Head In the Cloud, Feet on the Ground

Intrado’s managed evolution to the cloud means that our network is extraordinarily resilient and flexible, whether you’re a big city PSAP or a two-seat call center.

May 19, 2022

Intrado’s managed evolution to the cloud means that our network is extraordinarily resilient and flexible, whether you’re a big city PSAP or a two-seat call center.

Here are a few things we know: The cloud—in all its flavors: public, private, hybrid, multi-cloud—is here. There’s no doubt that this global network of servers, accessed through the Internet, is tremendously powerful in its ability to handle data.

Also clear is that public safety answering points (PSAPs) are highly complex environments, with huge amounts of information to be processed. Amounts that are only going to grow. This means the cloud has great potential for helping emergency communications.

What’s less apparent to many is how, exactly, to leverage what the cloud can do to make that influx of information easier to manage. How, too, will we use data to improve telecommunicator workflows? And keep communities safer and first responders better informed? These and other questions are covered in the latest Intrado Life & Safety podcast with president Jeff Robertson and chief technology officer Adan Pope.

Here are some takeaways from their recent conversation about the benefits to public safety of pursuing a thoughtful evolution to working in the cloud:

A managed transition to the cloud is smarter. In times like these of tremendous change, it’s tempting to latch onto buzzwords and trends, but in public safety the focus has to be on the value to PSAPs, first responders and the communities they serve. Always. “We take a managed, evolutionary approach to our use and deployment of cloud technologies because of the criticality of emergency communications,” explains Pope. “Not everything is fit for the public cloud.”

With that in mind, he says, “Intrado’s approach to infrastructure is a hybrid cloud that uses public cloud and also private data centers.” This means Intrado’s private data center infrastructure, with high-tech computers in various locations that connect to create a very sophisticated, resilient network, manages the routing and control of information. Intrado couples that private cloud with public cloud when and where it makes the most sense. “We want to keep customers on a private network where possible, but give them the flexibility should they need to connect to those public networks, while still ensuring a high level of security,” Pope explains.

Reliability is everything… You likely know that emergency response systems require “five nines” of reliability, meaning that you can depend on it 99.999% of the time. “That availability and resiliency is critical,” stresses Pope. Because the cloud enables decentralized connectivity, that means there’s always a backup should the network ever fail. He calls unparalleled Intrado’s six-node multicore US- and Canada-wide multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network “extraordinarily resilient and reliable,” adding that “the best use of the cloud is to provide value to public safety in a very managed approach. We don’t want any attacks on public safety networks and services, so a managed service for PSAPs makes absolute sense.”

…but security is paramount, too. “Public clouds like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud provide encryption services,” explains Robertson. “So even if you could access the data, you can’t understand it.” Encryption combined with authentication controls significantly boost security for a managed service like what Intrado provides through its VIPER® / Power 911® call-handing solution. Says Pope: “Every day, every night, every weekend, every moment, we're monitoring, managing and maintaining this service because emergency communications are so critical. If a 911 call doesn’t go through, there are consequences.”

The cloud makes it easier to offer flexibility and mobility to everyone. Whether you run a big-city PSAP in Los Angeles or Dallas or a small call center staffed by one or two dispatchers, call-handling has now become more democratic than ever, thanks in part to cloud computing. “Our customers can now run our software over a browser on one screen and maintain that same user interface they’re used to, which minimizes the need for training and retraining,” says Pope. “It’s the same screen, the same buttons. That flexibility means a seamless experience.” Telecommunicators can use a wi-fi access point or cable modem to log on even at home; and if connectivity falters, they have 5G mobile backup. “The backup for connectivity offered by the cloud is absolutely critical to maintain the availability and resilience required for public safety,” Pope notes.

Say goodbye to down time and waiting forever for upgrades. In the PSAP world, it’s not unusual to go five to seven years between upgrade cycles to get a new system or new technologies, says Robertson. No more. The cloud enables seamless, immediate refreshes that are especially important for call centers with little or no IT support. “So when a new version of VIPER or Spatial Command & Control comes out, for example, you just opt into the upgrade service and it’s upgraded,” Pope continues. “You go in the next day, log in and it’s there—the latest and greatest version of the software.” The ability to speed up the refresh cycle will become even more important as PSAPs connect to more IoT devices delivering data to the center, such as alarm data from ADT or telematics information from Toyota. “We need to build systems that can support workflows and the influx of data even into the future,” Pope says.

Listen to the full podcast, Episode 1: Intrado is Bringing Life and Safety to the Cloud, with Intrado Life & Safety president Jeff Robertson and chief technology officer Adan Pope.