As the world enters what the World Economic Forum is calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution, nations globally are experiencing a series of rapid, momentous changes, the pace and scale of which are unprecedented. The consumerization of IT — driven by technological innovations in mobility, cloud, social, and real-time data — has drastically changed personal communications. As these technology developments continue to outpace the policy and regulatory landscape, organizations responsible for crisis management, emergency notification, and mass communications are struggling to keep up with what citizens, government agencies, and enterprises need in terms of emergency communication capabilities.

At the same time, emergencies are becoming more frequent and more damaging; daily life seems to be increasingly punctuated by unpredictable events like more frequent natural disasters, civil unrest, and surging violence from radical political movements.

Next-generation technology advances in crisis management and communications enable rapid dissemination of critical information, provide continuity of messaging and warning, and help agencies to reduce the time it takes to warn affected populations.

Market Drivers
The emergency communications market is growing quickly as a result of the following key drivers: there is a better understanding of historical communications failures during crises; government regulatory developments around duty of care and interoperability are evolving quickly and are generating interest; the increasing frequency and scale of impact from severe weather and man-made incidents including terror attacks are an inescapable reality forcing agencies to be proactive about emergency communications; cybersecurity attacks are growing in both reach and sophistication; the consumerization of IT is catalyzing interest in next-generation crisis communication solutions; and there is greater organizational and technological collaboration in the public safety ecosystem. The following section discusses each of these market drivers in turn.

  • Several prominent historical communications failures have drawn attention to the importance of resilient communications during crises. System incompatibility, aging technology, lack of planning and collaboration, limited radio spectrum, and lack of device interoperability were historical factors in communications failure and compromised response. For example, during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, siloed, disconnected, and proprietary communications systems were unable to reliably connect emergency responders and maintain situational awareness. Hurricane Katrina highlighted the challenges inherent when using an inadequate communications infrastructure — a situation that led to more severe loss of life. During the Boston Marathon bombings, first responders struggled to communicate with public safety officials because they lacked priority and preemptive access to the communications network when it became overwhelmed with traffic from the general public. Historical communications failures during 9/11, Katrina, and the Boston bombings each demonstrated that in the event of a crisis, the last thing first responders need is for their communications tool to get in the way.
  • Sharp increases in events prompting emergency response/warning — including increases in climate-change-related events, cyber threats, and gun violence — are illuminating the issue. According to recent Emergency Management Database (EM-DAT) data, since the 1970s, the number of recorded natural disaster events (including drought, flooding, forest fires, extreme weather, earthquakes, and volcanic activity) has risen from an average of 80 a year to close to 400 a year (see Figure 1). Similarly, gun violence accounts for 73% of all homicides in the U.S., and 38% in Canada, compared to 3% in England and 13% in Australia.

Technology and Implementation Success Factors
Cities, organizations, and emergency responders are realizing that crisis communications can no longer be handled manually, in a siloed manner, or as an afterthought. Doing so compromises situational awareness and jeopardizes the lives of citizens and first responders. There are a number of critical technological features and implementation success factors that organizations should take note of to optimize their communications.

  • Platform solutions
    Ensure continuity of messaging and warnings. Omni-channel, platform distribution of messaging is a critical solution feature that agencies should prioritize. Not only does this facilitate communications, but instant cross platform distribution can correct misinformation and provide harmonious messaging across channels.
  • Cloud provisioning
    Addresses volume and scale issues. Redundant and smart, leveraging public, private clouds, and on-prem infrastructure provides an optimal mix of scalability and redundancy.
  • Security
    Pivotal, from the core to the tactical edge. Mobile, network, endpoint, and application security are of paramount importance today and have undergone considerable technological innovation recently. Organizations should look for state-of-the-art technology to respond to threats and protect their people’s personal information, including industry-leading security frameworks that are embedded throughout.
  • Friction-free implementations
    The implementation process itself is critically important and is not just a technology play. Implementation and customer support teams should include career command and control, law enforcement, business continuity, and emergency management stakeholders who truly understand day-to-day operations, as well as the business challenges and tools to solve problems. In this way, customer and implementation teams share the same experience and language. By extension, look for proven technology implementations, including experience in public safety and environments in which software implementations are not trivial undertakings.
  • Concept of operations
    The concept of operations (CONOPS) is important. CONOPS provides the logical policy framework and environment that needs to be in place.

