Fan Security Should be a Priority in Stadium Connectivity Plans

April 22nd, 2014

DUNKER_LOWWith the NBA playoffs just getting started, it seems fitting to examine wireless connectivity inside stadiums.

While great emphasis is placed on fan engagement, is fan safety being overlooked?

The following article by SOLiD president Seth Buechley recently appeared in the Stadium Tech Report from Mobile Sports Report (SOLiD is a sponsor).

(The Stadium Tech Report provides research and analysis of Wi-Fi and DAS deployments at NBA arenas, with team-by-team research for all 30 NBA franchises as well as detailed case studies on deployments at Barclays Center, Staples Center and Amway Center – it’s free to download!)

When it comes to the debate on whether fans prefer the home theater or the stadium experience, I wonder if we are asking the right question. What used to be an unspoken concern about whether sporting events are best enjoyed at home or live has become a huge, often talked-about worry for the sports industry. But even as more technology is brought into stadiums to enhance the fan experience, I wonder if technology should be used first to answer a more basic question: Do fans feel safe at the game?

Venue owners and content providers alike are pulling out all the stops toward the goal of keeping fans entertained and engaged. In-stadium investment and innovations to enhance fan engagement abound; from massive LED video boards, live twitter feeds, half-time live entertainment, and kitschy games of picking the right car or mascot to win the derby, venue operators feel the pressure to meet rising fan entertainment expectations.

But what about just keeping fans safe? Following several well-publicized incidents of stadium violence California recently passed Assembly Bill 2464, the Improving Personal Safety at Stadiums Act, authored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), requiring major-league sports stadiums in California to clearly post the numbers fans can use to call or text-message stadium security.

“Many parents have told me that they are afraid to take their kids to a ballgame,” said Gatto. “This law will allow fans to report incidents to stadium security before they escalate out of control.” Indeed, several of the more high-profile beatings lasted over a span of several minutes, during which frantic fans dialed 911. In those instances, it is stadium security (from within the stadium) and not the police (coming from outside the stadium) who is best equipped to quickly respond and prevent an injury from becoming more serious. Not surprisingly, mobile phones play a critical role in complying with the new law – a law designed to make people feel safe, and perhaps more eager to come to the live event instead of just staying home to watch it on TV.

Fortunately, many professional and major-university stadiums and arenas have taken steps to improve cellular service by installing Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) to serve wireless operators. But even with that recent progress, there are still many stadiums where users cannot make cellular calls or text, either due to insufficient network capacity or because their particular cellular provider is not operating on the DAS.

SETH3On a recent trip to CenturyLink Field, home of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, one could see a well-coordinated effort toward using technology to make fans feel safer. The stadium is fully equipped with a DAS providing reliable cell coverage and throughout the stadium there are prominent signs reminding fans to “Support Your Team With Class” followed by an invitation to text ‘Hawk12’ for assistance. During pre-game the massive end zone video boards are used to show emergency exit routing by sections.

These tactics serve as practical examples of how progressive venues use technology to address often-unspoken safety concerns fans feel in the midst of large crowds. When people cannot use their smartphones to communicate they feel less safe. If a phone doesn’t work in a hotel, hospital or shopping mall people may just feel disconnected.

When a phone doesn’t work in a raucous crowd of 50,000 people, personal and family safety become legitimate concerns. Add a drunk fan or two with deafening crowd noise, and being able to connect with local stadium security can potentially become a big deal. Even simple matters of making plans to meet someone within the stadium become difficult or impossible with no cellular coverage.

In every day life, people have grown accustomed to accessing their needs instantly via their mobile devices. Therefore stadiums with reliable cellular service are safer for fans – and most importantly to the Television vs. Stadium debate, people feel it. If fans don’t get a hot dog or can’t find the beverage they prefer, their game-day experience may suffer a small bit. But if they go to a game and find they can’t connect at all, the question of whether or not they and their family feel safe in the stadium may have an outsized influence on whether they return or not. Stadiums using technology to keep fans connected to the outside world and local security will earn the trust of their fans. Entertainment is good, but feeling safe is paramount.

Small Cell Turbo Lag

April 9th, 2014

IMG_0288Remember those Saab 900′s from the 90′s?

