Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Interoperability 20/20

For over twenty years, the subject of interoperability in emergency communications has consumed much in the way of public discourse and other resources.  To what end, may we ask here at the dawn of a new decade?

Fundamentally a problem of culture rather than technology, emergency communications capabilities are again and again bludgeoned by emerging “solutions” to ill-defined problems of interoperability - the “I-word”, itself, having become vulgar.  “Solutions”, by definition, have price tags and marketers and booths at conferences and lifespans measured in a few multiples of that of mayflies.  Gadflies tasked with solving the intractable problems of communications interoperability speed to the latest bright, shiny object purported to solve all problems: Truly mesmerized. 

“This is a time of unprecedented change in emergency communications!”

How profound!  Yesterday was such a time, as well, before you arrived and tomorrow will be even more so after you’re long gone!  How are we better prepared for that change than we were yesterday?  Or is breathlessness an adequate measure of success?

What hasn’t changed?  The complex, federated world of emergency response and, thusly, communications of, for, and between its components.  What else?  Our lack of understanding or, better yet, lack of ability to analyze the crucial elements of information interchange between otherwise autonomous public entities tasked by their taxpayers with precise missions far removed from the rarefied air of capitols.  What else?  Our ability to develop and evolve systems to meet those information sharing needs over time without becoming mere technological cheerleaders simply starry-eyed and convinced of our own prepubescent prescience.  What else?  Convolution of operability with interoperability to the effect that an agency’s own emergency communications needs (read: funding) become a demand on denizens of every other jurisdiction despite, oddly enough, those jurisdictions’ own funding challenges. 

No more mature since the turn of the century is the public sector’s ability to manage life cycle costs of technology, training, and sustainment of interagency communications capabilities.  The search for Silver Bullets continues.  Interoperability remains moot if only we would all use the same system – ignore those ugly dimensions of governance, policy/procedures, training, exercise, and familiarity through usage that nag regardless of the technological means by which we communicate.

The way forward from here is made more difficult by decades spent neglecting the fundamentals that would prepare the public sector:  Systems designed, deployed, and measured by contextual yardsticks for which they were intended.  Today, we’re left with immensely more complex challenges with no better understanding of underlying interagency business requirements in a world more and more awash in data.

The way forward remains illumined by an understanding of business (emergency response) requirements and the rigorous application of systems design principles to meet requirements, mold technological opportunities, and measure success in preparing for subsequent generations.  As long as interagency communications requirements are articulated in technological terms, rather than those of the business of emergency response, the specter of colossal interoperability failures grows directly in proportion to society’s dependence upon information and expectations that public safety services follow accordingly.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Can CPUC do for cell service what it did for electricity?

Reports Explain Cell, Internet Failure Amid California Fires

"The reports from phone and internet companies, made available Tuesday, help explain why hundreds of thousands of people lost critical communications tools during Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s October blackouts."

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Go, Go, Go Godzilla!

No End in Sight for FirstNet Interoperability Debate - Government Technology

"Although more than 9,800 U.S. agencies are now on board with the nationwide public safety communications platform FirstNet, debate persists about the very issue it is designed to solve: interoperability."

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

It'll be easy, they said. We got your technology right here, they said.

More Public-Safety Jurisdictions Jump into FirstNet Interoperability Debate

"Three more public-safety agencies jumped into the debate around interoperability and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) in recent FCC filings."

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Encouraging developments in the Caribbean:

U.S.-Caribbean Resilience Partnership

"Now, therefore, the United States and aforementioned nations of the Caribbean hereby launch the new “U.S.-Caribbean Resilience Partnership” to strengthen resilience within the Caribbean region on key issues of shared interest, and in furtherance thereof, intend as follow:

   "To streamline early warning response networks and formalize communication channels; ........."