Thursday, April 20, 2017

What we’ve been preparing for

Well, after 5 years, countless miles and more PowerPoint presentations that we care to admit, 2017 will finally bring some clarity to the FirstNet initiative.

On March 30th, FirstNet awarded the contract to build the first National Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) to AT&T. With this award, the countdown to Colorado making the decision to opt-in or out begins, with the final decision coming at the end of year. Based on the March 30th award here are some estimated key milestones:

  • May/June 2017 - Draft State Plans presented to states 
  • August/September 2017 - Final State Plans delivered to Governor 
  • November/December 2017 - Governor’s Opt-in/Out decision due

So how do we get from here to a decision? Here’s our plan.

To help determine the quality of the ‘opt-in’ scenario we have engaged Signals Analytics (who’s been on board from the beginning) to develop tools that will help local and state jurisdictions analyze the FirstNet state plan from their perspective. We will be answering these key questions:

  • What is the overall coverage and capacity for your jurisdictions? 
  • What are the immediate, recurring and long-term costs to adopt and utilize the FirstNet network? 
  • What will the operational and functional implications for jurisdictions be?

Signals will be working with local, state and tribal stakeholders to understand the specific elements that go into the analyses. By the time the final FirstNet state plan arrives we will have these tools completed and deliver them with the state plan. During the summer we will be on the road again to discuss the progress and prepare everyone

Since the beginning, our goal is to make the best decision for Colorado’s first responders by having a fully developed alternative (or opt-out) plan to compare with the FirstNet plan. OIT released an RFP on March 23rd for the alternative plan development. The RFP will be managed in two phases with the initial phase focusing on the base qualifications of responders to deliver an alternative solution. Phase II will be initiated if the initial draft state plan, provided by FirstNet, appears it will not meet the needs of Colorado. A representative group of local, tribal and state stakeholders will make up the RFP review committee and will include all disciplines and levels of government. Our goal is to have a winning bidder selected by the fall if needed.

We encourage you to visit our website often, as the flow of new information will increase significantly in the coming months. We intend to use this blog as a way of letting you know when there is significant news. So check back often!

It’s been a long journey to get to this point but we want to emphasize the importance of both the impending decision as well as your input to this decision. Public safety is at the forefront of a technological disruption not seen in a very long time. The approach we take with the FirstNet initiative will significantly impact how we approach our statewide communications for a generation. Let’s make sure you help us to make the best decision possible.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Technology you wear...

I remember the day I first heard about “wearable technology.” How cool to have technology in a compact device - this used to be the stuff of childhood science fiction! Today it has become reality. Today wearables technology is everywhere and many are thinking about new and innovative ways to use wearable devices to communicate, monitor social media, play music, and so much more. The most common wearables today are worn on your wrist and have the ability, among many other things, to inform you what your vitals such as pulse rate or will tell you how far you have traveled in one day. Wearable devices give one data and communication capabilities without requiring you to dig in your purse for your phone or reach to your hip and take the phone off a belt clip.

As a volunteer first responder my mind is confounded by the many ways I could use wearable to access important smart device capabilities from my phone. Consider now that manufacturers are embedding sensors in personal protective equipment (PPE) to gather and analyze physiological data. These sensors glean information, providing insights into the physical condition of a first responders such as temperature, signs of dehydration, heart rate, blood pressure, and respirations.* Perhaps one day future smart devices will be connected to carbon monoxide (CO) or wind speed/direction sensors that a responder can access from his or her wrist. For example, wildland firefighters must complete an annual “pack test” to get a “Red Card”. What Joe is wearing a wrist device complete with sensor enabled clothing. As he approaches the second mile, the wrist device warns of a possible cardiac event. The device dials dispatch requesting a paramedic unit to respond. As the paramedics arrive, they bring a Automated External Defibrillator (AED) in the area and the AED begins scanning the scene to find data from the Joe’s wearable device. Once the connection is made between the two devices, key information is sent from the wearable to the AED which will help the paramedics assess and treat the Joe.

Innovations in wearable technologies merging with tools already in use will provide critical information automatically eliminating the sole reliance on a witness to the medical emergency and much more. The future is here and it is exciting!

*Sensors are being designed to be “soft” and will stretch or integration in the firefighters PPE to provide real-time physical fitness assessment.