When you punched the accelerator, there was a significant hesitation – or turbo lag – while the turbo spooled up and boost kicked in.

That’s what’s going on with small cells.

Now, that might sound disingenuous from a company that is currently best-known in North America as a DAS (Distributed Antenna System) manufacturer.

(In Korea, we’re better-known as the optical transport innovators whose fronthaul solution has enabled SK Telecom’s Centralized RAN LTE strategy)

So let’s be clear… Small Cells are coming. Deployment will be widespread. The total addressable market will be big. And SOLiD will be an active participant.

But not just yet.

Ball of Confusion

IMG_0300Late last year, a prominent industry analyst quipped during a briefing that “Small cell hype had outpaced reality.”

Both hype and reality were on display at two industry events hosted in New York City last week: NEDAS Spring New York City Conference  and Wi-Fi & Small Cells North America 2014.

For instance, we heard from a presenter who declared that small cells will provide capacity for stadiums at one-tenth of the cost of DAS.

Yet just last year, we asked AT&T’s Paula Doublin during a panel at the DAS and Small Cell Congress about deploying small cells in stadiums. Her response was that you need to choose the right tool for the job. In other words, there’s a business and technology use case for small cells but, according to her, it’s not likely to be in a stadium.

(Note that in the new and brilliant AT&T commercials that it is DAS that’s being deployed in the stadium and small cells in the office)

As a moderator, Monica Paolini at Senza Fili Consulting candidly confessed that the widespread rollout of small cells is a lot more challenging and taking a lot longer than the original vision.

So What’s The Hold-up?

IMG_0306Bryan Brooks knows all about small cell turbo lag.

We met Bryan last year at this same conference where he rhetorically asked a panelist when his company (Pavlov Media is the largest private provider of broadband services to off-campus student housing) would be able to deploy small cells. He’s still waiting, checkbook in hand.

The “Overcoming Hurdles of Integrating Small Cells in LTE Networks” panel attempted to explore this topic.

According to Joe Zeto at Ixia, the issues slowing down small cell deployment center around coordination between small cells and the macro network, and the maturity of SON technology to manage this. 

We believe that three things need to happen to enable the widespread deployment of small cells:

  1. A repeatable business process must be created to address real estate concerns for outdoor small cell deployments for both aesthetics and backhaul requirements.
  2. Network design and commissioning needs to be automated and deployment must be simplified to be akin to Wi-Fi access points.
  3. Small cells must be neutral host to support myriad operators and services.

Our friend Vlad Jevremovic at iBwave does a great job of explaining the challenges and critical success factors for deploying small cells in a new blog post. It’s both timely and highly informative thought leadership. 

These discussions are both necessary and positive for advancing small cell deployment.

Your Turn

Are you observing small cell turbo lag in the market? Tell us about it in the comments below!

The Gravitational Pull of FirstNet

April 3rd, 2014

IMG_0260IWCE 2104 continues to demonstrate the gravitational influence of FirstNet in pulling together the public-safety and cellular industries.

(As evidence, iBwave, a company traditionally focused on the cellular industry, recently joined the Safer Buildings Coalition)

Sure, IWCE still skews heavily toward public-safety based on the the big booths from Kenwood, Motorola and Harris).

However, there is also a growing contingent of OEMs and SIs from the cellular world who are introducing new strategies such as small cells for solving both cellular and public-safety communications needs.

This trend is further reflected in multiple educational sessions that poignantly declared that a lack of indoor public safety communication could be a fatal flaw.

Robert LeGrande, the former CTO of Washington, DC, shared during the “Overcoming Hurdles to Ensure In-building Communications” panel hosted by the Safer Buildings Coalition (SOLiD is a founding member) that with the FirstNet public safety broadband network, the industry is at a revolutionary point of change and that it is vital not to leave buildings behind. (Watch Rob’s video interview from APCO 2013)

For more from IWCE, check out our Twitter feed from IWCE and see coverage in Urgent Communications.

And here’s what we blogged about last year.

What struck you as noteworthy this year at IWCE?

