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New Cradlepoint research reveals the state of public safety and connected technology amid COVID-19

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Needs for connectivity outpacing current capabilities as pandemic accelerates digital transformation; agencies now have nearly nine connected devices in-field; forty-eight percent using CARES Act and other programs seeking funds to improve wireless infrastructure and critical communications.

Boise, Idaho – Cradlepoint, the global leader in cloud-delivered LTE and 5G wireless network edge solutions, released findings  from a survey conducted through Police1, FireRescue1, EMS1 and Gov1. The survey reveals the state of critical communications and key drivers impacting digital innovation in the public safety sector.  

The research spotlights how police, fire rescue, EMS, and local government are leveraging connected technologies and their increasing reliance on LTE cellular solutions to address the need for reliable connectivity — ultimately helping first responders do their jobs better.   

The pandemic has also prompted a necessity for the digital transformation of various public safety operations. Whether needing to rapidly spin up pop-up networks to support a remote workforce or drive-through COVID testing, or to connect mobile command centers to field operations, the challenges of 2020—and those that will continue in 2021—have also demonstrated how public safety agencies and local governments rely on robust, stable and secure access to mission-critical information.  

“Public safety agencies are rapidly adopting connected technologies, and the pace of this transformation is quickening given societal demands and challenges in keeping front-line personnel safe and productive,” says Todd Krautkremer, Cradlepoint CMO. “However, achieving the desired benefit from connected technology investments is almost entirely dependent on a secure and reliable mobile broadband network that can span vehicles, places and things”.

Key survey findings include the following:

Most agencies now have up to nine connected technologies in the field that use LTE cellular networks

The survey results find that most public safety agencies have at least nine connected technologies that are regularly used to transmit information in the field, with 48% using LTE cellular networks in connected cruisers and devices, emergency response vehicles, and ambulances, followed by 35% in dispatch centers. Most often these devices are tethered to vehicles, and provide agencies with the ability to do things like:  

  • Create instant pop-up networks for medical testing stations. 
  • Monitor field operations by live-streaming bodycam or thermal imaging video to command staff and fire chiefs. 
  • Securely transmit electronic patient care records and vital signs from ambulances to hospitals. 

How agencies are getting connectivity was also examined. For in-vehicle connectivity, 23% use LTE routers, 44% use portable LTE hotspots and 19% use USB devices. There is a clear pattern for reliability, with LTE routers being the most reliable (60%), followed by portable LTE hotspots (54%) and USB devices (44%). While consumer-grade USB modems are inexpensive and easy to deploy, cutting corners comes at a cost. A USB modem can often only connect to only one device, likely insufficient given the number of devices that most public servants use in their jobs. Another shortcoming is reliability. Of agencies using consumer-grade USB modems, a majority reported occasional or repeated drops, with only 3.2% reporting always-reliable connectivity.

Some agencies don’t know where to obtain funding and grants for new technology 

A significant hurdle for agencies is that they simply don’t know where to look for funding. The survey finds that many agencies are unaware of financial assistance options: 25% do not know where to obtain funding. When asked how their agency plans to use COVID-19 response and recovery funds or other public assistance, 37% of agencies says they are not using any.

Some of those funding sources, specific to the pandemic response, were for agencies to fulfill demands for life-saving and critical services. Some agencies accessed funding available to state, local and tribal governments under the CARES Act to help them navigate the immediate impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, but also made investments that filled long-standing needs with capabilities for the future. 

Of those agencies that are taking advantage of these resources, 48% are seeking funds to improve wireless infrastructure, including secure wireless communication (36%) and crisis communication (12%). Also, 13% are investing in immediate life-saving care, 6% in infrastructure upgrades, and 20% in both.   

LTE cellular networks play critical role in critical communications; reliability and security are top importance for LTE-enabled router technology

 Whether they subscribe to a public safety network or not, most first responder agencies regularly rely on cellular connections to transmit information from the field over devices like mobile data terminals, tablets, bodycams and AEDs. Even local government agencies are using LTE wireless connectivity to create instant networks for online learning and to facilitate remote work. Any interruption in connectivity that delays critical information from getting where it is needed can put first responders, the public and property at risk. When asked what their requirements are in evaluating LTE-enabled router technology for critical connectivity, reliability was the top factor (85%) followed by security (61%).

“This research substantiates what we always have believed – public safety agencies need enterprise-class reliability, security, and management, but delivered in a simple-to-use and cost-effective solution. This is the essence of Cradlepoint NetCloud,” says Krautkremer.

Click here to view the full report. You can also register to attend Cradlepoint and Lexipol’s upcoming webinar “Connectivity is Key to Safer Personnel and Communities” on January 27th at 11am PST, which will explore the findings from the survey in-depth. Cradlepoint will also donate up to $5,000 to the First Responder Children’s Foundation on behalf of everyone that attends the webinar. 

Survey Methodology

Four surveys were conduct via Lexipol through Police1, FireRescue1, EMS1 and Gov1, each focusing on a different category of first responder: Police, Fire Rescue, EMS, and Local Government. The surveys amassed over 1,000 responses across agency types. Police respondents represent a range of agency sizes, with 38% representing agencies of 150 officers or more, and an equal number (27% each) representing agencies with between 26-99 officers and fewer than 25 officers. Fire and EMS respondents were predominately from smaller agencies with fewer than 10 vehicles (60% and 54%, respectively), while only 1% were from agencies with more than 500 vehicles. Local Government respondents were primarily composed of departments with 150 or more employees, while 43% were from departments with fewer than 100 employees.  

About Cradlepoint
Cradlepoint is a global leader in cloud-delivered 4G and 5G wireless network edge solutions. Cradlepoint’s NetCloud™ platform and cellular routers deliver a pervasive, secure, and software-defined Wireless WAN edge to connect people, places, and things – anywhere. More than 25,000 businesses and government agencies around the world, including many Global 2000 organizations and top public sector agencies, rely on Cradlepoint to keep mission-critical sites, points of commerce, field forces, vehicles, and IoT devices always connected. Cradlepoint was founded in 2006, acquired by Ericsson in 2020, and operates today as a standalone subsidiary within Ericsson’s Business Area Technologies and New Businesses. Cradlepoint is headquartered in Boise, Idaho, with development centers in Silicon Valley and India and international offices in the UK and Australia.