GovLoop: The Impact of Drones on Public Safety — and Why They’re Here to Stay by Charles Werner

In 2015, I purchased my own personal DJI Phantom 3 Advanced unmanned aircraft system (UAS) — also known as a drone. I was also the fire chief in Charlottesville, VA. I purchased my drone to explore its utility in the public safety environment. It was $799 for the drone (and two extra batteries) which came with a controller, battery and high-resolution camera capable of digital images and real-time video.

After several days of flying as a hobbyist at a nearby rural park, it was clear that drones would have a huge impact on public safety operations — but even I couldn’t have imagined how much.

The next steps of moving forward were difficult due to the concern over privacy policy and in 2013 Charlottesville and the Commonwealth of Virginia had set a two-year moratorium (no drone zones, with exceptions) on the use of drones by public agencies. The other challenge until 2016 was the Federal Aviation Administration’s regulations which required either a manned pilots license or completion of flight ground school.

My evaluation was clear — the cost was affordable for a public agency; flight control and operations were easy and user-friendly; GPS would hold the drone in position so if signal was lost it would return to home and land; and the digital imagery/video was exceptional.

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Bill Schrier Reports AT&T Announcements

AT&T made a number of announcements today.  FirstNet Assist is an app available later this year to allow extended primary users to request priority uplift during an incident.   FirstNet Single-Sign-On will allow a user to logon with credentials once and have those credentials transferred to other apps on the device.   The other apps do need to be modified with a software development kit (SDK) for that to work, and no apps presently have done that.   But there are now about 60 apps in the FirstNet App Catalog and others in the pipeline.  There’s also an API in the development ecosystem which will allow apps to modify their own priority under certain circumstances.   I don’t have a lot more detail on these functions/features yet, but wanted you to know they have been announced.

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, March 28, 2019

Return of FirstNet Authority and More. Sounds like a strange title until you realize that once the contract was awarded to AT&T to build and maintain the network, those in the field deploying the FirstNet network kept up the pace while the organization’s management seemed to disappear into obscurity. However, at the FirstNet Authority board of directors’ meetings last week, the acting CEO and the board developed a plan to move forward proactively in many new and positive ways.

Ed Parkinson, acting CEO and long-time public safety supporter, has done a great job putting together this plan and the board has responded in a positive way. There have been several times when the FirstNet Authority has been slowed by circumstances not under its control. The first incidence, in late 2013, slowed progress by almost a full year. In the latest case, there was not a CEO or President to drive it forward and the board of directors was short a few members. Now we have a full board and, from what I have seen, an acting CEO with a vision of where The FirstNet Authority needs to go, how to help continue building out the network, and identifying additional pieces and parts that make sense.

Instead of The FirstNet Authority management simply watching over the contract vendor, the new plan is to include the public safety community as more of a partner in this private/public partnership. Edward Horowitz, chairman of the FirstNet board, is quoted as saying at the meeting, “As we strive to fully realize the promise of FirstNet, we are engaging with public safety to chart a path forward for the network. Using their feedback, our Roadmap will advance the network and guide our investments over the next several years and beyond.” Read the Entire Column Here . Continue reading

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, March 21, 2019

Drive Tests, IWCE, and Palmyra Atoll.  After a two-week interruption in my scheduled Advocates, this one will hopefully serve to get back on schedule and to convey what we have been doing and why. First up is that Michael Britt and I drove to a number of areas in southern Arizona, then into California, and finally to Las Vegas and back to Phoenix. We were drive testing using the Sierra Wireless MG90 installed in my car to measure FirstNet and Verizon coverage along this route. The results and some of the maps that were generated are discussed below. Next came the IWCE Conference, once again well done. This year we decided to begin offering our “best of show” selections, also listed below.

One day after returning home, Linda and I left for Hawaii, where she stayed in Honolulu for the week I flew down to the Palmyra Atoll, about 1,000 miles and worlds away from Hawaii. This Atoll was used during WWII as a gun emplacement but is now jointly owned by the federal government and a non-profit preservation organization. The Atoll is being returned to its original state, which means eradicating thousands of coconut palm trees and other non-indigenous foliage. Our task is to review and recommend replacement of their older communications systems with a new Atoll-wide Land Mobile Radio (LMR) system, new marine and aviation radio equipment, some newer radar, and other items.

While the Palmyra Atoll is an unincorporated U.S. Territory, FirstNet will not build there. The average population on the island is about eight people, swelling to twenty-four, and falling to as low as four, depending on the time of year. I took my Sonim XP8 since I was told the Atoll is not gentle with electronics because of the rain (144 inches a year) and very high humidity. While there is no cell coverage on the Atoll, there is some WiFi and an older satellite service. Using ESChat PTT (Push-To-Talk), I was able to communicate with several people on the mainland. The XP8 came through the test of the weather and humidity perfectly. Planning a new communications system will be a real challenge but rewarding.