 

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A sneak peek at our soon to be released public safety-only DAS solution

 

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Ken Rehbehn (Yankee Group), Chief Alan Perdue (Safer Buildings Coalition), John Facella (RCC Consultants) and Robert LeGrand (The Digital Decision)

 

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Team SOLiD

 

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Elvis has left the building (as found in LVH)

 

 

 

DAS Matters Now More Than Ever

March 18th, 2014

As a manufacturer of indoor and outdoor wireless network densification solutions, we keep a bird’s eye view of the industry to spot market and technology trends. So it was with keen interest that we observed multiple articles and reports originating from the recently-concluded Mobile World Congress touting the comeback of DAS or Distributed Antenna Systems.

Really? We didn’t know DAS was purportedly on the outs.

Fact is, global spending on DAS deployments has been trending upward year-over-year for – well – years.

ABI Trend(Source: ABI Research, 2012)

And in spite of the justifiable industry attention to small cells, DAS matters now more than ever in ensuring capacity and coverage for wireless services.

Why?

The majority of wireless calls occur indoors where a combination of building materials and a high density of users at a specific location adversely impact the quality of service the outside tower-based macro cellular network. The requirement for coverage and capacity is amplified by the increasing trend toward Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) workplace policies.

DAS is inherently the best strategy for enabling capacity and coverage inside large buildings and arenas, campuses, outdoor venues and in dense urban environments.

Only DAS provides a single platform capable of supporting multiple wireless operators and other services such as essential 2-way radio and public-safety communications.

(We predict municipal codes will increasing require enhanced indoor public-safety communications to attain new building occupancy and will eventually extend to existing buildings.)

And building owners prefer the single infrastructure benefit of DAS. Put simply, deploying multiple, parallel infrastructure is not cost effective, it’s disruptive and it’s not aesthetically pleasing.

It’s these market problems DAS manufacturers seek to address in the evolution and revolution of DAS solutions.

In an evolutionary step, DAS is going to get smaller, lighter, greener, smarter, more powerful and provide more bands.

And in a revolutionary step, DAS will take the form of a single, all-fiber, carrier-grade and enterprise-ready platform with fiber-fed antennas and power at the edge to support RF (think cellular and public-safety communications) and IP (think Wi-Fi, CCTV, Building Automation) services and applications.

It’s going to require a ‘tool box’ approach to achieve network densification both indoors and outdoors. DAS, like small cells, will play a significant role.

What do you think?

(Note: This post was authored by Ken Sandfeld and was originally published on the Panduit Connections blog)

Jetlag & Powerful Connections at Mobile World Congress 2014

March 3rd, 2014

IMG_20140222_105905_697[1]Mobile World Congress is a mashup of experiential perspectives.

If you’re a glass-is-half-empty type, MWC is about sleep deprivation. 45-minute waits in the queue at the metro or taxi stand. And sore feet (our friend Zoran Kehler at Reverb Networks says he averaged 15,000+ steps per day based upon his Nike Fuel Band!).

If you’re the glass-is-half-full type, it’s the chance to connect with global business and technology partners to initiate solutions that will be showcased next year in Barcelona. Swill caipirinhas with FierceWireless editors Mike Dano and Phil Goldstein at 1:30 AM. Or share a taxi with Damon Wayans.

MWC is also full of contradictions.

In spite of drawing more than 85,000 attendees, MWC is an incredibly cozy event where one is constantly bumping into current and former colleagues among the sea of people.

And even though the only common denominator in the Fira Gran Via is mobile, friends such as iBwave say MWC and the unfocused sprawl across eight enormous exhibit halls is by far the most impactful conference on their event calendar.

So, what did we learn?

A common theme was that the industry continues to struggle to discern between the slideware and facts surrounding the use of indoor and outdoor small cells to solve for network densification.

Last fall, Ken Rehbehn at Yankee Group quipped that small cell hype had outpaced reality. And many attendees at MWC were inquiring where the small cells are.

It’s long been our position that small cells are not the death knell for Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) as some have previously suggested. Widespread deployment of small cells is inevitable, but DAS isn’t going away. Rather, both will play important roles in a pragmatic “toolbox” approach.

Which ushers in a related topic: backhaul strategies for network densification. Which appears to be the elephant in the room compared to the hot topic of small cells (our friend analyst Iain Gillott at iGR previously blogged about this).

