In this article originally published by TM Forum, Stuart Walsh, Field Product Director at Creativity Software, discusses the challenges of location intelligence for public safety and how to address them to better plan and react to events. It tackles location data sourcing, treatment & storage, visualisation & analysis. 

As public safety agencies are striving to gain location intelligence to fulfil their missions to safeguard the public, location analytics is becoming increasingly important. The demands for greater planning and faster reaction to public safety events are being driven by governments and organizations like the European Emergency Number Association (EENA). In the modern and fast-moving world, governments need to plan for public safety events (disasters, terrorism, pandemics, etc.) and react to these events in a fast and efficient manner. In order to effectively carry out location analytics to help ensure public safety, three key elements are required:

  • Location data sourcing
  • Location data treatment and storage
  • Location visualization and analysis

Location data sourcing

One of the biggest challenges for public safety analysts is getting access to accurate and timely location data for analysis. Typical sources vary from cloud sources (web and mobile apps) to communication networks (mobile and WiFi). The reality is that all sources of location data need to be consolidated to provide the best picture for location analytics.

Location data from cloud sources

Location data from cloud sources are wide and varied.  Typically, location data gathered from mobile apps makes up a large portion and provides the widest picture of location intelligence. Mobile apps typically use GPS from the mobile phones to determine location, but other sources are utilized such as Wi-Fi nodes. As the main operating system providers in the market today (Google, Apple) are focusing on ensuring location data is not shared, it is envisaged that this source may become fractured in the coming years.

Location data from communications networks

Location data from communications networks is generated by mobile networks, Wi-Fi providers and Internet Service Providers. Such location data is more consistent and reliable as the data is generated from the communication network itself and does not rely on open sources. Location data is generated typically by the user’s proximity to network nodes (mobile/Wi-Fi cells etc.). The challenge here is the requirement to work with a variety of companies and attempt to coordinate and rationalize the location data received. This approach also relies on government legislation for the companies to generate and release the data.

The impact of 5G and IoT

While 5G and IoT will allow for greater location accuracy, the challenge of getting the data will increase exponentially due to the sheer volume of data and data sources. However, with the right expertise and technologies in place, the benefits of location intelligence for public safety can be multiplied with the advent of 5G and IoT.

Location data treatment and storage

Once the location data is obtained, it needs to be treated and stored for analysis. Location data treatment entails two main tasks:

  • Anonymization (when required): This has become a priority with the advent of rules like GDPR. Any identification of an individual’s location will need to be removed.
  • Location calculation and verification: All sources of data will need to be complied and turned in reliable/accurate location information. Artificial intelligence (AI) offers some great capability to both calculate accurate locations and identify trends in people movement which would take humans much longer to carry out. Indoor location calculation remains one of the greatest challenges for location analytics.

With the sheer number of data points available for location analytics, selecting the right storage solution to allow easy and timely access for analysis is key. Depending on the length of time required (3-5+ years) and the population of that country, the data stored could become truly enormous.  There are solutions available to handle petabytes of data and beyond.

Cloud storage solutions are starting to become acceptable mechanisms for storing vast quantities of data reliably and securely.

Location visualization and analysis

Once the location data is stored, it is crucial to have the right tools that will enable the concerned authorities to analyze the data and gain the intelligence required to effectively plan and respond to events. Geographic Information System (GIS) and mapping technologies combined with Location Intelligence provides the ideal mechanism to analyze where people are located during a specific event and also over a certain period of time.

Location intelligence for planning purposes

For planning purposes, it is key to public safety that the right location data is obtained to ensure the required support and services are available in order to respond to emergencies and most importantly prevent disasters. For example:

  • By being able to visualize where people spend their time during busy periods, agents/services can be deployed in the right locations at the right time ready to act in case of emergencies.
  • Trends can be examined over time as people migrate to different areas ensuring adequate continuous planning and adjustments.
  • Historical analysis can be carried out to understand how people reacted in an emergency situation and lessons learnt from their movements to ensure the required infrastructure and services are in place for future events.
  • During a pandemic, you can analyze whether people are adhering to lockdown or curfew rules

Location intelligence to better respond to events

When responding to an event, location analytics can be utilized in relative real-time to help public safety agencies to focus their resources in the right place and message the public appropriately. For example:

  • During a terrorist event, analytics can be used to understand if people are moving towards the danger area and utilize public warning systems to message them to stay away or take refuge in an appropriate location.
  • During a pandemic, analytics can help authorities to react quickly when there is an outbreak and take adequate action to ensure it is contained.

Location data provides valuable insights that are critical for the work of public safety organizations. By gaining historical and real-time location intelligence, they can anticipate trends and plan accordingly as well as react effectively to live events.

Article originally published by TM Forum, January 2022

Author: Stuart Walsh, Field Product Director, Creativity SoftwareStuart is a consultative technical leader with over 25+ years’ experience helping customers deliver solutions for success. Leader of the product division at Creativity Software. Passionate about introducing next generation solutions/services to Network Operators and Enterprises.