First Responders and Disaster Response personnel include people from all walks of life. While some are full-time (or career) professions, many are part-time responders. For instance, nation-wide over 70 percent of Fire Fighters are volunteers. The geographic dispersion of these individuals has complicated the orchestration of activities Public Safety and First Responder (PSFR) personnel are tasked to participate in - even within a single jurisdiction. Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems and Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) technologies have helped to resolve many of these challenges, but the electronic aggregation and distribution of mission critical content across a single jurisdiction - not to mention jurisdictions managing the activity of different disciplines (Fire, EMS and Law Enforcement), continues to be a real challenge because of the deployment of proprietary solutions in use today.
In today's growing world of connected devices, the means to rapidly download and deploy an extendable Situational Awareness solution that is capable of interacting with and spanning multiple jurisdictions, including interactions with disaster response organizations who often only deploy in times of great need, is actively sought. With the recent nationwide adoption of FirstNet (a LTE-based broadband solution dedicated to PSFS activities) a nationwide movement is underway to augment legacy P25-based enabled Land Mobile Radio (LMR) devices with mobile phones and tablets capable of interacting with the nationwide public safety broadband networks rolling out under FirstNet. The next big thing FirstNet early adopters are searching for are the collection of "Killer Apps" they need to reduce their operational workload. iCode Mobile Solutions was founded to design, develop, integrate, test, deploy, and demonstrate innovations that empower those who protect us all. Please consider sending us an information request (see form at the bottom of this page) to learn how your organization can get engaged in our efforts.
OUR BASELINE SOLUTION
Our objective is to enhance the Situational Awareness of PSFR participants who originate from different organizations, and traditionally report to different jurisdictions, that are brought together because of the size and/or complexity of a particular emergency situation. These situations require timely interactions not only between Firefighters, EMS, Law Enforcement disciplines but potentially across many support organizations (e.g., DART/CERT, Public Works, Animal Control, Red Cross) and facilities (e.g., EOCs, Command Centers), Command Posts, potentially even including Utility (Gas, Electric) companies, Transportation agencies, and Port Authorities.
To accomplish this iCode created a Public Safety Cloud Platform (PSCP) comprised of a multi-functional mobile application called the First Response eXplorer (FRX), and a collection of companion Public Safety Cloud Services (PSCS) that dynamically scale to support changes in needs and operational demands. These implementations follow the popular Platform as a Service (PaaS) construct developed and deployed across the Internet.
Being a mobile app, FRX is capable of delivering the following utilities into the hands of our nation’s First Responders.
Near Real-Time Activity Alerts / Incident Notifications
User-Tailorable Geospatial / Situational Awareness Display
Instant Messaging / Chat
Dynamic Turn-by-Turn Directions
The FRX app securely interacts with our companion PSCS – or core infrastructure, which can be provisioned along with Cellular On Wheels (COW) / System On Wheels (SOW) units to address situations where network connectivity to our resilient cloud based PSCS solutions is problematic or altogether non-existent. The COW/SOW implementation allows Public Safety Organizations (PSOs) to equip a scaled-down version of our distributed cloud-based PSCS solution in support of First Responders operating in remote locations.
Budgets are tight. To minimize the cost impact to our public safety community the FRX mobile app operates on the same commercially available smartphone and tablet devices that (paid and volunteer) PSFR personnel carry with them daily. For communities relying on volunteer forces, or those large enough to have Disaster Aid Response Team (DART) or Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) programs in place, our FRX Community Edition (CE) synchronizes the situation awareness and responses of distributed team members when larger disasters strike. Bringing trained members of the community to the aid of others in a matter of minutes, even though they don’t have direct access to the local dispatch center or an expensive P25 LMR at their disposal is what our FRX app was designed to do. This is an opportunity where the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement can be leveraged in support of the greater good of the community. In short, the same cell phone you carry in your pocket, and use to access your email, listen to music, and post content on social media sites, can now be leveraged to save lives.
Introduction to our First Response eXplorer (FRX) App
FRX users go through an On-Boarding process to establish the Identity, Credentials and Access Management (ICAM) controls necessary to establish a trusted digital representation of an individual’s identity, their privileges to interact with digital resources, and for securing information. To reduce friction user credentials established through Private-Sector Identity Service Providers (e.g., Facebook, Google and others) can be used during this on-boarding process.
Once this authentication process is complete the end user can focus he's/her time on interacting with the FRX App using quick-action icons residing in the Tab Bar running along the bottom of the app window. The left-most Incident Icon reveals incidents from Dispatch / Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) they are subscribed to. These subscriptions are configurable, and incidents from multiple sources can be viewed concurrently.