Much ado has justifiably been made of wireless backhaul technologies. Yet industry experts at last year’s Small Cells World Summit told us that wireless operators prefer fiber when it is available. And through our experience in working with wireless operators in South Korea, we know that interference from everyday occurrences such as buses, rainstorms and – er – bird poop can significantly impact wireless backhaul QoS.

Fact is, given the scarcity of real estate and business process to ubiquitously roll out densification strategies such as oDAS and small cells, backhaul similarly requires a toolkit approach.

We’ll have more on these topics in future posts.

For a concise and spot-on (in our opinion) take on MWC 2014, check out Frank Rayal‘s (Xona Partners) post: Observations on MWC 2014 – My Takeaways.

And now for the photos…

 

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Team SOLiD celebrating another successful week in Barcelona

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Before: Building our stand

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After: Ready to greet visitors

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Flamenco dancing during Pepcom’s MobileFocus Global pre-event cocktail

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Ken Sandfeld showcases SOLiD’s new products for RCR Wireless’s Jeff Mucci

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Sue Marek (FierceWireless), Jinsung Choi (SK Telecom), Kris Rinne (AT&T), Aicha Evans (Intel), Chris Pearson (4G Americas) & Rasmus Hellberg (Qualcomm) present during the Road to LTE Advanced luncheon

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SOLiD’s Cloud RAN solutions will play a role in the Road to LTE Advanced

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The ongoing construction of Gaudi’s Sagrada Família

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Gaudi’s Barcelona Cathedral

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La Rambla

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One of the many vendors at La Boqueria off La Rambla

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A ghost town. The Fira Gran Via clears out fast. See you in 2015!

Racking Up Industry Event Travel Miles

February 12th, 2014

Last June, Gordon Mansfield (AT&T, Small Cell Forum) and I traded war stories after his Small Cells World Summit had concluded in London on all the events we had attended and traveled to in the first half of the year.

The SOLiD Team attends of a lot of industry events for the simple reason that they’re great learning opportunities.

Where else can you listen to buyers talk candidly about the problems they’re wrestling with? Or observe market and technology trends? Or network with potential buyers and partners?

We’ve already participated in multiple events including Verizon’s IBTUF, BICSI and ACFEA West (with our partner Panduit).

Here’s where we’re going next.

Plus, stay tuned to hear about our half-day learning summits coming to a town near you in 2014!

So where are you going? Contact us to meet.

mwc logoExhibitor: Hall 7, Stand 7D79

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Presenter: Overcoming Hurdles to Ensure In-Building Communications
Exhibitor: Booth 2100

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Sponsor
Presenter: Small Cell versus DAS Debate
Presenter: Public Safety

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Platinum Sponsor

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Sponsor & Presenter

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Sponsor

Lessons from a Winemaker

January 30th, 2014

We had the chance to spend a day in Napa last week during our Annual Company Meeting where we met Tom Davies, President of V. Sattui Winery.

Aside from being a great host (check them out – fun wines, amazing Cheese Shop & Italian Deli, and stunning grounds), Tom is an insightful business leader whose stories about the winery were inspirational.

Four things resonated with our team…

Doing Things Differently

Tom likes to camouflage his business acumen by saying he’s a farmer. But it’s clear he and the winery are pioneers.

V. Sattui pioneered not only the wine tour experience – by being the first in Napa to invite the public to come to the winery and hang out on the property by providing picnic tables – but also the wine retail business – by establishing the first direct-to-consumer wine club.

Doing things differently is a key part of what makes SOLiD unique.

Such as tailoring the ALLIANCE distributed antenna system (DAS) around the requirements of building owners. Or warehousing products on-site and pre-configuring gear to fulfill orders within days (not weeks) and to simplify field deployments.

 

Doing Whatever it Takes

Before the winery scaled and deployed modern technology, Tom helped cork bottles by hand.

SOLiD is no stranger to heroics. From getting on a plane to be on-site the next day to troubleshoot or racing to the airport with a part because we missed a freight cutoff, we’re committed to moving mountains for our customers.

 

Always Be Advancing

Tom describes a healthy paranoia of not letting the winery’s success distract from the hunger to advance.

Even though V. Sattui pioneered the direct-to-consumer retail model, the winery has continued to challenge itself to innovate and improve.

