Future Opportunities For Control Room Technology And Service Providers

mainimage-alarms104

The command and control room and public-safety answering point (PSAP) market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.1 percent, from $5.4 billion in 2015 to $7.6 billion in 2020. Major factors spurring market growth include national public-safety initiatives like FirstNet and NG911 in the US, technology integration and system interoperability, increased value placed on big data and analytics, and control room consolidation.

While growth in the public safety sector – the control room market’s largest industry – has recently been stagnant, strong growth is expected over the next four years. It is evident that US public safety agencies are taking a wait-and-see approach with regard to FirstNet. Licensed mobile radio (LMR) infrastructure projects are slowing down, as agencies await further decisions on the national public-safety broadband network. There is an increasing interest in services related to these control rooms to optimise systems already in place and to expand existing capabilities with add-on applications. Overall, the control room market has become extremely dynamic lately, because of the variety of suppliers competing and the range of technologies used within command and control rooms and PSAPs.

Although voice dispatch and LMR infrastructure markets are currently experiencing slower growth, investment in computer-aided dispatch (CAD), geographic information systems (GIS), records-management software (RMS) and other systems is picking up, according to the IHS Markit Command and Control Intelligence Service. In the US, for instance, a number of public safety agencies have refreshed their CAD systems over the last two years as the technologies reached their end of life after 12 to 15 years in service. In India, by comparison, large states are placing an emphasis on regionally integrated CAD and GIS systems to improve emergency-response efficiency.

Control room consolidation is a major trend that is affecting investment in new technologies. Especially in the US, agencies attempting to manage increasing budget restrictions are helping foster consolidation to improve efficiency and enhance inter-agency interoperability. Consolidation depends heavily on the productivity metrics that a control room uses, which means the agency must evaluate call-taking and dispatching capabilities closely.

A typical consolidation might include rolling up smaller city control rooms into a larger county or regional entity’s centre. For example, a state may have one mid-sized to large system with 20 seats, while three nearby towns might have just five seats each within their individual facilities. In a consolidation, the county would take in 15 seats on top of the existing 20 seats. However, the county might only increase its seat count to 32, thanks to actions taken to improve productivity.

While consolidation may result in fewer individual emergency-response systems, consolidated systems are often larger and more advanced, requiring a greater investment in technologies and integration. Larger and more expensive consolidated systems provide significant operational benefits to end-users, in addition to financial benefits, because budgets can be shared across several stakeholder groups. The result is that revenue grows, because of a more complex and capital-intensive system.

Physically combining the control rooms is not the only way consolidations occur. For example, Estonia has only four regional emergency response control centres, but the centres coordinate through one virtual control room. All centres use the same information systems and each has situational awareness over the entire country. Several agencies work within these facilities – including the employees of the emergency communications centres, police and border guard officials, who dispatch their respective resources. Similar structure is evident in other more developed countries across Europe.

Across industries, IHS Markit has observed a convergence in control room functions. Where there were once dedicated communications and security control centres, operators are now seeking to combine these capabilities. The CAD system is the focal point of this movement, paving the way for the integration of various forms of data. Video dispatching is now also becoming a reality, with trials taking place in Asia and Africa. It is evident that the dispatcher’s role is changing, as more data becomes available and GIS is used to visualise the location of this information.

Big changes in emergency response are expected over the next 15 to 20 years, especially in the public safety sector. Not only will 911 become just another number, but Cloud, broadband networks and video surveillance are also spurring changes in control rooms, offering huge growth potential to the market. While growth in voice dispatch and LMR technology markets will be influenced by the traction of public safety broadband networks, other market forecasts for CAD, GIS, RMS, 911 call-taking software and other technologies are very favorable.

Further integration of video surveillance into emergency response systems – and the increased access of live and recorded video by dispatchers – will continue to support market growth. More affordable network video surveillance equipment (both from a camera and back-end storage, management and infrastructure point of view) has led to more cameras entering the market than ever before. With camera prices falling, end-users can now purchase more cameras than before. The installed base of security cameras in North America is expected to grow from 33 million in 2012 to 62 million by the end of this year.

The majority of installed cameras are privately owned city surveillance, which often comes under the umbrella of safe city initiatives, which is one of the fastest growing destinations for the equipment. While equipment price erosion is high, operational costs can still spiral if not managed carefully. The global safe cities initiative is causing tremendous changes in the way governments view city management, beyond just emergency response and communications. Historically, law enforcement, traffic management and other city agencies were often operating independently and without the ability to share data seamlessly. This silo mentality has become evident in many cities worldwide, but is not a sustainable model for city management or emergency response.

Natural disasters and terrorism require collaboration and communication across a range of agencies, and law enforcement may often have limits placed on the intelligence they are able to gather. These types of incidents cause regulations surrounding data privacy and national security to shift. For instance, after the September 11 attacks, the US Congress passed the Patriot Act, which set up fusion centres to surveil and the aggregate vast amounts of data, including closed circuit television (CCTV) streams, social media, arrest records, warrants and even mug shots. These centres, now known as real-time crime centres, are becoming increasingly important, as agencies emphasise predictive policing – a major goal of these initiatives.

While the safe city concept and agency-related collaboration and interoperability are certainly highly desirable outcomes, many challenges can hamper complete success of these projects. Most notably, larger, more developed cities often require vast integration of legacy equipment and software into their video surveillance networks. To have a truly unified safe city, many agencies must be involved, each of which may rely on their own legacy systems that must be integrated onto a single network. Further considerations and challenges include the following:

  • the network’s size, which depends on the expanse of the city and the density of the camera installations
  • the incorporation of additional data feeds from sensors, traffic flow monitors, lighting and other assets
  • the data rates from each camera and their respective resolution requirements
  • the standards across technologies and whether they allow for interoperability
  • the city’s budget and its ability to generate revenue to cover maintenance costs
  • the current level of connectivity and available infrastructure to mount surveillance cameras

Established cities in North America and Western Europe are well on their way to achieving smart city or safe city status. Many US cities like Atlanta, Boston and Washington D.C. have substantial initiatives underway. Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, is also one of the leaders in the smart and safe cities concept, with integration spanning airports, hotels and even malls.

The uptake of safe cities is actually strongest in Asia and the Middle East. India, for example, is making significant headway. China will also become a huge opportunity, but mainly for technology vendors native to China; however, consultants from western countries might have better opportunities in China surrounding architecture and concept design. The Middle East boasts some of the largest safe cities programs, due to massive available budgets, a highly regulated security environment and top-down leadership structure. The ability to make decisions quickly is critical in wide-scale safe cities projects, which often have a large number of people making decisions across various agencies and levels of management. Europe, while quite developed, will continue to require extensions to existing systems. Technology vendors will also have an opportunity to capitalise on refresh cycles to sell upgraded technologies and expansions to systems. Complete technology refreshes are usually needed every 10 years but, in the interim, cameras and servers must be replaced to ensure mission-critical reliability.

Overall, IHS Markit predicts substantial growth in the control room environment, especially owing to the convergence of various key functions. Emergency response is becoming a unified capability with a range of involved stakeholders so, as emergency response expectations and requirements change, technologies must also evolve.

mainimage2-alarms104

Alex Richardson is a Market Analyst within the Security Group at IHS Markit | Technology, working on the Critical Communications team and is currently the lead analyst on the command and control room/PSAP market and ‘Safe Cities’ research.

%d bloggers like this: