Nicola Savage, Managing Director of Excelerate Technology, understands better than most how communications technologies have a huge potential to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of emergency services operations. Nicola is looking to engage with visitors at The Emergency Services Show 2018 to gain the best possible understanding of the solutions the sector needs and how Excelerate can work together with emergency services to develop and implement those solutions.
Emergency Services Times (EST): Excelerate is well known in the UK for its innovative work with the emergency services, is there more to the company than this?
Nicola Savage (NS):People know us for our largeincident response vehicles and mobile command and control centres, which have been at the forefront of our presence at The Emergency Services Show (ESS) in recent years.
Excelerate has grown thanks to its customer-centric focus. Our skilled and knowledgeable team listen and deliver innovative and often pioneering solutions. Cost efficiency always enters the equation too, and we can offer a choice of options that balance ideal levels of functionality with affordable cost. With this comes full transparency over the pros and cons of different solutions.
We are a customer-driven organisation; we must be able to first understand and then deliver what emergency service organisations are looking for. This requires a serious upfront investment and discovery process on our part, which ultimately pays off as customers ask us to help more and more. We are now becoming a technology partner not just a command and control provider – this I am extremely proud of.
“This year it is all about engagement. Only by listening can we work to develop new, innovative solutions meeting our customers’ emerging needs and challenges.”
As the first company in Europe to start delivering Broadband Via Satellite to emergency services’ Incident Command Vehicles, we have established ourselves as a trusted partner to deliver solutions, supporting all regions throughout the UK. We were the first and are still the only satellite network provider to manage its own real-time, completely resilient satellite network for the emergency services, which utilises two satellites and two connected teleports to provide absolute resilience in the event of a failure of one teleport or even one satellite. Our customers regard this as a critical service, which brings peace of mind.
We have a highly skilled and capable team of engineers. Not only are we able to fix multiple simultaneous faults the same day no matter what their geographic spread, but we ensure our customers’ equipment is always in a state of readiness.
As a company, today we have a bigger focus on more scalable connectivity solutions. We act as an organisation’s connectivity partner and are scaling the major incident communications technology and applications we are well known for into wider fleet and responder applications. Here they can be used to simply and efficiently link people with information and technology systems and operational IT platforms.
We see it as our duty at Excelerate to invest in the research and development of new technologies. We are not tied to any technology partner, so we can offer a step-back agnosticism and openness of mind that ensures we can select and integrate best of breed solutions that will help the emergency services to continue to protect and serve the community. This is very much our mission.
We have always been leaders and innovators and we always will be and it is inevitable that others will try to follow us. However, it is our dedication that truly sets us apart. Customers can be confident that they are supported by a trusted partner, as demonstrated by our existing long-term customer base.
EST: Does Excelerate work in sectors otherthan the emergency services?
NS: We work in multiple sectors and different territories, such as Government, Civil Defence, Security, National Response Organisations, Public and Private Utilities, Oil and Gas, Charities, Education Health and more. Excelerate Group also has a fairly new marine division providing resilient on-board connectivity and communications, navigation, safety and security systems, IT and audio-visual integration, primarily to the luxury yacht sector, although we also have about 20 fishing vessels in the North and Irish Sea on our satellite broadband networks too.
While the needs of our customers in the maritime sector can be very different, many of the challenges are similar, such as the requirement for high quality, reliable broadband access to keep critical on-board applications and services online and complex integration. There are areas where our deep knowledge and expertise in both emergency services and maritime help to cross-fertilise the synergies that lie in supporting critical communications in complex environments.
EST: How different are your international deployments from UK ones?
NS: We have seen over recent years both a requirement and an opportunity to grow our business internationally.
Most recently we have supplied three super command and control vehicles to the Middle East. These were similar to the Joint Command Unit we built for Northamptonshire Police and Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, which was a highlight of our stand at last year’s ESS.
Further afield we have also supplied communications vehicles to the DFES in Australia and assisted the national roll out of vehicles equipped with thermal cameras for the New Zealand Fire and Rescue Service. These deployments have built on the successes we have had working with the UK emergency services, but at the same time presented unique new challenges, not least because of the much larger areas that these services must cover.
Many of our overseas deployments are in regions where emergency services are less differentiated into separate organisations, which does help to simplify internal communications and interoperability, but the geography we need to cover is often on another scale. Operationally there are of course similarities, but the challenges can be very different. Tackling regular bushfires in Australia, for example, is on a different scale to anything the UK has to deal with and of course it isn’t very long before our customers travel outside of the range of 4G or even their own radio networks. A lot of the innovations we will be introducing have been developed with this in mind but they will also have a use and are relevant in all our markets and regions.
There is an increasing emphasis to connect ‘everything’ and over the coming years our call to arms will be, ‘Wherever you are, whatever you do, wherever you are going – take your network with you’ and this will be scalable for individuals as well as any vehicle, including those on the move.
NS: 2018 is a really exciting year for us. We are privileged to be working with several of our customers, including the Northamptonshire Joint Operations Team who will be themselves exhibiting with capability we have provided and which we support. Alongside our customers, we are also working with significant partners and are the nominated trusted technology partner of Angloco, E-ONE, Rosenbauer UK and International Ambulances, which says much about what sort of business we are.
This year we have invested as a main sponsor, which also includes the new Technology Seminar Theatre. The programme will include seminars of interest to all emergency services personnel involved in the specification, procurement, development, application and roll-out of data, video and voice communications. Speakers will also address key procurement challenges and look at the future of communications for fleet responders, including satellite communications technology and blended communications. As autonomous and connected vehicles come closer to being deployed on UK roads, we will be considering how the future of vehicle communications can positively impact emergency service operations.
There will also be operational case studies covering Major Incident Response, Complex Incidents and Major Event Security and how technology and communications are enabling agile deployment, through to overcoming cyber security threats.
We will be showcasing our command and control technology and new solutions for implementation more widely at fleet level, connecting individual responders with the transfer of data, video and voice. We have multiple solutions for this in trial currently and will be launching multiple products and solutions within our Innovation & Engagement Hub. We will certainly be demonstrating more innovation and relevance but also a change in direction regarding a wider market, where connectivity needs to be guaranteed to everyone and not just Incident Command Vehicles.
We are keen for visitors to come and see us at ESS – to hear more about the solutions we are developing and implementing, and to share their communications challenges with us. This year it is all about engagement. Only by listening can we work to develop new, innovative solutions meeting our customers’ emerging needs and challenges.
EST: What does the future hold regarding connected vehicles?
NS: This is a really exciting space, especially for emerging technologies and the future of blended communications. We have been searching for a satellite broadband on the move solution for 15 out of the 17 years we’ve been established. The solutions we’ve seen up until recently have either been hefty, expensive military solutions that were inappropriate for our emergency response customers or just prototypes of ideas that might one day be a reality. We were extremely excited when we were approached by a company called Kymeta, a company backed by Bill Gates, Toyota and Intelsat, with their new flat panelled satellite antenna, to be their Global Distribution Partner for the Emergency Response Market.
The two things that excite us the most concerning the pace of change in the next five years are connectivity and battery technology. We will be using The Emergency Services Show to bring visitors and guests up to speed with one of the biggest game changers regarding connectivity, with products and solutions that will be at the forefront of this revolution. Customers are already ordering the product/solution for trials across all our territories and sectors prior to much larger, planned roll-outs. Smart connected ambulances, fire vehicles, police vehicles, paramedics, fire officers and police officers are fast becoming a reality.
EST: What marks Excelerate apart as a technology provider to the emergency services?
NS: I am proud that some of the biggest globalcommunications companies have selected Excelerate as their partner, in recognition of our excellence. At the same time, we pride ourselves on our agnostic approach to connectivity providers and technologies. Our unique range of experience, skills and expertise means we can offer end-to-end solutions based on the customers’ exact user outcomes/requirements and we implement technology and communication solutions on this foundation – this means we are not leading a solution based on a specific product.
We provide consultancy support and third-party integration to ensure customers can use their existing platforms to best advantage. Our research and development teams work continually to source and integrate the best solutions and combinations of technologies to meet user needs.
We work with customers to develop an operational facility that is fit for purpose in every way, meeting all network and cyber security needs as well as operational and collaboration requirements. While services are increasingly adopting common operational platforms, each organisation also has common national and regional requirements as well as unique requirements of their own. Security is always a paramount consideration and our partnership approach helps to ensure we facilitate interoperability without compromising security in any way.
We always aim to create a learning environment where we can knowledge-share with our customers and users to mutual benefit and operational success. The fact that we are so embedded with multiple emergency service operations in the UK and internationally also enables us to facilitate peer-to-peer learning among emergency service organisations.
I was in a recent workshop where a senior representative, who knew nothing about us, said how impressed he was. He had learnt a great deal which would support his organisation’s strategic objectives. He also commented that Excelerate are not trying to sell products or solutions that are not needed, but instead are focused on providing a solution based on our challenges. This, he said, was a unique approach not taken by many organisations.
EST: What do you see as today’scommunication challenges for the emergency services?
NS: Every aspect of emergency service operationsthreads through connectivity. Like all organisations these days, emergency services are increasingly reliant on web-based technology to deliver operational efficiency gains to achieve things that simply weren’t possible only a few years ago.
We are seeing in our everyday lives with the development of the Smart Home, for example, just how integral communications technology is becoming. The potential is there for a similar sea-change in emergency service mobile and in-vehicle equipment, with a wide range of hardware and software solutions that have huge potential to increase the operational effectiveness and efficiency of mobile personnel.
The key to successfully implementing these solutions lies in their integration. This is a complex task and we therefore seek to engage with our emergency service customers to have the best possible understanding of their needs and processes. From this we can work together to develop and implement effective solutions.
EST: How do you see the role ofcommunications progressing in the future?
NS: Delivering effective integrated solutions is a long-term process. While technology can be hugely empowering, it is also possible to envision ambitious end goals. Successfully achieving these relies on establishing a future-proof platform and then taking a stepping-stone approach to implementation, in achievable stages.
UAVs are a good example of exciting new technology that emergency services and other market sectors are beginning to deploy today. UAVs are widely accessible to police, fire and ambulance services and can offer unmatched situational awareness. Getting airborne is only one step on the road to successful implementation, which also needs to link data acquired into operational communications and requirements. Ensuring that UAVs are used within licensing and regulatory requirements is of course essential.
As autonomous vehicles move closer to adoption, the potential applications for vehicle connectivity in the emergency services environment will become even greater. Working in partnership with emergency services enables us to deliver on these strategic goals. What is potentially achievable now and in the next five to 10 years is very exciting. We will be helping to envision this for visitors to ESS both on our stand and in the Technology Seminar Theatre.