Buyers' guide to mobile solutions for emergency services vehicles

Cradlepoint Australia Pty Ltd
Friday, 01 July, 2022


The continued expansion of digital technologies and applications in emergency vehicles goes hand-in-hand with reliance on mobile broadband solutions. From police cars to ambulances, to fire and rescue services, first responders and their support teams need uninterrupted 4G LTE and 5G connectivity wherever they go. Emergency service vehicles are equipped with a broad range of connected technologies, including IoT devices such as surveillance cameras and digital signage, Wi-Fi channels for mobile command centres, telematics systems, automatic vehicle locators (AVL), and much more. Luckily, many of today’s in-vehicle routers and network management platforms are flexible enough to support such diverse needs. However, it’s important for emergency services organisations to match unique agency needs with the best possible solution, taking into account the importance of automatic failover between multiple mobile carriers, data security features, and centralised network management.

The digital transformation of emergency services

In an industry where every second counts, technology and connectivity matter more than ever. First responders use a variety of ruggedised tablets, computers, devices, and applications to reduce response time and keep their communities safer. In addition to outfitting their vehicles with the latest safety and rescue equipment, police, firemen, and paramedics can improve efficiencies with the integration of surveillance cameras, telemetry data, and real-time GPS information.

Choosing a networking solution for vehicles

Enterprise-grade 4G LTE and 5G routers that are purpose-built for vehicles provide secure, reliable connectivity over nationwide cellular networks. And with a cloud-based network management platform in place, IT teams can use dashboards full of rich connectivity and security analytics to centrally make proactive adjustments and perform key troubleshooting duties, instead of having to visit each vehicle every time a change needs to be made. Even the best in-vehicle solutions have key differences to account for prior to a fleetwide purchase and deployment. For example, emergency service IT teams need to decide whether they need automatic failover and failback between multiple carriers for increased reliability.

Option 1: Single-modem router

In a wireless router with an embedded modem featuring two SIM slots, the radio can only connect to one active SIM card at a time, which is a cost-effective option for organisations that have a minimal budget for cellular data usage. The presence of a second SIM within a software-defined modem enables IT teams to easily and remotely change the WAN connection in any vehicle from one cellular carrier to another. Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Service for Mobile and wireless edge routers include SIM-based auto carrier selection. This feature detects the carrier of an installed SIM, loads the correct firmware and configuration settings automatically, then connects.

Technically, wireless failover is possible with single-modem, dual-SIM routers. However, it’s not ideal. When the software detects an outage and switches to the secondary SIM, it can take minutes, not seconds. Further, the system cannot predict whether the second carrier will offer a better connection. If a shift back to the first carrier is necessary, the vehicle could be offline for several minutes.

Option 2: Dual-modem router

Using a wireless router with two carriers active within separate modems is the best way to ensure always-on connectivity in emergency service transportation vehicles. This solution is the only option for providing instant wireless-to-wireless failover, or WAN link redundancy. This is an essential service for emergency response teams who are constantly travelling in and out of good signal areas for particular cellular carriers.

Cradlepoint’s SD-WAN features constantly monitor and measure both cellular connections, using intelligent path selection based on cellular signal strength, throughput, latency, and data plan consumption. The most important traffic — such as GPS and AVL data — can be assigned to the stronger link while less important applications remain connected over the weaker cellular signal. Modems with dual-SIM capabilities enable support for multiple carriers in a single router.

Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Service for Mobile, advanced wireless edge routers, and proprietary software technologies unlock the power of 4G LTE and 5G cellular networks to transform operations for a new era of emergency services.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Hypervision

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