firefighter using mobile phone (FirstNet/YouTube)

Advancing apps for FirstNet

To build up the number and variety of apps for responders to use with those devices on the public-safety network, FirstNet held its first hackathon at the end of last month in San Francisco. About 200 participants had 24 hours to form teams and create problem-solving solutions built on common and open standards. Teams could submit prototypes that grew out of the hackathon for inclusion in the FirstNet App Catalog, part of FirstNet’s application ecosystem, which gives developers a way to innovate within a governance structure tailored to industry standards for certification.

One app was created to locate and track firefighters in buildings using 3-D capabilities in Esri ArcGIS, Mike King, FirstNet industry manager at Esri, wrote in a blog post. Esri was a hackathon sponsor along with IBM and Samsung.

The hackathon also produced First Assist+, which helps people with mobility disabilities connect to first responders during a fire. Users enter their health and medical data into the app, which sends it to the fire department. “The app then runs in the background on a phone, and turns on when it detects the sound of a fire alarm,” a developer wrote. “It sends a message to the fire department that certain app users (individuals with disabilities) might in danger.”

Fire officials then use a web app to access sensors in connected phones and see where they’re moving using Esri mapping, and to communicate with users via text, phone or video chat.

First Assist+ won first place and $10,000.

Before developers submit their apps for review or certification, there are some steps they need to take, according to a blog post Prathima Simha, head of product management and marketing for the FirstNet App Developer Program/Ecosystem at AT&T, wrote last month.

“App Review Teams have found common mistakes with app submissions that have slowed approval of apps,” she wrote. “Common mistakes have included not submitting all of the required documents, not including remediation plans for all vulnerabilities in the scan report, or not providing test credentials with the developer checklist.”

Simha recommended completing the Developer Checklist and Submission Checklist before submitting each app. Additionally, FirstNet Certified and Reviewed applications must undergo security scans, and developers must fix any vulnerabilities flagged high and document the reasons for any marked medium or low. Developers can use the AT&T Video Optimizer to test apps and make improvements for free and submit a screen shot proving that the tests were conducted.

Certification and approval takes four to six weeks, Simha said.

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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