Life-saving communications technology
Global Director, Business Development, e-Government, Security & Alliances for the Public and Defense sector
Director of Auxylium
Posted on: 29 March 2017
What gets me up in the morning is knowing that we are delivering a technology solution that could help save lives.
That’s a bold statement but it is the driver behind our work in the area of secure military and police communications. You might be surprised to read that the military and the police would need similar solutions but, as my colleague puts it in a previous post, the threat landscape is entirely different to previous years and terrorism has changed security and protection needs within our own cities.
Terrorist attacks have shown a vital need for our emergency services to have better communications systems. This has been a long-standing issue. The independent federal commission investigating the September 11 attacks in New York reported back in 2004 that a piece of radio equipment wasn’t working or wasn’t good enough to use during the event meaning the police and fire agencies and the people they were trying to help often operated in a vacuum of information.
It’s a well-known problem within the emergency services as well as the military. In fact, the idea to work on this issue did not come from us but we were approached in early 2015 by a cadet in an infantry school who was looking for a technology partner to help to find a solution to the tactical communications problem.
Together with our client we reasoned that if WhatsApp can deliver group messaging with location, pictures, video and voice, we needed to be able to deliver this to those entering and dealing with dangerous situations only our solution needed to be secure and, most importantly, resilient in every kind of situation or location.
The two issues we had to tackle were:
- The weight of carrying radio communications into the field or during an event
- The communications limitations of radio which have limited exchange capability and can only send voice and data and for some radios a GPS location rather than text, any images or video.
Because we had input directly from users right at the start of this project we were able to take a user experience approach to design and test what worked and what didn’t at each iteration.
The events of November 2015 in Paris really focused us on the practicality of getting this system into the hands of people who need it urgently. It took us 12500 days’ worth of manpower over about 190 calendar days to reach a solution.
We have been able to deliver a lightweight solution with smartphone capabilities which only requires a small helium box to be carried to provide a secure network. It allows all users to share information across ‘discussion’ groups. In this way you can be part of a leadership team coordinating with a response team and a medical team. You can also share military maps and pictures with one another to give accurate location and situation information.
This is only the beginning. We are still working to look at how Artificial Intelligence and Big Data can deliver improvements. The data stored on these devices can play a significant role in analyzing events and improving operations.
It’s the most important project I have ever worked on. As our client Captain Jean-Baptiste Colas puts it, “It’s part of the fight against terrorism and you have saved lives”.