In-Vehicle Computing Enables Onboard SD-WAN for First Responders

By Maulik Upala

Product Marketing Manager

Lanner Electronics

May 05, 2021


In-Vehicle Computing Enables Onboard SD-WAN for First Responders
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First Responders can leverage connected vehicle technology to improve and ensure their communications.

Before and during the terrorist attacks from September 11, 2001, the first responders relied only on commercial and radio networks. At the time of the 9/11 crisis, these commercial networks were overwhelmed. And although agencies could communicate with their radios, they couldn’t operate across agencies. Police couldn't talk with EMS and firefighters, and vice-versa.

It was only after 9/11, that the First Responders Network Authority (FirstNet) became a reality. The FirstNet grew out of that awful crisis and turned it into what it is known today: "A reliable, dedicated, and high-speed nationwide wireless broadband network entirely dedicated to public safety."

Lessons Learned

Communication is a mission-critical factor for first responders. Disruption of communication even only for a couple of seconds during an emergency can be detrimental to saving a life. First responders need to communicate with other teams, headquarters, and to transfer information, efficiently and immediately.

When police, fire, or EMS vehicles are dispatched to rural areas or offshore, where the quality of the network is often poor and unreliable, they run the risk of handling situations without support. Maybe they need more backup but can’t connect to headquarters, or maybe they are lacking essential information about a situation that headquarters is unable to transfer.

But it gets more challenging for first responders when they need to handle situations in densely populated areas where the networks are down. For example, during catastrophic events that can bring down the network in entire regions, or during events like sports or concerts, where commercial users are consuming too much bandwidth for non-essential activities— how can first responders ensure communications?

Whatever the case, first responders need nationwide prioritization, speed, capacity, and reliable network coverage. When it comes to public safety, they need to be served first and they need to be served with the highest quality.

FirstNet solves most of these communication challenges. But still, it gives room for more innovation. Today, FirstNet is harnessing the power of the private sector to build, operate, and improve the First Responder's network.

Connecting First Responder’s Vehicles

The key to improving first responder’s communication is to utilize connected vehicle technology— which comprises multiple modems and intelligent routing.

But of course, deploying connected vehicle technology in an entire first responder's fleets is no easy task. The mobile and rugged nature of first responder vehicle networks present challenges regarding connectivity, central management, QoS, and signal coverage.

Connected vehicle technology enables seamless communication with headquarters, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), or even Vehicle Area Networks (VANs). For example, WiFi or short-range communications can connect nearby vehicles from different departments (Fire, Police, EMS) together, or even a nearby fire fighter’s AR intelligent helmet to the fire truck. And to provide reliable long-range connections to the cloud or Wide Area Networks (WANs) to the first responder’s headquarters, an SD-WAN appliance can help intelligently select the right path. 

An in-vehicle SD-WAN can take multiple links (FirstNet and commercial LTE) and bond them into a single one. This solution helps eliminate dead coverage spots, provide seamless failover, load balance, traffic-shaping, and even improve security and bandwidth.

How Can SD-WAN Impact First Responder’s Communication?

FirstNet is harnessing the power of the private sector to build, operate, and improve the first responder's network. This public-private partnership is helping transform the pace and quality of the First Responder's network innovation. An example is Lanner’s FirstNet-ready SD-WAN solution designed for vehicles.

An in-vehicle SD-WAN solution provides the cloud-based management, broadband connectivity, and in-vehicle routing platform that the first responders' fleet networks need. With SD-WAN, the first responder’s vehicles can automatically change to the best WAN available connection at any given time and place. SD-WAN can combine different types of access technologies, including mobile broadband (FirstNet or commercial) and even satellite communication. It will dynamically adjust to different WAN links based on their capacity and bandwidth to ensure better communications for the moving vehicle.

For example, the in-vehicle SD-WAN can adjust to a better WAN link when the current connection reaches lower latency and jitter. For example, use FirstNet or commercial LTE in cities and change to satellite links in remote areas or offshore seas.

An In-vehicle SD-WAN for FirstNet

An in-vehicle solution such as Lanner’s V4G with PGN-600 is optimized for SD-WAN. It creates an unbreakable FirstNet-ready SD-WAN for police, fire, or EMS. The V4G is designed for rugged in-vehicle networks and comes with multi-modems. V4G can also be expanded (with PGN-600) to access FirstNet.

The V4G in-vehicle router acts as the SD-WAN edge appliance, which connects back to the headquarters running the SD-WAN controller or orchestrator. So, the first responder can forget about technology and focus on saving lives.

The in-vehicle SD-WAN appliance with FirstNet support can leverage the benefits of FirstNet itself, but can also use CBRS and commercial networks to ensure that communication is always on, is reliable, high-quality, and that data is transferred safely.

First responders can do their work unthrottled and anywhere they are. With a FirstNet-ready SD-WAN solution they can receive the information they need on-demand, fast, and without concern about their location.

Maulik Upala is Product Marketing Manager at Intelligent Edge Computing business unit of Lanner Electronics Inc and is responsible for developing product positioning concepts, marketing strategies, decomposing commercial go-to-market plans and analyzing edge computing market trends.

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