Similarly, although V. Sattui Director of Winemaking Brooks Painter was recently recognized as “Winemaker of the Year” at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, the winery continues to push to safeguard from losing its edge.

In spite of our success at SOLiD, we’re energized every day to raise the bar by innovating technology, leading the industry with new initiatives, delivering “wow” to our customers, and working with the best and the brightest in the industry (we’re hiring!).

 

Building a Wonderful Brand

Tom pinpoints Quality, Value and Service as key attributes of the V. Sattui brand and is dogmatic in protecting and preserving it.

At SOLiD, our brand is about Creativity, Honesty and Reliability.

Or, as the mnemonic that Dr. Lee offered our team:

  • S = Solid professionals
  • O = Open minds
  • L = Leadership
  • I = Integrity
  • D = Dream (about the future)

 

We look forward to applying these lessons from a winemaker to our business. Let us know how we’re doing.

 

Expect Something Grand

January 29th, 2014

Team SOLiD gathered in San Francisco last week to celebrate another record-breaking year and to focus on achieving our goals for 2014.

Like last year, there is much to be excited about.

We not only doubled our sales but we also doubled the size of our team!

A key milestone in 2013 was the move to our new U.S. headquarters which features a vastly expanded logistical center which enables us to lead the industry by fulfilling orders within days, not weeks. Additionally, the building hosts our SOLiD University training classroom – a state of the art learning center which provides customers and partners with hands-on, instructor-led training that utilizes the latest, proven training and retention techniques.

Throughout the year, we had the privilege to participate in notable projects such as the Phase I Launch of wireless service at the New York City Subway and to help lead industry initiatives such as identifying solutions for achieving public-safety communications inside large buildings.

Hands down, the most inspirational message was presented by Dr. Seung Hee Lee, CEO of our parent company in Seoul, Korea. In a brief history lesson, Dr. Lee explained that the Korean Lunar Year resets every 60 years and suggested a pattern…

In what he described as “the beginning”, Dr. Lee recounted that 1894 was a year for dramatic change that affected the course of history for Korea. 60 years later in 1954, the end of the Korean War ushered in a rebuilding from the ground up which has culminated in today’s modern Korea. Now, as we embark on the next cycle, Dr. Lee believes that we should expect “something grand” in 2014.

You bet we do!

SOLiD President Seth Buechley Kicks Off the 2014 Company Meeting

 

A Look Back at 2013

 

Seth Buechley Welcomes SOLiD CEO Dr. Seung Hee Lee

 

 

Team SOLiD Listens Intently to the Presentation

Team SOLiD Listens Intently to the Presentation

 

Whoa – There’s A Lot More Us Than Last Year!

 

Hanging Out at V. Sattui Winery

 

Sauvignon Blanc or the Cabernet?

 

You Gotta Swirl the Glass…

 

Tom Davies (President of V. Sattui Winery) Addresses Team SOLiD

 

2014 Predictions for the Wireless Industry

January 2nd, 2014

We trust our friends in the wireless industry enjoyed the holiday season.

Before we hunker down and get back to business, here are our industry predictions for 2014.

(Note: This article was originally published in the December 2013 edition of AGL Magazine)

A Look Back

Over the last 12 months, we at SOLiD have observed two fundamental trends in the wireless communications industry.

First, out of the buzz surrounding Small Cells has emerged a more rational and pragmatic conversation for solving densification issues that applies a tool box approach that consists of Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), Small Cells and Wi-Fi.

Second, FirstNet – by virtue of a Board that consists of both cellular and public-safety stakeholders – has nudged the two industries closer together to explore converged solutions to disparate problems.

It is these key trends that drive our predictions for 2014.

Network Densification

Alright, I’ll just go and say it: Small Cell deployments won’t roll out as quickly as the industry suggests. I realize this may sound self-serving coming from a company that is best-known for its DAS solutions. However, it’s not about technology; instead, it’s about the delays due to the inherent complexity of obtaining approvals and permits from municipalities to place radios on street furniture.

Necessity spawns innovation so, to address street furniture and street pillar concerns, Outdoor DAS and Small Cells are going to get smaller, lighter, greener, more powerful and provide more bands.

