This piece was originally published in the May 2018 issue of electroindustry.
Jim Bugel, Vice President, AT&T–FirstNet Program
Mr. Bugel oversees AT&T’s strategy, policy, and product development for state, local, and federal public safety initiatives.
We live in a highly connected world. A world where if you dream it, you can connect it. Think traffic lights, pallets, and soda fountains. Yet as industries move forward technologically, first responders have been stuck years in the past. But that’s all changing with FirstNet.
FirstNet is the country’s first nationwide communications platform dedicated to public safety to help first responders connect to the critical information they need every day and in every emergency. Built with AT&T, in a public–private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority, FirstNet is bringing public safety a long overdue and much-needed technology upgrade.
The recommendation for a dedicated, purpose-built solution for first responders was born from the communication challenges public safety experienced during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Those challenges made it clear that the needs of public safety demand more than what commercial offerings provide.
That recommendation turned into a vision championed by the public safety community, a vision that was advanced by Congress in 2012 when it formed the First Responder Network Authority. This is an independent government agency charged with carrying out public safety’s vision of FirstNet, bringing first responders their own separate, dedicated communications ecosystem.
The First Responder Network Authority issued an RFP in January 2016 to create a public–private partnership to bring FirstNet to life. After a rigorous RFP process, AT&T was selected in March 2017 to build and manage FirstNet based on the high standards and objectives of first responders.
A tremendous amount of progress has been made in the past year to begin making FirstNet a reality for public safety. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five territories recognized the value of FirstNet, joining in its mission to strengthen and modernize public safety’s communications capabilities.
A Force for Good
We believe FirstNet will be a force for good, forever changing the way first responders think about and use communications.
It will make first responders’ communications simpler, faster, more collaborative, and more secure in achieving their lifesaving missions. And it will drive public safety–focused innovation, making advanced communications tools—like smartphones, apps, and connected devices—more useful, valuable, and available to first responders.
Within the Internet of Things (IoT), we have a unique opportunity to bridge public safety’s capabilities with the connected world. As we create smarter cities, we can also help first responders create smarter emergency responses.
Think about connected vehicles that can enable better access to the closest emergency resources. Or connected infrastructure, like smart lighting solutions that monitor traffic, so first responders can find the fastest route to an incident. Sensors placed on lights around the city can also provide additional situational awareness, helping to detect gunshots when and where they happen.
Connected gear can feed critical data to incident commanders to keep first responders safer. For example, monitoring firefighters’ health data can detect early warning signs of cardiac arrest, which is the leading cause of death on the job.
FirstNet opens first responders up to transformative possibilities. We will continue to build on FirstNet’s capabilities with IoT to bring public safety the most valuable communications system possible.