The Map Icon exposes the extensible Situational Awareness Picture (eSAP), where they will be able to assess situations surrounding them – or some residing elsewhere. The eSAP supports an automated caching construct, which is useful in retrieving and storing mapping products prior to their intended use. This feature is vitally important for those situations when network connectivity is problematic or non-existent. The eSAP can be used to render multiple Mission Data layers on top of the background map. For example, a FRX-user many choose to overlay Fire Hydrants, Fire Stations, Hospitals, Helo-Pads, and the latest Wildfire Boundary updates in support of unfolding events. Additional Mission Data feeds can include hyper-local weather data (from the Weather Underground), and near real time (NRT) Seismic Activity for those missions where Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) / ShakeAlerts could impact ongoing operations. The display of highly dynamic content such as the changing Location and Status of existing Incidents, or the movement of First Responder Personnel and Units is also available. Over time additional extensions to will provide access to updated positions of FRX-equipped Air Support Units, and the updated position of Maritime Tracks reported over Automated Information System (AIS) networks. In many operational situations an overwhelming collection of dynamic content can severely "clutter the screen", decreasing its intended utility. This is where user-enabled filters are used to "declutter" the map down to the minimum number of icons (representing real-world entities) the user needs to be informed about. Borrowing a page from early explorers who set out to discover the new world, our FRX apps are configured to pre-provision baseline mappings products for the users' local jurisdiction (and adjoining ones). This features makes FRX useful even during situations where network connectivity is non-existent. Updates to these mapping products can be synchronized over time, and even augmented with additional geospatial content. Unless disabled, this feature is triggered without user intervention whenever a notification (sent out by one of our PSCS) announcing the availability of updated or entirely new geo-spatial products is received. Since the geographical location of FRX equipped devices is tracked by the PSCS, refreshed mapping products seem to simply appear as the FRX users' begins their journey to a new incident. We think Lewis and Clark and other early explorers would approve.
Both Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Chat and Multi-User Chat (MUC) capabilities interactions are supported within the embedded Instant Messaging (IM) solution available through the Chat Icon. Incident-driven chatrooms can be leveraged to keep Ad-Hoc teams of First Responders synchronized, and to efficiently disseminate the Incident Commander’s (IC) latest intent to all those involved. FRX’s IM users can exchange text, still imagery, video and audio content with other local FRX users. Plus, FRX-equipped participants can collaborate with FRX participants residing outside of the local network, including public safety participants at the regional and national levels who are equipped with other standards-based Instant Messaging (IM) client applications.
Selection of the Directions Icon enables an embedded routing capability, offering assistance to FRX wishing to evaluate alternative pathways to an Incident or other location (Hospital, Fire Station, designated address or Lat/Lon) given current traffic conditions. This routing capability also provides FRX users with an Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA), and verbal Turn-By-Turn directions as they proceed to the designated endpoint.
Introduction to our Public Safety Cloud Services (PSCS)
The FRX app (itself) discovers the presence of locally provisioned PSCS deployed with a Cell On Wheels (COW) unit, or remotely provisioned PSCS in federated cloud computing resources distributed across the Internet. It is the interactions between the FRX app and the PSCS where mapping products and other mission-critical resources are discovered and downloaded for local use, and where real-time content streams (e.g., emergency response vehicle and individual First Responder availability and position updates) are gained. Federated PSCS are distributed and provisioned to operate 24/7/365, however sometimes these PSCS are not reachable because of network communications outages or Long-Term Evolution (LTE) coverage limitations. This is where Local PSCS – typically provisioned along with COW equipment, are used to service teams of First Responders operating in the field. Depending on the particular COW equipment configuration, options to establish connectivity between these Local PSCS and the (remote) Federated PSCS can be established using terrestrial (land lines) and other Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS) communications resources (e.g., Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) terminals). When these Server-to-Server (S2S) connections exist a fluid exchange of content can be shared between Federated and Local PSCS installations, which then propagates out to the FRX apps.
In many operational situations, it is assumed that the FRX apps will have limited and intermittent access to Federated or Deployable Local clouds. In situations where connectivity to federated or locally provisioned PSCS are not available, a third (or tertiary) option is under development to allow First Responders to leverage Peer-to-Peer (P2P) collaboration between FRX apps. This tactical collaboration implementation leverages ad-hoc mode networking technologies supporting interactions between mobile devices without the use of a central device (like a router). Through our Ad-Hoc Tactical Cloud technology FRX users will be able to exchange mission-critical content (updated maps) between one another when Local or Federated PSCS are not readily available.
Our FRX mobile applications are being introduced on Apple iPhone and iPad devices for evaluation by local Public Safety Organizations (PSOs) this year. The initial deployment of native iOS-based FRX mobile apps securely interact with PSCS provisioned in the cloud (see illustration above), removing the requirement for PSOs to dedicate Information Technology (IT) resources to manage dedicated equipment (computers, routers, networks, radios) associated with its around-the-clock use. Analytics and issues gained through the early exposure program will be applied to system and software updates prior to our roll out to FirstNet participants across the nation. The core software technology we built into our FRX mobile platform is device agnostic - meaning that we expect to have an native Android-based FRX app available to FirstNet participants in the future.
For more information on FRX submit an electronic Information Request Form (below).
Specific Topics: 31:10 - Bring Your Own Device (BYOD); 32:10 - FirstNet App Ecosystem; 44:20 - FirstNet App Vetting; 47:00 Testing and NIST PSCR $30M Grants; 1:01:58 - Quote "Today we did a contract signing; Tomorrow 384 Million Americans, and their First Responders will be Safer as a result." - Bill Schrier - FirstNet
FRX Information Request Form