Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Canadian version of FirstNet could have saved live's with the train derailment in Canada. The American version of FirstNet should take note.

A major program that has been on-going in the United States is called Positive Train Control or PTC ( Its intended purpose is to control trains. Following the disaster in California it has become a number one priority for the US. But how could FirstNet be considered a life saving tool when it comes to PTC? The answer is quite simple -- spectrum and broadband.

Since the Jobs Creation Act of 2012 was signed by President Obama it has been the intention of FirstNet to create the Nations Public Safety Broadband Network or PSBN. The network is talked about as a tool for First Responders to communicate when in fact it is much more than that. FirstNet is an entire ecosystem of public safety that is facilitated with the use of a private broadband LTE solution. Through state born public private partnerships a State can incorporate the use of all Public Safety Service Organizations (as depicted in the legislation). The transportation vertical is included in that ecosystem of public safety organizations -- such was the case with the train wrecks in Glendale, California ( in 2005 and Chatsworth of Los Angeles in 2008 (

As part of that ecosystem of public safety, and had the use of private broadband solution been introduced prior to those accidents, the PTC solution could have, not only have possibly stopped the wreck from happening in the first place, but they could have easily developed an adapted application that would have notified the Police, or Fire, as to the possibility of a head on collision or derailment. Such being the case in Canada. The derailment in Canada could have utilized a broadband initiated automated alert procedure to the local police and fire officials to respond to an unmanned train and possibility of derailment before any human was aware of what was going on. What FirstNet has the capability of doing, if implemented properly, is not only the technical capability of integrating cross platforms data scenarios, but also cross agency policies and procedures that would have enabled that. But we can't address cross agency relationships if we don't incorporate all the players into the ecosystem that FirstNet creates.

Getting back to the first part of my easy solution -- spectrum. One of the biggest issues with PTC is its technology roadmap and its coverage requirements. In the past PTC was dependent on satellite tracking, 3G services and RF based solutions all trying to work together. Now comes FirstNet with a "100% geographic landmass coverage map". The transportation industry in whole lacks its own spectrum -- which is the case for many verticals, i.e. our electric grid. For rail it includes class 1 carriers such as BNSF or Union Pacific; mass transit systems such as subways or light rail systems; as well as planned high speed rail. Especially high speed rail.

High speed rail requires automated computer operations for any train going above 150 mph with human assistance. In Europe they employ GSM-R as the standard for this radio controlling interface. But we don't use GSM in the US, so they fashioned LTE-R as the spec. But the big problem is the spectrum. PTC has the same issue...spectrum. Now that the transportation industry is considered part of the "Public Safety Services" maybe they now have a chance of getting access to that spectrum, but not the spectrum itself, rather a functionality of the LTE technology -- in short prioritization and the use of broadband.

The second part of my easy solution: Broadband will allow enough capacity for all the Public Safety Service responsible organizations the ability to dedicate prioritized services and automated responses across the ecosystem of relationships that FirstNet (the network) should enable. Every organization that will interface and use the private broadband solution has the duty to be a part of this ecosystem and the use of its applications must be open to integrate and incorporate both the technical and the policy based relationships. How we understand those policy based relationships has to be generated within the State itself. Where else will you get the physical relationship characteristics other than the local state organizations with their hands on the action? Broadband is just the plumbing that enables organizational policy and inter-agency relationships. You can't just give spectrum and then create silos of non-interactive agencies.

FirstNet is the enabler of this inter-agency relationship. We have to think way outside of the box and move way beyond what is just sitting in front of us. We can't just design a network; implement its services just for First Responders; and keep a blind eye to the technologies capabilities just because one organizational mindset is that Public Safety just means Police, Fire and EMS. By not being totally inclusive of all "Public Safety Service Organizations", and not implementing the cross platform functionality of prioritization the technology presents, could hold FirstNet negligent in the prevention of further disasters, such as the case in Canada and what has happened all across the US in the past. How does one justify not being responsive to an accident when a broadband solution, that could have involved all cooperating agencies, was implemented under the context of a commercial carrier solution and only incorporated for a select few? Doesn't that undermine all of what public safety is supposed to do?

Just some guy and a blog....

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