SpectraRep and GoCoder: Live-Streaming Video Is Worth 1,000 Words
August 17, 2017 by
Case Study Snapshot
Streaming service provider
Wowza Streaming Engine
Public safety datacasting, security, live and on-demand streaming
During a major flood in the Houston region, many highways, commercial buildings and residential locations were submerged under feet of water that stranded residents in their homes. Houston Police helicopters were used to assist in assessing the extent of the damage and identifying alternate routes for emergency response.
Normally, all emergency helicopters have on-board video—but an event such as this required the helicopters to operate in a rotation; some units were in the skies, while some were on the ground getting services. Personnel in the skies cover a lot of ground, and have to relay the observed conditions via video downlink and radio communications. Due to the strain in resources, some helicopters were not equipped with video capabilities, so human observations were used instead.
Luckily, the City of Houston also has access to SpectraRep’s IncidentOne datacasting solution (pictured below), which uses public broadcast TV networks to transmit data. Through integration with the Wowza GoCoderTM app, the solution allows first responders to securely send and receive video, photos and data to and from external sources and emergency responders, via their mobile device or laptop.
One of the personnel in the air remembered he could use the previously installed GoCoder phone app. The first responder launched the application, connected to IncidentOne and uses the phone like a video camera to transmit live-streaming video into area command posts and the Houston Emergency Operations Center.
An unannounced event of this size required the City of Houston to rapidily set up command posts and meetings rooms that did not always have the infrastructure in place to stream video. Having the availability and flexibility of datacasting allowed for this information to be quickly shared at “just in time” locations.
A simple laptop coupled with antennae was all that was needed to bring in live content from the field or the Emergency Operations Center, directly to decision-makers operating in the forward command posts or other meeting locations. Installing networks takes months—but Houston was able to deliver video in minutes to those who needed it.
A Live Video Is Worth 1,000 Words
Public safety relies on accurate, detailed, up-to-the-minute information that can be shared between command centers and those in the field. When an incident or natural disaster is unfolding, public safety officials need to make split-second decisions to keep the peace and save lives.
Operations and command centers have traditionally ingested and managed a wealth of public safety information, including:
- Blueprints of buildings that need to be accessed.
- Data from AMBER Alert networks.
- Photos and records of suspects and/or victims.
Today, video is an increasingly important resource in modern policing. Now command centers also have to process, distribute and store video from:
- Surveillance and traffic cameras.
- Body and dashboard cameras
- Drones and helicopters.
However, the challenge of sharing this essential information with officers in the field increases along with the volume and variety of resources that must be transmitted.
An even bigger public-safety challenge is interoperability: the exchange of information between public safety departments. Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) dispatch and radio communications are sometimes siloed, making information-sharing difficult without a multi-agency command center.
In emergencies, when every second counts, a single photo or a live video stream can instantly show all necessary parties the exact conditions at the scene. This helps agencies determine the best way to respond, including the number and type of officers, equipment, vehicles and other resources to send.
Wowza and SpectraRep Help Public Safety Officials Better Serve Citizens
Refined over the course of a decade, SpectraRep’s proprietary technology allows encrypted IP content to be transmitted over television networks. It operates on licensed broadcast spectrum from public TV stations in all 50 U.S. states and six territories.
SpectraRep’s IncidentOne solution builds on this foundation, using the Wowza Streaming EngineTM software and Wowza GoCoder to capture, encode and deliver streaming video. The solution offers many benefits, including:
Improving Interoperability During Incident Response
IncidentOne serves as a bridge between agencies that need to communicate, but don’t often interact or have mechanisms in place to share video and other data. It connects officers in the field with command centers and with each other, facilitating coordinated response efforts.
Using Wowza GoCoder on their mobile device, police officers, firefighters, emergency medics and other authorized users can send real-time video directly from the scene back to the command center—so everyone is looking at the same thing at the same time.
Even better, different departments can access these live-streams and share them with their own officers. This instant exchange of information across public safety departments allows them to work together to make fast decisions that save lives.