Single infrastructure will rule the day. Outdoors, we’ll start to see street furniture that is capable of supporting DAS, Small Cells and Wi-Fi technology. Indoors, we’ll begin to see next generation in-building solutions that take the form of a single, all-fiber, carrier-grade and enterprise-ready platform with fiber-fed antennas and power at the edge.

Finally, fiber owners become to the Het-Net what tower owners are to the macro network. There’s no solution that offers virtually the limitless capacity of Single Mode Fiber, and carriers will rely heavily upon fiber owners to empower them to deploy network densification solutions.

Public-Safety

Anyone familiar with Washington, DC knows that bipartisanship is a fact of life. In 2014, the inevitable will happen whereby FirstNet will grant the carriers access to D-Block spectrum. It fosters a win-win that satisfies the carriers’ need for spectrum and delivers the interoperable ecosystem needed to make the vision of a nationwide LTE Public Safety Broadband Network reality.

Meanwhile, FirstNet answers the question of whether it will drive the creation of fire codes that inform in-building public-safety communications requirements. With a focus on the PSBN, the task of creating fire codes definitively – and appropriately – remains with Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

Lastly, location becomes the “Holy Grail” problem to solve for in-building wireless public-safety communications. Because Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can be turned off, those location solutions won’t qualify as public-safety grade. Location won’t get solved in 2014, but it’s going to be a hot topic.

Long-Term Implications

Whatever does happen in 2014, our industry is poised to incubate step-changes that impact the wireless market for the next 10 years.

We at SOLiD wish our customers, partners and peers a fantastic New Year in the most exciting industry there is!

Your Turn

What do you predict as the key trends for 2014?

A Hazard for Emergency Communications

December 18th, 2013

“If you can’t call us, we can’t help you.”

That’s the unfortunate reality many first responders face when they enter large buildings.

WJLA TV recently explored this topic in Arlington, Virginia where SOLiD and Morcom International have been deploying Distributed Antenna System (DAS) solutions in county buildings to enable public-safety communications indoors:

The same technology making buildings stronger and safer could actually be putting lives in danger in an emergency. That’s because the buildings themselves interfere with emergency responders’ radios. Whether it’s police or fire, fast and clear radio communication can save lives. Arlington’s construction boom of new commercial and residential buildings has created big challenges for emergency responders. Powerful, state-of-the-art building materials often block radio communication, making it hard for police and firefighters to communicate during emergencies. Watch the video here.

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We’ve long advocated for education, code adoption and incentives to advance the vision of achieving ubiquitous indoor public-safety communications. Donny Jackson at Urgent Communications concurs:

Having in-building systems that support first-responder communications throughout the nation would be a boon to public safety, because it would be easier to develop, practice and execute standard operating procedures when there is a similar communication environment in all locations. Given the relatively low cost associated with adding public-safety support to the cellular support that the market demands, now is an opportune time to implement the changes needed to make this happen nationwide. Read the full article here.

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As a founding member of the Safer Buildings Coalition, we are pleased by the naming of Chief Alan Perdue as Executive Director to lead this industry group.

Safer Buildings is a non-profit organization that provides advocacy and education related to indoor communication issues, and brings awareness to solutions that will enhance indoor communications capabilities during emergencies for the general public and public-safety first responders. The shared vision among its members which include leading companies and organizations within the wireless and public-safety industries is to create safer buildings that possess advanced indoor public safety communications systems.

Chief Perdue recently discussed the shared responsibility within the wireless industry to solve the problem with Urgent Communications:

Public-safety is something that needs to be solved and one that is not going away.  We see on the news everyday cases where communications – or the lack of thereof – was a problem in the outcome of the incident.  We can fix that.  Watch the interview here.

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Safer Buildings is inviting leading companies and organizations within the wireless and public safety communities to join as charter members. Contact the Coalition to learn more by sending email to info(at)saferbuildings(dot)org.

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In 2014, SOLiD’s president Seth Buechley will join Chief Perdue, John Facella (RCC Consultants) and Robert LeGrande (The Digital Decision) on the “Overcoming Hurdles to Ensure In-Building Communications” panel moderated by Ken Rehbehn (Yankee Group) at IWCE 2014.