Technological advancements and 5G network solutions create new opportunities for mobile command centers
In October 2018, Super Typhoon Yutu tore across the shores of Saipan, Guam, and Tinian, bringing more than 200,000 residents face to face with the strongest typhoon ever recorded on the Mariana Islands. Critical infrastructure and buildings across the island were destroyed among more than $854 million in damages.
Just under two years later, close to 10,000 wildfires raged throughout California, scorching an estimated 4,257,863 acres of land and nearly 10,500 structures, making 2020 the largest recorded wildfire season in California’s modern history, according to the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
In the wake of these natural disasters, mobile command centers provided vital connections to facilitate public safety solutions executed by first responders and national response organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Although mobile command centers are commonly associated with large-scale emergency response efforts, they are employed in all types of situations ranging from surveillance to crisis response and disaster recovery to event support, and their versatility continues to expand.
Mobile command centers are more than a cell on wheels
The term “mobile command center” may evoke the image of a blacked-out semitruck trailer with a satellite dish on top, but the centers come in various forms fit for a broad spectrum of needs. While the centers themselves can be stood up as a trailer, a van, a high school gym, a patrol car, a tent, or even something as simple as a Pelican case, there are a few things all of these solutions have in common.
As the name implies, mobile command centers are not permanent brick-and-mortar facilities. They are agile spaces built to function as a central control office without being tied to a single location. Some mobile command centers or “pop-up” networks can be erected in a matter of minutes, and because of their diverse configuration possibilities, mobile command centers can be deployed in virtually any environment, making them an ideal response in rugged terrain.
The flexibility of mobile command centers is often what makes them an ideal choice for emergency situations.
The core purpose of a mobile command center is to provide resilient, always-on connectivity using a network whose throughput can pass large amounts of traffic that may include Wi-Fi connections, VoIP, VPN, encrypted video surveillance, and everything in between.
A mobile command center’s reliability is always an essential component of its success, but this is especially true when it is used for medical or law enforcement purposes, when precision and timeliness are key.
Particularly in reference to public safety or disaster response, mobile command centers not only provide access to secure networks, but they also establish secure locations to house radios, phones, and other mission-critical communication devices.
Because of their reliability, flexibility, and security, mobile command centers can serve as a backup solution in the event a primary response function becomes incapacitated. For example, when the city of Roswell, Georgia, needed a way to ensure its 911 dispatch center remained online even during an evacuation, they employed Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Service for Branch, which allowed them to create a pop-up network during an emergency to continue serving the community.
The evolution of mobile command centers
Today, mobile command centers commonly come in the form of mobile command vehicles. These connected vehicles enable response teams to arrive on-scene and establish a network through mobile in-car routers. Advanced mobile command vehicles like the one used by the Collier County Sheriff's Office include nearly a dozen monitors, 360-degree surveillance systems, and a built-to-suit interior, complete with a conference room and galley.
As the physical characteristics of mobile command centers become more sophisticated, so must the networks that support them. The ability for these centers to stay connected 24x7 is further enhanced by the deployment of additional 5G spectrum bands that enable increased bandwidth and lower latency. This paves the way for mobile command centers to support advanced applications with higher situational awareness, including 4K video streaming, drone communications, or the transmission of large data files like live weather mapping.
LTE and 5G networks also give mobile command centers the ability to support multiple connections via Wi-Fi — a feature that is particularly important during crisis response, disaster recovery, or large events.
Considerations for mobile command center solutions
With such versatile options available across the mobile command center landscape, here are a few simple considerations to make up front.
Deployment and management
IT support for mobile command centers is often remote. This means the best mobile command solution is one capable of out-of-the-box deployment and centralized, cloud-based monitoring and management.
When mobile command centers are chiefly used in remote locations or unpredictable environments, considerations for these solutions tend to mirror those made when selecting a rugged LTE vehicle fleet router. Companies may also wish to incorporate coverage mapping tools that enable them to locate unobstructed, network-rich locations for mobile command center deployment.
A mobile command vehicle may be employed as part of a larger fleet of vehicles. In this case, it’s important to consider solutions that support the fleet, its connected vehicles, and corresponding stations. Additionally, to avoid repeated investments or technological overhauls, mobile command connectivity solutions must be able to grow and change in sync with the needs of the business.
Mobile command centers that work — anywhere, any time
The flexibility, reliability, and security of mobile command centers make it possible for field-based organizations to connect and set up a center wherever they’re needed. Cradlepoint for vehicle services, as delivered through the latest wireless edge routers, is enabling organizations across the country to connect vehicles, on-board IoT devices, and critical infrastructure to the cloud, no matter where they set up.