Secure Streaming to the Right People at the Right Time
IncidentOne’s encryption capabilities securely transmit sensitive public safety information, even across public TV networks. The massive reach of the broadcast signals allows live-streams to be delivered to thousands of concurrent recipients during a large-scale emergency—but the system’s targeting functionality ensures streams are only sent to the right people. Administrators simply select recipients from a drop-down menu, and feeds are pushed to the destinations of their choice.
Command centers use public TV networks to send multicast (one-to-many) transmissions to response vehicles. By connecting to other networks, such as the internet and the LTE (Long-Term Evolution) wireless network, two-way transmissions are enabled between officers, command centers and departments.
Saves Time and Resources for Public Safety Departments
By arming responders with Wowza GoCoder, public safety departments can remotely monitor situations as they unfold. This saves valuable time and resources by matching the response to the situation.
When a responder starts a stream in GoCoder, it sends a message to the IncidentOne dashboard at the command center, through which the administrator can view multiple live feeds. An instance of Wowza Streaming Engine is used to package this and other incoming video, and deliver it to users over the broadcast TV spectrum and/or other networks.
The dashboard can display multiple feeds simultaneously, so administrators can monitor multiple incidents, or see different views of the same event. Data and photos can also be sent and received at the same time. This vastly improves visibility for public safety decision-makers, both in times of calm and during emergencies.
Easy for Safety Officials Anywhere to Start Streaming
IncidentOne is preconfigured to work with Wowza GoCoder when installed on any emergency responder’s device. They simply download the app, then follow SpectraRep’s one-page instruction sheet to change four in-app settings. In one minute or less, any public safety official can send real-time streaming video from anywhere with an internet or LTE connection.
Example: Wowza GoCoder Gets Eyes on the Scene
After the 2016 presidential election, a series of protests erupted in the Houston area. One of these protests formed in an area outside the view of the city’s network of surveillance cameras, so Houston Police and Fire Department personnel were dispatched to survey the scene.
Using radio communications, the personnel attempted to describe the size and nature of the crowd to the command center. A bike medic who happened to already be on the scene remembered he had Wowza GoCoder on his phone. He started live-streaming to the command center using the device. After seeing footage of the peaceful protesters, command-center personnel decided it wasn’t necessary to send additional resources.
Working With Wowza, SpectraRep Strengthens Public Safety
SpectraRep has realized many benefits building on Wowza technology. These include:
Cost-Savings and Faster Time-to-Market
SpectraRep had the expertise in encryption, targeting and content management—but its technology wasn’t optimized for delivering high-quality, low-latency streaming video. As a leader in streaming media technology, Wowza was a natural fit for managing this part of the solution for them.
Mark O’Brien, president and chief technical officer at SpectraRep, says Wowza helped SpectraRep develop a more reliable system faster and easier, and at less cost.
“To have a platform that already focuses on video management means we don’t have to reinvent that wheel,” O’Brien says. “It was easier for us to work with an established, trusted, solid, reliable video-management solution—and more cost-effective—than for us to try and own every piece of that content management.”
Ease of Deployment
Wowza GoCoder is a straightforward platform that’s quick and easy for public safety officials to implement. Even those who have no experience with live-streaming can send real-time footage to the IncidentOne system, thanks to this integration.
“To have the ability to tell a cop, ‘just go to the app store, download this [app], make these four changes to it, hit the big red circle, and you’re done’—it’s incredible. For us to try and do that would cost us way more; it would never work as well, or be as reliable and easy to get to.”
—Mark O’Brien, president and chief technical officer at SpectraRep
Increased Opportunities for Innovation in Public Safety
Public safety departments in places such as Houston have experienced great success with IncidentOne. Next, SpectraRep is looking to the FirstNet initiative: a new, nationwide public safety network that will help departments all over the country exchange photos, video and data.
Through IncidentOne, Wowza and SpectraRep technology helps public safety officials better serve and protect American citizens. That’s a use case where everyone wins.