FirstNet is developing a nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) that will deliver applications, devices, and services that are tailored to the needs of its users: the public safety community. It will be a resilient, reliable network, enabling everything from smartphones to laptops, tablets, dongles and specialty devices to work when public safety needs them the most.
“Tablets are crucial in communicating information to the hospitals, billing, and collecting data points, etc.,” said Commander Mike Benavides from Austin-Travis County EMS, who spoke with FirstNet on the variety of ways the department uses broadband. “Whether we are in the office or out in the field, we have to be able to access information,” said Captain Darren Noak, who also serves as the department’s Public Information Officer.
Throughout FirstNet’s extensive consultations with and outreach to public safety – to include station visits, participating in training opportunities and ride alongs – we have heard and seen directly from first responders about the advantages of data communications in the field and the continued reliance upon innovative technology.
“There’s so much imagery out there in our available databases – and with all that’s out there online, I still look at a map that is archaic,” Southern California Police Officer Jason Coillot said. “It looks like it should be on an old video game system. But if we’re on 4G devices, we can take data.”
Officer Coillot is one of an increasing number of first responders using their on-ground experience to develop data-rich apps that are tailored to the needs of his fellow first responders. He continues to think of new apps with different concepts, such as improving officers’ access to maps, but all with the same goal in mind – to improve operations and save lives.
Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Volunteer Firefighter and app developer Charlie Jacobson seeks to provide access to a database of mission critical data through apps, such as fire hydrant locations and hazardous material warnings for those that need it. He sees the deployment of the FirstNet network as an opportunity to spur the innovation and adoption of these and other types of capabilities by emergency response personnel to enhance situational awareness and improve decision-making during response operations. “There will be so much more data available to first responders,” Charlie tells FirstNet. “Many others will start building apps that don’t just provide info, but info that is real-time.”
To meet the needs of public safety personnel, FirstNet’s vision for the NPSBN includes providing an applications ecosystem where innovative applications are available to first responders and that provides the tools and resources needed for testing, review and distribution of public safety applications.
The requirements and tools required by first responders are evolving at an ever increasing pace. To support responsiveness to these ever changing needs, the FirstNet applications strategy is to lower barriers to entry for developers and to nurture a vibrant applications developer community to create next generation public safety grade applications in a timely manner. That community is envisioned to include third-party applications developers, as well as front-line first responders. The result is anticipated to be a portfolio of resilient, reliable, secure and easy-to-use applications for first responders. Or, as Officer Coillot desribes it: “by officers for officers.”
For our nation’s first responders, FirstNet intends to drive the type of innovation they need to protect and secure their communities over a nationwide network that can take advantage of economies of scale to maximize the value of every public safety dollar.