For First Responders, Communication with Their Teams is Essential

through a public-private partnership. So, there remains a void in enabling first responders to record, access, capture and maintain the in-building service availability of each of these two different networks today and for the next five to ten years…and beyond.

There is also not a standardized method for testing and evaluating emergency communications coverage in buildings across jurisdictions. Evaluations depend on specific local regulations and often takes place one time upon completion of new construction. Quite often there is little-to-no follow up testing to see if conditions have changed due to new nearby construction or the modification of internal layouts, and there is no easy way to track and maintain data from previous tests.

“These kinds of reports have a shelf life,” said Cuong Luu. “A building goes in next door, and the conditions can change. Frequent and standardized testing allows for accurate real-time data.”

“In order to get to a place where we can have trusted in-building communications that extends the wide area network into buildings, we need to try to find a way to make testing and evaluation simple and low cost, and then it will be done more effectively and folks can trust the outcomes of it,” said Gary Schluckbier, director of Radio Frequency Sensing at Epiq Solutions.

As a result of the SBIR effort, Epiq Solutions has created PRiSM, a prototype that uses a low-cost sensor that can be connected to a standard smart phone, tablet, or laptop that produces measurements of the signal strength in the most commonly used first responder bandwidths and performance data which is then uploaded to a portal. The portal is a key element of this innovative solution; storing the data in an accessible online repository, where it is available to whoever needs it, whenever it’s needed.

Instead of having a single initial test performed by a network performance technician when a building is issued its certificate of occupancy, with results that may not be easy to find or access, with this solution a building can be retested periodically with the technician only needing a sensor attached to a smart phone, and the new data can be compared to previous results. This data could also be accessed by first responders arriving on a scene, so that they can quickly assess whether they need to deploy additional communications assets.

This is also a potential benefit to building owners and developers. Currently, testing requires complex and expensive equipment as well as highly trained personnel. Furthermore, there are no concrete test requirements from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The goal is for the compact, low-cost PRiSM design to make it possible to test more often and to facilitate more broadly accepted best practices. In addition, the solution does not require highly trained, costly engineers to collect data further driving down costs.

The next step for this technology is for Epiq Solutions to launch it as a fully available commercial offering.