IoT in vehicles raises safety and efficiency for emergency services

Cradlepoint Australia Pty Ltd

By Jodi Favaloro, Consulting Sales Engineer Asia Pacific, Cradlepoint*
Saturday, 01 July, 2023

IoT in vehicles raises safety and efficiency for emergency services

Technology innovation and the growing use of cloud-based applications is increasingly enabling organisations that operate outside the office to take advantage of in-vehicle connectivity.

Sectors like public safety provide most of their services out in the field, with their fleets and the technologies that connect them being an integral part of their operations. Allied Market Research predicts the fleet management market, valued at $6.4 billion in 2021, will reach $16 billion by 2031. An uptick at that pace demonstrates just how quickly industries, including emergency services, are embracing digital transformation through IoT connected vehicles.

IoT technology using 5G and LTE for vehicles has raised the bar for safety and operational standards across enterprise fleets that want to see their technology investments go further. This presents key opportunities for various sectors, including emergency response agencies, to stay connected with their base, staff, riders and fleets. Let’s explore how.

The evolution of IoT in connected vehicles

IoT-connected vehicles didn’t hit the streets overnight. Many companies have cruised the highway of tech adoption for years with automatic vehicle locators (AVLs) or onboard self-diagnostic (OBD) equipment used to monitor the performance of engines, emissions and driving behaviour. Today — in large part due to the advancements in cellular broadband — vehicle-first organisations have built upon their AVL and OBD foundations to create full-blown mobile offices outfitted with dozens of connected devices from laptops, tablets and inventory management systems to video cameras, specialised sensors and much more.

The data collected and transmitted from IoT-connected vehicles has the ability to increase vehicle utilisation; reduce accidents; lower travel time; improve the experience and safety of drivers, passengers and bystanders; and, for emergency services, to enable clearer, faster and more accurate relaying of critical information, in any format, back to base or to other vehicles. Each of these benefits has materialised as a result of IoT and 4G/5G-connected vehicles evolving to answer fleet management questions and address the following challenges across organisations:

1. Vehicle maintenance

Early in-vehicle technology was often limited to GPS and location services. Today, IoT sensors can deliver considerably more detailed vehicle information to fleet operators, as well as trigger alerts in the case of tyre pressure drops, coolant temperature changes and more. This information gives fleet managers time to intervene before a vehicle is out of service, meaning public safety vehicles are always ready for emergencies out in the field.

2. Fleet management

As the number of IoT devices per vehicle continues to rise, it’s becoming increasingly important to rely on lean IT teams to service in-vehicle wireless routers remotely through a cloud-based platform. With connected licence plate recognition devices, safety vests, smoke masks, facial recognition body cameras and fire hoses relying on always-on connectivity, 5G vehicle routers enable faster, more secure data transmission while giving IT teams the ability to monitor and manage the routers from anywhere.

3. Driver accountability

Particularly in the case of public safety and services, agencies must have a clear picture of employee activity away from main offices. IoT-connected vehicle technology resolves this issue. For example, IoT sensors can notify headquarters of the who, when and where in the event of an emergency key box opening or trigger video recording when a firearm is pulled from its rack in a police cruiser.

Sensors can also track the routes taken by vehicles in fire or flood emergencies, enabling advice on optimal routes with the help of connected aerial drones.

4. Staff and rider safety

In case of an emergency — whether that be a child who never made it on to the school bus or a police cruiser missing from its routine patrol — IoT sensors can provide location information for unresponsive units and accountability data at a rate that far surpasses the efficiency of search parties or word-of-mouth reports.

5. Information security

Without a mobile security solution in place, the transfer of patient health records, past offences and other critical information captured through sensors, cameras and onboard devices can be an organisational security risk. 5G vehicle routers provide enhanced security with zero trust networks today while holding the promise of fortified security and performance services such as network slicing in the future.

Popular use cases for IoT in vehicles

Although different industries deploy in-vehicle IoT in different ways, organisations across the globe can agree that the proliferation of 5G for vehicles has helped IT teams overcome fleet management challenges and ushered in a new era of performance, security, reliability, reach and rapid scale. Common use cases for IoT in vehicles include:


In vehicles, video is primarily used for surveillance and documentation. Similar to cameras on a police cruiser, public buses can have upwards of 15 cameras placed throughout the vehicle for passenger security and crash documentation. 5G and LTE for vehicles enable video footage to be transmitted live or wirelessly offloaded at stations.


Put simply, telematics measure where, when and how much. On most vehicles, telemetry devices may measure vitals such as time until the next oil change, mileage, battery runtime or even water pump levels on a fire engine. Cellular telemetry such as signal strength and data plan usage can also be leveraged for most effective use.

Sensors and switches

Sensors and switches are highly customised IoT devices that can trigger automatic responses or collect mission-critical data. For example, a fire engine siren can trigger streetlight controls to expedite response times, an automatic notification can be sent to headquarters when an ambulance’s narcotic cabinet is opened and a sensor can trigger an alert when a firearm is removed from a police officer’s holster. Each of these action–reaction relationships gives operators a clear picture of driver and passenger behaviour, allowing them to fine-tune fleet safety and efficiencies.

Digital signage

Digital signage on public safety vehicles uses high-bandwidth, low-latency cellular broadband to display up-to-date wayfinding announcements, route changes or risk warnings in areas that might be experiencing fire or flood events.

Pinpointing the best IoT solution for vehicles

When deciding what type of solutions and features a public safety agency needs for IoT connected vehicles, there are a few important questions to consider:

What challenges will a 5G-connected vehicle solve?

A 5G vehicle router not only opens up access to the 5G network, but also 4G through dual connectivity, providing always-on connectivity for vehicles. Some vehicle routers also provide a dual modem option, enabling the router to select the optimal carrier connection based on cellular telemetry.

If a fleet needs to be able to maintain connectivity under physical pressures such as extreme weather, shock, vibration or humidity, a ruggedised router can be installed — even on the roof.

How will information be gathered and managed?

An IoT connected fleet generates a significant amount of diverse, real-time data. If this data isn’t processed or analysed quickly, it isn’t helpful. To make the most of it, agencies must ensure they have a simple, cloud-based management system to view patterns and performance.

What additional functionality can be automated with the right equipment?

Support for extensibility — such as containers for edge computing or computing directly on the vehicle router — creates opportunities for custom data capture and processing. For example, a custom application used on a fire truck can be developed that tracks which areas have been back-burnt ahead of bushfire seasons.

Connected vehicle growth is on the move, and the right IoT connected vehicle solution for fleets will simplify connectivity, enable cloud management of operational complexities and increase efficiencies and safety for emergency services.

*Jodi Favaloro has extensive experience in the telco sector — she has been at Cradlepoint for three years, and previously spent a year as a solutions architect at Macquarie Telecom Group. Prior to that, Jodi spent 23 years working in technical roles at Optus.

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