An emergency manager points towards a screen displaying a map, an officer holds a smartphone displaying an app, an EMS technician interacts with a display screen

Using and Developing Apps on FirstNet: the next phase of public safety communications

A robust broadband ecosystem for public safety demands a proven pool of mobile apps based on the needs of the responder community. The FirstNet applications strategy is to enable the creation of public safety mobile applications while maintaining support for existing commercial applications. This will establish a portfolio of resilient, reliable, secure and easy-to-use mobile applications for first responders.

The FirstNet applications strategy

Today, the FirstNet App Catalog is available to FirstNet subscribers and identifies a range of tested and reliable public safety focused apps. While first responders can use apps from any commercial store, the FirstNet App Catalog only offers apps that have undergone a rigorous vetting and approval process.

Any app in the App Catalog must meet public safety criteria, including security and data privacy conditions to be listed or certified. The apps are reviewed and tested to 1) verify the app is directly relevant to the needs of first responders, 2) be highly confident the app is secure and protects data, and 3) demonstrate a history of limited unplanned outages with three 9's (99.9%) availability. Additionally, apps can become FirstNet Certified™. These apps have demonstrated their ability to limit unplanned outages with four 9's (99.99%) availability and meet the additional criteria of resiliency, scalability, and optimized use of mobility resources. App developers: learn how to add your app to the FirstNet App Catalog.

The FirstNet App Catalog is growing quickly ‒ more than 100 apps are included. Every addition to the FirstNet App Catalog means more ways for public safety to take advantage of the unique features of the FirstNet network. Each app in is identified with a primary activity it enables, making it easy for responders to identify the apps they may need. Primary activities include: Common Operating Procedure, Mission Activities, Communication, Endpoint Security, Information Resources, External Awareness, Smartphone Enablement, Public Interaction, FirstNet & IoT Management, and Education.

FirstNet apps in the field

Through our Public Safety Advocacy team, the FirstNet Authority is gathering feedback on how responders in the field are using apps today, and to identify opportunities to create new solutions which address responders’ critical communications needs. Already, first responders have seen enhanced operations in the field due to the availability of apps that run on FirstNet.

Connecting apps to save time for police officers

The Mesa Police Department in Arizona has saved time for officers in the field by integrating their apps running on FirstNet with the agency’s databases and systems. For example, officers can scan a driver’s license in a smartphone app which then obtains information from the DMV to complete a citation. The same app presents the citation to the driver for signature and then sends the citation back to the vehicle to print. All the data is finally synched with multiple databases including computer-aided dispatch (CAD), a car stop database and a records management system. These efficiencies reduce the time officers spend on reports and data entry, and more time in the community. 

Faster coordinated response

Over the top push-to-talk (PTT) apps have been an early use for FirstNet’s network. Through these apps, first responders use FirstNet to collaborate — including sharing pictures, videos, texts, and other data in real time. Agencies supporting the Volvo Ocean Race in Newport, Rhode Island, used a PTT app to speed coordination and response. During the event, which drew over 100,000 tourists over 13 days, incident commanders used a PTT app to contact on-site emergency medical professionals and dispatch the closest emergency medical services team to respond to an emergency. PTT apps continue to evolve. AT&T plans to launch Mission-Critical FirstNet Push-to-Talk in early 2020. This purpose-built app, based on 3GPP’s standards for mission critical communications will provide faster, even more reliable, LTE PTT communication capabilities for first responders.

More talk groups, more communication

Kelly Dignin, Executive Director of the Indiana Integrated Public Safety Commission, is taking advantage of FirstNet apps when building LMR-LTE interoperability in Indiana. The Commission is integrating its LMR with FirstNet for enhanced communications. Using push to talk on FirstNet to augment the radio system allows Dignin and her team to have as many talk groups as needed. Now, when creating communications plans she can easily build out talk groups for specialty groups and strike teams to use to augment the LMR system.

Our work to drive innovation

In the FirstNet Lab, the FirstNet Authority demonstrates emerging technologies, devices and apps in a public safety broadband environment.  This operation in the Lab helps verify FirstNet apps, devices and solutions are truly public safety focused and ready for first responders’ use. Visitors to the FirstNet Experience Center, under development now, will be able to see demos of powerful public safety applications and connected devices providing a better operational picture of an incident for individual first responders, incident commanders and agency executives, as well as between agencies.

The FirstNet Authority is also working to lower barriers to entry for developers and to nurture a vibrant applications developer community by supporting development programs like Call for Code and Tech to Protect. Learn more about how the FirstNet Authority expands the ecosystem.

The effect of apps on first responder operations will significantly improve the safety of the public. The deployment of FirstNet is an opportunity to spur the innovation and adoption of apps enhancing situational awareness and improving decision-making during response operations.

 

For more information on FirstNet Authority’s public safety programs and the many ways FirstNet is helping to transform public safety communications, contact your local Public Safety Advisor or visit FirstNet.gov. For more on FirstNet products and services, visit FirstNet.com.

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