Standardization and interoperability are important throughout the wireless industry, but they are especially important to public safety. First responders from different organizations will be more effective if their devices and applications work together.
This is the goal of the Public Safety Technology Alliance, formed to promote open standards and interoperability for broadband wireless communications used by first responders. The new nonprofit organization hopes to take a leading role in setting standards, and to help companies with implementing and testing technical specifications for applications, handsets, devices, cloud-based applications and storage solutions.
The initial membership of the PSTA includes AT&T, Verizon, JVCKenwood, Microsoft, Secured Communications, Sonim Technologies, and TRX Systems. Membership is free for public safety professionals who work in the public sector. For private companies, membership fees are based on annual revenue.
The PSTA's co-founder and CEO is TJ Kennedy, the former president of FirstNet. The alliance's leadership team also includes Jason Karp, another former FirstNet executive, and Maggie Goodrich, former CIO for the Los Angeles Police Department.
"The Public Safety Technology Alliance is a logical next step towards accelerating progress across the mission-critical ecosystem," said analyst Ken Rehbehn, founder of CritComm Insights. "Open standards are typically option-rich, thanks to consensus-based processes that produce standards. These alliances help focus valuable R&D resources where the effort can have the biggest impact while also improving the prospects for interoperability."
The PSTA says it has three primary missions. First and foremost, the alliance hopes to accelerate the conformance of open and standards compliant technology. In addition, it wants to select those standards and it wants to provide guidance to the industry as it tests devices and applications and implements that standards.
"Technology must support the mission critical roles of public safety to better serve the residents of the communities we protect," said PSTA board member Mike Duyck, who is also a fire chief. "Importantly, this is the first time public safety will have an integral leadership role in selecting the technical standards for mobile broadband technologies that will be used by first responders."
Device makers and application developers see opportunity in public safety thanks to AT&T's FirstNet rollout and Verizon's public safety LTE initiatives. Increasingly, first responders will be able to use commercial smartphones to do their jobs. Already, Samsung has configured its Galaxy S9 and S9+ to support Band 14, the FirstNet spectrum which AT&T is deploying. The Samsung phones support priority and preemption, meaning that public safety network traffic can preempt commercial traffic, and they are ruggedized for use in harsh environments.