FirstNet for IT Application Developers


Now that you know everything there is to know about FirstNet as an organization and why they exist, the next question to be answered is: As an IT person why do you care? Well, let’s list out things IT people should know about FirstNet and a few things public Ssafety should keep in mind when buying applications and devices.

  1. The applications need to be mobile, preferably on many platforms. Window, iOS, and Android are the top three operating systems. Ideally, the applications would work on the major platforms and integrate to a single database. The user can decide what kind of device they are going to use.
  2. Public Safety has volunteers. A bring your own device (BYOD) policy needs to be established. In this situation a Mobile Application Management model could be the best choice. This would mean the Public Safety entity controls the approved application, but not the device. This also creates more integration issues for developers. The applications would need to be usable by volunteers, but they would also need to be retracted when the volunteer is no longer working for the entity.
  3. There are vendors that are creating this kind of software, but it is an emerging market, and the government is building a pipe just for this market. If you believe in capitalism at all you have dollar figures circling in your head.
  4. Public Safety users will need to trust the application and the device with very little room for doubt which is something application developers have not been good at in the past. Developers tend to want to get it to market when it is working at about 75%, but public safety will expect 99.999% or they just will not use it. This will require some extensive automated test cases to be developed.
  5. Public Safety doesn’t need to be overwhelmed with more data as much as they need the right data at the right time. Public Safety Answering Points already have multiple screens to view.
  6. This new pipeline will still have commercial traffic so all the usual security rules will still apply.
  7. Global Information Systems are becoming widely used in Public Safety. Perhaps public safety needs a new “Dewey Decimal System” for GIS addresses. Post Office addresses don’t convert to longitude and latitude nicely. People don’t know their coordinates when they call 9-1-1. This may be a cultural shift, but problems create opportunities.
  8. Public Safety is at the forefront of the new cyber-war. Cybersecurity matters. Fusion Centers in every state should be involved in the application acquisition process.

Public Safety should keep in mind:

  1. Keep the applications open, so that any developer can develop applications. Entities should avoid proprietary applications. It just makes things more costly in the long run, and limits innovation. Keeping application development open empowers thousands of developers rather than the few on the payroll.
  2. Avoid data entry between systems, applications should update the records management and incident management data systems with application interfaces. Enterprise financial software has already created efficiencies for managing databases. Look at other industry application development and don’t recreate the wheel.
  3. Public Safety needs to establish policies for data retention, which means that there would need to be legislation drafted. This could be an application opportunity. Develop an application that retains needed data, videos, audio, etc. and discards what is not needed. Criteria would need to be established. Perhaps two minutes before, during and two minutes after an incident. Anything that didn’t lead to an arrest or ticket could be removed after 30 days? How long do you keep video, audio, and data when there is an arrest? Forever? An application that could remove duplicate data across almost all databases would be helpful. Automatic updates of data in the cloud creates a lot of duplicate data. How many copies of one email do you need?

Melinda Miller is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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