The Public Safety Technology Alliance (PSTA) is pleased to introduce this special feature, “Empowering Public Safety,” which focuses on how technology can be used to help first responders and improve and community safety.

Several notable technology shifts over the last two years are revolutionizing public safety operations. The most noteworthy is FirstNet, the first purpose-built, wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety that provides “always on” priority and preemption capabilities for public safety, end-to-end encryption, no throttling, and robust applications and device ecosystems. What this means is that no matter how congested commercial cellular networks get, public safety communications will always be supported via FirstNet’s high-speed broadband capabilities.

Thanks to this dependable connectivity, first responders can leverage cloud applications and storage for their operational and administrative needs, streamline their workflows and facilitate access to critical information. They can also use multiple devices (such as smartphones, tablets and laptops), giving them more time to spend in the field with the communities they serve.

Several notable technology shifts over the last two years are revolutionizing public safety operations.

A shift in purchasing power is also having an impact on public safety. Through new “as a service” offerings, expense budgets can now purchase monthly or yearly services plans that provide access to the latest software and hardware capabilities, as well as future upgrades. This will benefit municipal budgets by reducing large capital expenditures and increasing the speed at which public safety providers acquire new technology and capabilities. It’s a win-win for both public safety officials and the communities they protect.

This dynamic evolution is shifting the public safety market from a focus on large, fixed infrastructure projects to a “mobile first” approach. It’s only logical: Since first responders are mobile, the technology they use should also be mobile. For example, the capabilities now exist for first responders to pinpoint 911 caller locations, upload evidence and incident reports from the field, analyze current building floorplans on the way to a fire, access patient data in real time from a moving ambulance — and much more.

The PSTA is comprised of technology leaders as well as telecommunications industry and public safety professionals. We are a non-profit coalition with the mission of adopting open, best-in-class, standards-based technology for the public safety user community so that all agencies adopting these new capabilities can work together on a fully interoperable basis, thereby enabling collaboration among public safety disciplines across jurisdictions.

The common thread through each of these public safety technology advancements is this need for open standards and open application programming interfaces. These will help ensure operability among applications, services, platforms and devices, giving public safety professionals the consensus-driven, standardized, innovative solutions they need to keep their communities safe.