By Thomas Rehberg, Head of Aviation and Public Safety Business, Nokia
When failure can be fatal, there’s not a lot of wiggle room for experimentation. That’s part of why it’s been challenging for digital transformation to take hold within the public safety industry.
Indeed, this is an industry that has been cautious in its adoption of new technologies, even as the industrial metaverse is taking shape, putting artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual, augmented, and extended reality (VR/AR/XR), robotics and automation and a slew of applications into play.
Still, the world is changing rapidly, and this is putting extraordinary pressure on public safety agencies and critical systems to respond. Coping with these new demands – climate disasters, growing urban populations, cybercrime and more – requires new digital-age solutions.
A communications infrastructure must be able to sense, think and act. It must be one that has the resilience and digital capabilities to protect and respond safely and efficiently.
The good news is that’s what digital transformation and the industrial metaverse offer, and they promise to be true game changers for how public safety agencies operate.
The Industrial Metaverse: Wait, What?
It’s important to note that the industrial metaverse is not the consumer metaverse. This is a world where human capabilities are augmented to allow for natural interaction with the digital world and real-world things are dynamically represented to allow for a fusion of physical and digital.
With that infrastructure in place, then, what exactly is possible with digital transformation and the industrial metaverse?
For starters, it can offer better training. First responders must be trained for dangerous incidents like cyberattacks, natural disasters or a hazardous waste spill in a factory.
Yet, these can be hard to simulate safely in the real world. Deploying industrial metaverse technologies means we can much more easily train responders for all kinds of scenarios.
AR tools allow workers to gain “hands-on” training experience and receive real-time feedback in an immersive digital or mixed reality environment – one that eliminates risk to personnel, equipment or products.
Data analytics can also serve to retrospectively examine previous public safety incidents, unveiling recurring patterns and emerging trends that can assist in the development of safer and more effective response strategies.
In-the-Field 360-Degree Awareness
Industrial metaverse innovations will also bring greater levels of control and monitoring of physical assets during operations, offering more ways to remove responders from harm’s way whenever possible while they do their jobs.
Robots or drones with real-time 360-degree video and 3D-spatial audio can help assess the danger level and conditions during emergency situations.
In the case of a building fire, for example, a firefighter equipped with IoT sensors, wearables and body cams will receive critical data to monitor their exact location and movements, as well as monitor their own vital health statistics during a deployment.
This allows for better decision-making and assessment of overall risk, so that responders can be removed from high-risk situations, or a building can be secured before other units enter.
Wearing XR headsets, officers at the mobile command and control post will have access to real-time on-site visuals. This is the kind of full situational awareness that can improve decision-making and ensure greater safety during operations.
By outfitting paramedics and emergency vehicles with these advanced technologies, they have the potential to save more lives. Picture a patient in an ambulance being rushed to hospital.
Equipped with a 360-degree camera and microphone along with a high-speed connection, the paramedics can send that patient’s critical data – images and vital health statistics – directly to the hospital where a doctor can diagnose and provide medical direction, all in real-time.
In the future, officers in the field will be equipped with AR capabilities to share live data and visual cues about their surroundings during an emergency.
This might include the exact location of a person in distress, the exact pathway through a burning building or the coupling of contextual data with information about the extent and spread of a wildfire to augment situational awareness.
Better Intelligence with Digital Twins
Digital twins are another technological development that’s providing real value to mission-critical industries.
By creating a virtual replica of the organization and area of operations, agencies can gain real-time end-to-end visibility into the productivity and efficiency of their systems and processes.
This will combine a 3D mock-up of a location with rich data from the field, such as real-time positioning of units, data from IoT sensors, wearable, and body cam footage as well as info from robots or drones.
Command-and-control will also have the visualization tools to anticipate and unblock bottlenecks, detect capability gaps and identify areas that require additional resourcing in real-time.
This will enable public safety teams to make more informed decisions, better and faster, so they can focus on what really matters: keeping people safe.
Next Steps for Public Safety
There is a lot of innovation within the industrial metaverse – and it holds the promise of being a positive disruptor in how our public safety agencies respond.
A modernized communications infrastructure that provides resilient, high-speed, high capacity and ultra-low-latency connectivity and digital capabilities is what public safety agencies need to protect and respond safely and efficiently in the times ahead.
As futuristic as some of these technologies may seem, they may be no more radical changes than the kinds of changes first responders face while keeping the public safe in a digital age.
This makes now a good time for public safety agencies to accelerate their adoption of digital transformation technologies and the industrial metaverse.