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How Wearables Can Improve Public Safety

Author: Gabe Grifoni

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2015-10-01
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First responders traditionally used radios to communicate in addition to laptops to organize tasks.  While these may be effective enough, emerging technology can drastically improve the response time, communication and organization of the public safety industry.  In the near future, WiFi mesh networks broadcast from mobile satellite linked trucks will allow first responders to communicate in remote areas without a direct Internet or cellular/mobile data connection. Cellular is usually the first thing to go in an emergency situation so a BYON - “bring-your-own-network” - situation for responders is usually necessary for communication during life-saving situations. In addition to mobile WiFi, an increasing number of cities are adding WiFi networks as well as looking to build non-public, exclusive emergency response networks.

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With wearables tied to Bluetooth Beacons and harnessing the power of GPS, responders will know the exact location of their team in a building or out in the field, enabling them to be more responsive during a crisis. More importantly, wearable technology will harness the abilities of WiFi mesh networks, Beacons and powerful communication applications to improve public safety and streamline tasks, which allows responders to move more quickly to the areas where aid is needed. Motion sensors and tracking also allow wearables to monitor the responders themselves, keeping them safe and connected to their team and central command. First responders that may need help can easily be tracked and nearby responders pinged and sent to them.

Heads-up displays, wrist wearables, connected apparel, and other applications will provide an incredible amount of data to public safety managers. In addition to location- and movement-based sensors like GPS and accelerometers, future public safety workers will be outfitted with wearables that sense vitals and air quality.  Embedded sensors will provide team managers with a range of data to more effectively take action in the protection of both responders and citizens.

Moreover, we will see more and more wearable cameras deployed on public safety officers to provide case evidence and improve accountability. Wearables with video cameras will also allow officers to communicate in real time, giving teams a first person accurate display of the situation at hand.

The biggest challenges facing a technology overhaul are the cost to outfit our heroes with updated hardware and to develop the software. Increased pressure from communities is forcing government officials to begin updating the technologies supporting our law enforcement and emergency medical services. New pilot programs through local governments and the Department of Homeland Security are gaining steam and will soon provide data on real world applications. These pilot programs are necessary and key to improvement. Once deployed successfully, wearables will allow responders to do their jobs faster, better, and safer.  Wearable technology, in many forms, will become standard hardware for law enforcement and responders.

Gabe Grifoni, CEO and Co-Founder of Rufus Labs, is a lifelong tinkerer who grew up building inventions in his grandfather’s hardware store and rebuilding household appliances. Utilizing his multi-faceted background, Gabe leads the Rufus Labs team from both a creative and technical standpoint as they create the world’s first wrist communicator that can function as a standalone device. For more information, see 


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