.” But anyone can eavesdrop on walkie-talkie radio communication unlike the encrypted smart system. “The challenge is to have the most secure platform while also keeping it real time. There is a trade-off because encryption requires more bandwidth,” Peleg notes.

Expanding the functions

The company had a minimum viable product version of the app at the beginning of the project. “But with research and expansion we were able to integrate more capabilities, such as cameras, Bluetooth radios and earpieces and other capabilities that exist today,” Peleg explains. “There are hundreds of thousands of camera models and we need to find the ones in most common use and the most common protocols to integrate into them. To enable drones and bodycams to stream video into mobile phones there are a lot of technical barriers that we needed to break down,” he adds. “Mobile phone 5G networks will further expand smartphone capabilities and enable more data to move more swiftly and more responsively and will allow you to connect more devices such as sensors and other smart devices all at once,” Peleg observes.

Testing and marketing

The system was tested in Europe with an intergovernmental policing agency client as a design partner. “Sometimes six different agencies were involved in the same operation and everything needed to be onboarded within 1-2 hours,” Peleg says, referring to different national and agency protocols and procedures which had to be integrated onto a single platform. “You couldn’t do it with any software that was out there. It was a key thing for us to solve.” The project funding also enabled the company to study market prospects, resulting in almost a dozen new partners in Europe and Asia. It now wants to expand its market by adding indoor location tracking. “Now, the platform is location-based using GPS and mostly used outside. But inside a building you want to know exactly which room or which floor you’re on,” Peleg notes.

Keywords

CoP1stRespond, emergency, communications, security, smartphone, encryption, mobile phone, bodycam, camera, 5G, drones, IoT, walkie-talkie

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