Driving in-building public safety communications to scale

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Solving complexity, performance and economics challenges helps cover more buildings more quickly

In an emergency situation, first responders need to have access to robust, reliable in-building communications systems–you won’t find any disagreement among public safety leaders and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) as well as building owners, systems integrators and technology vendors on this point. But if that’s the case, then why haven’t these critical communications systems widely proliferated throughout buildings of all sizes and functions?

To be sure, notable progress has been made over the last 20 years. But given some 5.5 million buildings, that aforementioned stakeholders are just not scaling fast enough, affordably enough, or cooperatively enough to meet market demand.

According to Fiplex Communications, the problem is three-fold and boils down to misalignment around complexity, performance and economics. The world of in-building wireless is inherently complicated and the level of complexity is in constant flux from both a technology and physics perspective. Performance must not only meet the requirements needed to attain a certificate of occupancy but also stand up to dynamic, real-world scenarios. These shifting complexity and performance variables, coupled with the need for iterative customization (after all, each building and surrounding area is different), make it difficult to develop a compelling economic model that works for both building owners who are on the hook to pay for these in-building systems and the system integrators tasked with building them out.

Fiplex’s John Giarolo, head of sales and marketing, poignantly observes that every single day, emergency first responders are dispatched into structures that present a real threat to their safety. In fact the structures and their unique construction likely work against first responders by preventing them from communicating with one another and the command center

“We can’t continue to conduct business as usual. We can do better and we have to do better,” Giarolo told RCR Wireless News.​

This past summer, Fiplex did something interesting. Rather than keep some 30-plus years of experience – including both engineering expertise and marketplace knowledge – to itself, the company published a call to action which not only showcased the problem but, more importantly, outlines the solution. Fiplex took this message out on the virtual trade show circuit which included IWCE where the company shared its views in a video presentation.

At its center is a “Better Buildings, Better Business” model designed to put AHJs, integrators and vendors on even footing and in pursuit of the same goal–deploy public safety solutions in more buildings, drive greater compliance with fire safety code mandates and do it in a way that lets the stakeholders meet their joint and individual goals.

To equip the market with a technology solution, Fiplex has launched a new indoor public-safety communications platform called FLEX that incorporates software-defined technology, an approach Fiplex Chief Technology Officer ​Matias de Goycoechea says is informed by the company’s Better Buildings, Better Business insights.

Software-driven technologies have been leveraged in myriad sectors to achieve efficiencies and economies of scale by simplifying complex tasks. Interestingly, it has not been widely used for in-building public-safety networking until now. Fiplex has made a bold move to specifically address the economic challenges of the systems integrator and, based on early results, they are making design, procurement, deployment and even upgrading significantly easier and more efficient.

“There is a good reason we named our solution ‘FLEX’,” explained de Goycoechea. “Our platform approach is based on a simplified universal chassis architecture coupled with a powerful software-defined configuration interface. FLEX enables all of the platform’s configuration and performance parameters to be managed via an easy-to-use graphical user interface remotely at any time during a project as well as administer upgrades after the initial commissioning.”

In-building public-safety deployments are, indeed, accelerating as awareness, code adoption and technology advances, However, the public-safety stakeholders have struggled to meet market demand and, to date, have not focused on driving better business models for systems integrators to enable market-wide scalability.

Systems integrators are well aware of the challenges. Industry analyst Earl Lum, president of EJL Wireless Research, said AHJs need solution providers “equipped with better performing, code compliant smart solutions. That means software-defined hardware platforms that make it more intuitive, easier, and faster to deploy these networks.” It’s a classic better mouse trap scenario whereby solutions that streamline the SI’s business model are sure to increase market-wide scalability and profitability.

According to Fiplex’s de Goycoechea, the FLEX platform is unique because it delivers on the performance requirements and the better business promise. A closer look reveals the flexibility and mission-critical performance of the platform actually addresses cost savings and efficiencies across the entire public-safety project. For instance, the simplified hardware architecture, driven by a common software element management system, creates increased design and engineering options. Although there are multiple ways to design a system, there is only one way to deliver the best possible performance at the most economic price. The FLEX approach allows the designer to get to that answer faster and with confidence that the solution is the best one for the building and venue.

Once a project is designed, the challenges for the SI are far from over. Procurement of the solution can make or break a project. Complicated bills-of-materials or BOMs, bespoke configurations, complex part numbers and long ordering lead times require 100% accuracy and take time to compile. The Fiplex platform flexibility allows an SI to leverage off-the-shelf hardware inventory and complete the specific configuration of the solution via software, says de Goycoechea. This not only increases procurement accuracy but, also, grants project managers more scheduling flexibility, more efficient use of manpower, and better allocation of expertise.

There is an old saying, “You only bid a project once, you can’t afford to build it twice.” Platform flexibility, according to de Goycoechea, ensures stakeholders only build it once. This is where he says performance and economics pair to ensure profitability and long-term mission success. FLEX specifically addresses performance issues that, if left unaddressed, are sure to require additional truck rolls, project overruns, unpleasant conversations with AHJs and, even, fines from the FCC.

“FLEX delivers performance and functionality to ensure a return trip is not required to address common deployment challenges such as oscillation, power upgrades and unseen RF environment issues, said de Goycoechea. “By knowing the solution can meet any configuration requirement, at any time during a project, an SI is able to scale to meet demand while increasing profitability and growing their competitive position in their market.”

Fiplex’s Giarolo believes innovation is paramount for driving in-building public safety communications to scale. “Our mission at Fiplex is clear. We want to rally the public-safety communications ecosystem around delivering in-building systems at scale through a new, cohesive, multi-party model,” he said. “And the time is now. FLEX addresses the better buildings, better business challenge and is directly focused on overcoming systems integrators’ pain points by reducing complexity, increasing performance and creating solutions that deliver better economic opportunity.”

And, through continued innovation within the public-safety sector, everybody wins: AHJs, building owners, the solutions ecosystem including OEMs and SIs and, most importantly, emergency first responders and the general public.

Read the call to action: “​A New Cooperation for Public Safety Starts Today​”.
Learn more about the ​FLEX in-building public safety communications platform​.

Fiplex​ ​Communications
For over 30 years, Fiplex has been a leader in mission-critical solutions for indoor public-safety communications. The company’s innovative and quality portfolio of BDA (bi-directional amplifier) and Fiber DAS (distributed antenna system) solutions deliver proven code-compliant performance and mitigate the complexity of designing, installing and managing wireless networks. With products successfully deployed in buildings and venues – including some of the busiest transit systems – within nearly 30 countries, Fiplex meets Public Safety’s mission to ensure critical communications whenever and wherever needed, and is a valued and trusted partner of the wireless ecosystem.

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