Major Forward-Looking Trends
A number of major industry developments, both current and forward-looking, will affect users and suppliers of emergency communications solutions.

  • Disinformation campaigns are a rising threat to trust and security
    As citizens and agencies turn increasingly to social media to spread disaster and incident information, a number of bad actors are engaged in disinformation campaigns. Similar to ransom attacks in cyberwarfare, misinformation and disinformation campaigns are deliberate attempts to deceive and misdirect people in emergencies, increasingly a growing concern. As a result, large agencies like FEMA and the American Red Cross are increasingly turning to emergency communications systems that have security baked into the solution end-to-end so that communications are, without fail, accurate and trusted from an authoritative source.
  • Response fatigue
    Response fatigue refers to a growing phenomenon where citizens
    become numb to the increasing onslaught of mass alerts and
    notifications, putting themselves in further peril. U.S. federal agencies are
    turning to impact-based alerts to address this. Technology that delivers a
    superb user experience and is also smart, targeted, proven, and trusted
    has the ancillary benefit of fighting against growing response fatigue.
  • AI-catalyzed workflow
    AI and predictive analytics are transforming the scope of emergency alerting and response to include predictive impact modeling. This is causing some agencies to change their workflow to generate impact-based warnings and alerts.
  • The growing importance of geolocation data
    Geolocation data is rising in importance throughout the broader business community, and technological advances incorporating these innovations will become increasingly important moving forward. Organizations and providers alike should endeavor to include location-based information as much as possible. Geolocation is pivotal to being able to provide people in an impact zone with a call to action. It is also helpful in preventing people from entering an impacted area or notifying travelers that they could be entering a hot zone of civil unrest.
  • Cloud deployment models
    In particular, those with hybrid capabilities are game changers. Cloud and hybrid deployment model capabilities enable organizations to elastically connect to communicate and collaborate in a crisis without the need for heavy IT implementations and overhead. While these are known strengths today, as we move into a Cloud 2.0 era, where cloud becomes larger, more specialized (as opposed to functioning as an all-purpose workhorse), and increasingly operating at the edge, we can expect further innovations and transformation.

BlackBerry’s mission is to be the world’s leading provider of end-to-end secure, trusted mobile-enabled solutions. Its solutions portfolio helps organizations to secure and protect their expanding networks of connected IoT devices, protect agency data end to end, mobilize business applications across the device ecosystem, provide real-time situational awareness of assets and people, mitigate threats by deploying AI and predictive analytics, and safeguard assets and personnel through its crisis communications and alert offerings.

BlackBerry AtHoc Benefits

Leveraging BlackBerry’s next-generation emergency communications has a number of key benefits for those who use it properly, including:

Challenges
Using the platform’s console for initiating IPAWS, the county is able to send out messages to every cell phone in a given area, but also to a subscribed group of citizens. Households within the county sign up and list who needs to be alerted — husband, wife, adult child (contact information for all their accounts is listed).
One of the challenges BlackBerry faces is around educating the market on the different levels of enterprise-grade solutions; BlackBerry AtHoc is an enterprise-grade solution, and the price point reflects the robustness of the service. BlackBerry is competing against some lightweight solutions that are likely cheaper to deploy. BlackBerry will need to educate the market on crucial differences in the solution offerings and features. If agencies are deploying lightweight solutions, there will be secondary impacts to organizations and citizens that will dovetail into increasing the alert fatigue because solutions are not robust enough. Secondly, the market may underestimate the importance of a highly secure solution, particularly in an era of exploding endpoint device connectivity. Lastly, while BlackBerry has high brand recognition globally, it is not as well known for its crisis alerting systems as it is for other solutions, and agencies might be overlooking it due to lack of awareness.

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Next-Generation Technological Advances in Crisis Communication

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