Critical infrastructures in emergencies
How to use heterogeneous networks for public safety
HITEC Luxembourg S.A.
The critical infrastructures that support communication have never been more important than in times of a crisis or an emergency. Unfortunately, these are often the same occasions where those infrastructures break down or become unavailable due to physical conditions or excessive demand.
Public safety organisations throughout Europe strive to optimise communication technologies when dealing with emergencies. It is really important that first responders and emergency services have efficient access to all their services (voice and data) through the remaining networks and those quickly deployed by rescue teams.
The project HNPS, Heterogeneous Network for European Public Safety, focuses on a well-controlled integration of communication systems, including private mobile radio systems and broadband services, using fixed or deployed networks. This controlled integration leads to the concept of heterogeneous networks for future European public safety communications.
Not only does it allow for the rapid integration of available communication resources but also for the optimisation of rescue resource allocation in order to support the daily operations of public safety agencies. Furthermore it will provide those agencies with a set of advanced digital services that are required for their daily operations.
The project’s approach is based on the use of advanced IP technologies such as IPv6, multi-cast, network mobility, and wireless mesh networks. It integrates a number of existing and emerging communication systems, e.g. GSM/GPRS, UMTS, TETRA, TETRAPOL, WiMAX, LTE and WLAN. It also includes wireless sensor networks and an experimental wireless mesh network based on the OpenAirInterface platform.
Figure: Heterogeneous network components
The project establishes an evolutionary approach; the gradual integration of different systems takes the complexity and compatibility of different standards and protocols into consideration. Likewise the system approach is used in application integration and test-bed design. The test bed, developed in the project, created a platform for:
■ System compatibility tests, carried out by different research and industrial organisations
■ Application integration and interoperability testing
■ Usability studies and field trials, with the participation of public safety users
■ Training and educational activities
The project already demonstrated that its concepts are valid in a simulated scenario that was played out in Paris in November 2010. The scenario showed how different safety and emergency units (personnel including their equipment) could work together, whilst still using different communication solutions, by implementing the project’s solutions.
The use of these solutions improved the overall quality of public safety missions. HNPS successfully provided innovative solutions for heterogeneous interworking architectures, adaptive net
work control and management, interoperable middleware, network cross-layer protocols, ad hoc broadband wireless network protocols, and adaptive applications. Furthermore, HPNS achieved the development of an integrated system for public safety communication. This includes an open interoperable test-bed platform development.
Communication networks of all kinds are available almost everywhere, but nonetheless public safety organisations struggle with interoperability issues and the availability of these critical infrastructures. In the case of a large emergency with many participating organisations and units, it is very likely that these organisations will use different communication technologies as well as services. In a worst case scenario they may not be able to communicate and inter-work.
The HNPS projects demonstrated how the use of heterogeneous networks can bridge those gaps whilst still complementing existing critical infrastructures.
Further information on the HNPS project is available at http://www.celtic-initiative.org/Projects/Celtic-projects/Call5/HNPS/hnps-default.asp