Critical comms focus: a helping hand


Nexsys-One discusses how its Help solution could ease the pressure on emergency services, both during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

As the COVID-19 crisis moves inexorably forward, so does the search for new and innovative technologies to help us mitigate what has become the worst public health crisis for over a hundred years.

There have been many products launched over the course of the year with this specific aim. These include Motorola Solutions’ recent Pronto upgrade, Zebra’s proximity-based technology, rolled-out across it supply chain, as well as - obviously - the NHS track and trace app itself. 

As disparate as these solutions are, they all have one thing in common in that the functionality provided by them is, to a greater or lesser degree, bespoke. Or to put it another way, their development has ultimately been driven with the express aim of helping to defeat the virus, generally by attempting to keep their users safe.

With that in mind - and by way of a contrast -, this article will focus on a solution which has already been created with an entirely different use case in mind. According to the company which developed it however, it also holds the potential to provide major benefits in the fight against Coronavirus, both from the public health perspective, as well as easing the burden on emergency services call takers.

Clever algorithms

According to Nexsys-One’s website, its Help IMS product is an “incident management solution supporting emergency services and volunteer organisations to better serve people in need. [It uses] mobile data networks, workforce management processing and an advanced video and VoIP communication system.”

Ask to elaborate on this - and to explain how the solution might conceivably be leveraged by UK public safety organisations - senior account director for the company Neil Hames says: “The origin of the software lays with Nexsys-One’s Task 1 product, which is a workflow/ticketing system created several years ago.

“The really useful thing about the software is that the task in question can be sent out either by an automated alert or having been created manually. There are some extremely clever algorithms in place, determining who is the best person to give the job to, depending on location, skill set, and so on. It’s been used effectively in the telecoms industry for many years.”

Moving the discussion into the realm of public safety, he continues: “Following the development of Task 1, we had a conversation with the Red Crescent, which was looking for something which could help mobilise people in relation to disaster response. How do you communicate to the right people with right skills, for instance when an earthquake’s taking place?”.

According to Hames, the Help solution consists of two distinct sets of functionalities. The first - as described - enables public safety organisations to send out ‘tickets’ in order to get the most appropriate people to an incident as quickly as possible. At the same time, the solution also contains what might be regarded as a burgeoning ‘Next 999’ element, something which we’ll return to later in the article.

Going back to the dispatching functionality, Hames continues: “As well as the ability to alert personnel, the organisation in question can also create workflows existing within that alert. That could be for any kind of incident, and once we give the user access to the software, they’re able to create their own. It’s a cloud-based system - accessible by IP - over which they have complete control.

“For instance, the demonstration version contains an ‘ambulance collection’ scenario, where patients are moved from one hospital to another. More complex scenarios - for instance an FRS attending a fire - would likely require more complex tasking, such as appointing resources to a particular area of the fireground.

“Workflows are also able to integrate other devices that personnel might be carrying, such as body worn video cameras, enabling them to stream footage back to the command centre. It’s designed to be a true 360-degree system.”

Going back to the aforementioned Nexsys-One website, it’s noticeable that a heavy emphasis is given to the potential use of the technology by volunteers. This is completely understandable, firstly given how closely the mobilisation aspect resembles a more elaborate version of paging, as well as the fact that the user side of the application is designed to sit on commercial mobile devices.

According to Hames however, the company is also very eager the introduce the solution to professional public safety agencies, such as the Fire and Rescue Service. This is apparent in its recent conversations with one UK FRS, particularly around potential use when it comes to ‘safe and well’ visits.

Discussing this, he says: “The idea is that the fire officer would be given details regarding time, address and so on, again via the alert function. Once at the property, they’d also be able to use the app to report back remotely, thereby removing the need for paper.

“Risk assessments conducted in this way could then be digitally accessible, so if an incident took place at the premises in the future, investigators can have quick access to any recommendations that were made. From the moment the alert is received to when the responders have completed the job, the whole event is recorded in chronological order, as well as time, date and GPS stamped.” 

COVID-19 use case

As is probably apparent, the Help application offers a variety of different functionalities for those operating on the frontline. Indeed - according to Hames - he has previously been told by certain organisations that the solution is actually too comprehensive, presumably making its use difficult to conceptualise within certain operational contexts. 

With that in mind, there remains one further aspect of the solution to be discussed – the previously-mentioned Next Gen 999 function. Hames believes that this too can provide a real benefit to both the emergency services and the public, offering a particularly interesting use case when it comes to Coronavirus. 

Discussing this, he says: “As well as the dispatching solution, we’ve also created an alerting app designed for use by the public. For instance, if I was in a situation where I needed help, I could click a button on my phone to create an alert. That’s also possible by shaking the device, for instance if you’ve had an accident and you can’t move. 

“The alert is then sent to the emergency service control centre, which in turn has the ability to call back using a video connection. The member of the public is able to then speak, text, upload videos and photos or live stream. This in turn can feed back into the dispatching functionality, depending on what kind of response is required.”

Hames believes that this could be of particular use when it comes to contacting health authorities in cases of Coronavirus where symptoms have becoming life-threatening. This is informed - tragically - by the loss of his own father to the disease earlier in the year. 

“Emergency services call centres we’re absolutely overwhelmed at the start of the pandemic; both 999 and 111,” he says. “If the app had been rolled out, my dad could conceivably have completed the triage process in the virtual space, with an alert then being sent immediately to the control room.

“The application would also have recorded every detail of the interaction, thereby also acting as an initial form of track and trace. We could have saved [emergency services call centres] so much work, particularly around March and April time when they were snowed under.” 

At time of writing, the UK is on the cusp of heading back into its second national lockdown in the space of a year. Whatever the future holds for the Help solution, it’s clear that the continued deployment of innovative tech will be integral in helping us get through this most difficult of times.

For more on the use of cutting edge technology by the emergency services, register your interest and join us at the BAPCO Online Event 2021.

Media contact

Philip Mason
Managing Editor, Critical Communications Portfolio
Tel: +44 (0)20 3874 9216