Read the Entire Column Here .Here are the articles I have selected with the help of Discovery Patterns artificial intelligence. Continue reading

Just launched! NIST PSCR’s Haptic Interfaces for Public Safety Challenge

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Division launched a new prize challenge on March 18, the Haptic Interfaces for Public Safety Challenge! Up to  $425,000 will be awarded to winning teams that create haptic interface prototypes that could improve public safety operations.

The public safety community needs access to critical information such as indoor maps, location, and routing, all presented in an intuitive, safe, and non-invasive manner during emergency and training scenarios. A haptic interface integrated into a first responder’s personal protective equipment (PPE) could assist the user in performing tasks such as monitoring patient vitals, navigating complex spaces with limited visibility, or maintaining situational awareness.

This challenge consists of multiple phases with contestants developing three haptic interface prototypes for use in PSCR provided virtual scenarios and a final haptic interface prototype embedded in firefighter PPE for testing at a real-world firefighter navigation course. PSCR will assess the efficiency, effectiveness, and level of user satisfaction of the haptic interface prototypes and their ability to assist first responders in conducting their tasks. Contestants will also have the opportunity to demo their initial prototypes with first responders at PSCR’s 2019 Stakeholder meeting in Chicago, IL.  

For more information, please visit: Thanks for sharing with your networks, and please reach out if you have any questions about the challenge or suggestions on how to spread the word about the challenge. All interested contestants must submit their concept paper on  by April 22.


Report: Private Sector Lags Federal Government on Cyber Hygiene

The private sector is lagging far behind the federal government on implementation of a key cybersecurity practice that impedes hackers from using e-mail systems to launch attacks, according to the 2019 annual report of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. “The federal government is more prepared than the private sector to protect against phishing attacks, which are a primary method for hackers to gain access to enterprises,” said the report, which was issued yesterday.

A binding operational directive issued by the Department of Homeland Security in 2017 required federal agencies to adopt domain-based message authentication, reporting, and conformance (DMARC) systems that would instruct Internet service providers to block unauthenticated e-mails, the report noted.  DHS says that a large number of civilian federal government agencies met a 2018 deadline to deploy DMARC (TR Daily, Oct. 16, 2018).

“Government agencies’ use of the DMARC e-mail configuration is 47.9%, which is better than the average of 26% in the private sector,” the CEA report said.  “Though adoption of DMARC is only one of many indicators of cyber hygiene . . . these results nonetheless suggest that federal cyber best practices could set an example for the private sector.”

The report indicated that “incomplete incentives” could be contributing to the private sector’s lack of cyber hygiene.  “Evidence on the lack of many basic cybersecurity practices among the most profitable companies in the U.S. economy suggests that a lack of information awareness and a lack of resources are unlikely to be the primary culprits behind existing vulnerabilities,” it said.

It noted, among other things, that a comprehensive and flexible cybersecurity framework produced by the National Institute of Standards and Technology had been available to businesses since 2014 and that sector-specific cyber threat information-sharing mechanisms had grown more robust in recent years, but that many companies did not participate.

“The degree of competition in the marketplace is an important moderating factor that determines whether a firm participates. In particular, unless firms in an industry understand the downside associated with their vulnerability to cyber attacks, they may not realize the gains that can come from collaboration through information-sharing,” the report said.

“Information-sharing and dissemination of best practices must remain a priority, particularly for small businesses that are more likely to lack the resources or infrastructure to search out and implement best practices. In particular, information needs to be publicly available, transparent, and shared to disseminate best practices and call attention to dangerous practices,” it added.

“The prevalence of cyber threats suggests that firms are relatively unprepared to protect themselves,” the report said, citing several academic studies.  “In 2017 nearly three-quarters of organizations based in the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands failed basic cyber readiness tests.”

“Even though the United States ranks higher than most countries in cyber readiness, its preparedness is still poor enough to concern policy-makers studying the impact of cyber insecurity on the U.S. economy,” it said.  “Data show that the majority of Fortune 500 companies are vulnerable to cyber attacks, and thus fail to take even the most basic security measures.”

“Given the limited preparedness among Fortune 500 companies — manifested by not only the failure to adopt DMARC, but also a range of other cyber vulnerabilities . . . an additional concern is that smaller firms may have even less robust cybersecurity measures in place,” the report said. — Tom Leithauser,

Courtesy TRDaily