APCO Conference: FirstNet looks at apps, devices


The First Responder Network Authority has agreed to work with the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International on identifying and giving feedback on mobile applications for first responders. Both groups also pledged to cooperate as the development continues for a nationwide, public safety network run by FirstNet. 

APCO already runs a relatively new website called AppComm that features a collection of public-safety-related mobile applications and gathers input on the apps such as ratings and reviews of the user experience, as well as suggestions for useful new apps. The memorandum of understanding between APCO and FirstNet sets up a framework for the two organizations to assist each other in identifying recommended or vetted first responder apps, share feedback, and collaborate on ways to encourage more public safety, community and technology sector members to visit the AppComm website, participate in focus groups, and engage with FirstNet.

APCO said this week that AppComm, which was launched in April, offers information on 142 applications and has had more than 127,000 visits.

“We remain very committed to encouraging innovation in public safety app development, including with AppComm, APCO’s public safety app website,” said Terry Hall, APCO’s president. “All along, we have been planning to help complement FirstNet’s own efforts related to apps for first responders.”

Hall also this week called FirstNet “the best thing that has happened to public safety communications in the last 20 years.” Leaders from both the board and APCO met during this week’s APCO conference to reaffirm their commitment to work together to make FirstNet a success.

FirstNet has now completed analysis of 54 industry responses to its request for information on wireless devices for public safety use, and is distributing its report on the RFI to the public safety community. FirstNet’s report is expected to be particularly useful for procurement purposes for the Brodband Technology Opportunities Program grantees that have made spectrum lease agreements with FirstNet, enabling them to use FirstNet’s Band 14 700 MHz spectrum.

“Completion of the device RFI analysis signals significant technology progress for FirstNet,” said General Manager Bill D’Agostino. “The current industry offerings for 700 MHz Band 14 public safety users are now well defined, and we have compiled a near-term roadmap for devices coming to market. This step forward could help jumpstart design and production of LTE devices for public safety.”

Craig Farrill, FirstNet’s acting CTO, said that the board was “pleasantly surprised by the large number of responses, which came from industry-leading companies in the consumer and enterprise products market segments, as well as from wireless device manufacturers. “The more suppliers interested in serving FirstNet users, the greater vendor diversity becomes. That could help increase competition and lower device prices for all FirstNet users.”

The RFI addressed both vertical offerings for public safety, including in-vehicle routers and smartphones, and more generalized solutions such as device management and application security. According to FirstNet, about half of the respondents addressed one of the categories and about a third addressed both.

FirstNet has also now hired a chief financial officer, deciding on Randolph Lyon, formerly of the office of management and budget; Lyon was on detail from the OMB with FirstNet since March and will be responsible for financial strategy, management and oversight.

The board also announced more planning grants have been made to states for preparing for the new nationwide network. Arizona received $2.9 million; California was granted $5.6 million; Iowa gained $1.6 million and Missouri $2.4 million for planning purposes. All recipients are required to provide a matching contribution of at least 20%.




About Author

Kelly Hill

Editor, Big Data, Analytics, Test & Measurement
Kelly Hill currently reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr