Manfred Blaha recently was named president of the Public Safety Communication Europe (PSCE), an independent forum where representatives of public-safety user organizations, industry and research institutes can exchange ideas and best practices, develop road maps, and improve the future of public-safety communications.
PSCE’s goal is to bring together three communities — end users, research institutes and industry — that are key for innovation for public-safety communications practitioners. PSCE was established as a result of a European Commission funded project in 2008 and has its headquarters in Brussels. RadioResource International interviewed Blaha about PSCE’s plans for 2018 and accomplishments this year.
What are the PSCE’s main goals for the end of this year and into 2018? PSCE’s next conference and exhibition will take place in Madrid 28 – 29 November. With that event, we will continue to inform our members about technology trends and challenges. Key topics of the conference will focus on a user-centric view on wireless broadband, internet of public-safety things and regulatory barriers for public protection and disaster response (PPDR) in relation to the new European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation.
In addition to speakers from the Spanish National Police and the Guardia Civil, we will have an impressive lineup of presentations from the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) in the United States, the U.K. Emergency Services Network (ESN), France, Belgium and Norway on their broadband plans; speakers from the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP); and presentations by the Spanish Data Protection Agency, Motorola Solutions and Kingston University, Teltronic and e*Message.
One of the highlights of the program will be a tour through the Madrid 1-1-2 emergency call center, one of the most innovative public-safety answering points (PSAPs) in Europe.
PSCE on 27 November will organize a workshop and an Open Hackathon of Europe’s nExt generation eMergencY commuNicatiOnS (EMYNOS) project dealing with next-generation emergency communications. Additionally, PSCE will host an international broadband meeting with representatives from FirstNet, the U.K. ESN project and participants of the European BroadMap and future BroadWay team.
For 2018, PSCE continues to discuss technology issues, questions and solutions with and for our members — not only about broadband, but other topics to improve first responders’ situational awareness, support their need for secure emergency communications and discuss topics of all types of mission-critical information and communications systems and technologies.
The big topic for PSCE and European first responders and practitioners will be BroadWay. This is the working title for a project proposal we submitted to the European Commission to run a pre-commercial procurement (PCP), a public tender procedure for broadband pilot systems, showcasing the Europewide cross-organizational and cross-border interoperability in realistic first responder scenarios involving practitioners working together crossing land borders, sea borders and even crossing long-distance borders with transport of first responders per plane to a scene of incident.
PSCE seeks to complement stakeholders’ own investments with the European Commission incentive. The incentive that comes directly from the European Commission, by instruction from EU member states, brings the end user community together toward defining a common goal and understanding. Once a common need is understood, a series of public procurement steps can ensure that innovation activity takes place primarily within the needs of the end users, and that these needs will be met.
A PCP doesn’t procure final systems. It intends to challenge industry and researchers to innovatively solve the real problems that public-safety end users collectively face. This includes on-the-ground public-safety practitioner needs, the needs of those operating their communications networks and the importance that government investment should not become locked into 20-year-old systems.
This project is planned to be the continuation of the BroadMap project. We hope to be awarded with the contract in early 2018 to support the EU and its member states to get the best solution for an interoperable broadband network that will enable better first responder service for European citizens and make the European Union more secure, a “Secure Union.”
What were the group’s biggest accomplishments during 2017?
PSCE managed to unify 15 public-safety organizations and submit the validated user requirements to the European Commission and a road map for European first responder interoperable broadband communications in the BroadMap project.
Continuing these efforts, PSCE could exceed the requirements of the European Commission by gathering with 11 governmental organizations (buyers) that are willing to support and contribute to the planned purchasing of innovative solutions in the PCP project (BroadWay) and motivate almost 50 first responder organizations from across Europe to volunteer in validating future broadband pilot systems of that project. This seems to be the biggest teaming of European public-safety users and organizations in a single information communications technology (ICT) project.
In 2017, PSCE obtained the status of a “market representation partner” within the standardization body 3GPP, which gives us the opportunity to better represent PSCE’s members and project partners and better contribute to the standardization issues of first responder future communications tools.
PSCE communicated to and with the EU the need for interoperable networks and the need for shared information and information systems for tackling the major security issues of the EU — from terrorism attacks to the migration crisis to civil protection disasters because of climate changes.
How does your work differ from the TCCA’s Critical Communications Broadband Group (CCBG)?
PSCE is focusing on the work for PPDR end users and to represent them within the European Union’s institutions and organizations. Neither the topics nor the type of end-users is limited within PSCE. We are dealing with radio communications, as well as 1-1-2 and emergency communications, video technology, internet of things (IoT), apps and the wider civil protection arena with solutions of situational awareness, common information space solutions and others supporting the first responder and the crisis manager in an emergency operations center and everybody in between.
Working with universities and research institutes and maintaining a platform for all — users, researchers and industry — is also a big task within PSCE. We are working together to find innovative solutions fitting the needs of the practitioners. And even if we are separate organizations, we established a cooperation agreement several years ago, and PSCE and the TCCA and its CCBG are working together wherever necessary and helpful for our first responders, PPDR users and practitioners.
Will Europe and North America work together more closely on LTE for PPDR?
I believe it is not only North America and Europe; it has to be a worldwide effort of all PPDR organizations to intensively work together on the topic of broadband for public safety — not only on LTE but also 5G on the long run.
PSCE has a cooperation agreement with the U.S. National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) for several years now and established a good relation with FirstNet. Together with the FirstNet team, we are planning the next international meeting with partners from Canada, Australia, South Korea, several European countries to exchange information, share best practices and plan further joint efforts and collaboration. This event will take place along with the next PSCE conference in May 2018 in Brussels.
Are you working on any professional mobile radio (PMR)-specific initiatives?
PSCE had been active in an EU-funded project as PPDR’s TETRA/Tetrapol networks are still in operation in Europe and 4G networks start to evolve. The SALUS project dealt with questions and solutions of interoperability and interworking between those systems.
We fully understand the user’s operational and technical need to keep the TETRA and Tetrapol systems up and running for several years for mission-critical voice communications, but PSCE is focusing more on the innovation and development of future radio communications.
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