Corrected: RapidDeploy wins $6.6 million CalOES contract for analytics and mapping
Editor’s note: The original version of this story indicated that the CalOES contract was a three-year deal. Although the agreement calls for RapidDeploy to provide services in three different calendar years, the actual length of the agreement is slightly more than two years. IWCE’s Urgent Communications regrets the error and apologizes for any confusion.
All public-safety answering points (PSAPs) in the state of California will have access to mapping and analytics solutions from RapidDeploy this fall as part of a multi-year deal worth more than $6.6 million that is “part of the broader project to facilitate the transition to next-generation 911,” according to the state.
Under a contract procured by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services 911 Emergency Communications Branch (CalOES), the state will pay AT&T—a reseller of RapidDeploy—$3.348 million annually until November 2021 to provide RapidDeploy’s cloud-native solutions to improve 911 caller-location information and other call data and statistics. These services will be provided at no cost to California PSAPs, according to a letter from the state.
“More than 80% of 911 calls in California are made from wireless devices,” according to the letter. “This project will help 911 dispatchers accurately locate callers, so that they can quickly dispatch emergency responders, even if the caller doesn’t know their location.
“Local dispatchers across all Public Safety Answering Points, or 911 call centers, in California will have access to an advanced mapping solution that displays faster and more accurate caller location, as well as live data feeds from different sources, creating enhanced situational awareness and interoperability.”
Four California PSAPs are piloting the RapidDeploy solutions, with statewide implementation expected to be executed in the fall, according to the letter.
Although RapidDeploy is best known for its Nimbus cloud-native computer-aided-dispatch (CAD) system, the CalOES contract will let 438 PSAPs use the company’s Radius tactical 911 mapping product and its Edge Analytics suite, according to RapidDeploy CEO Steve Raucher.
“At the nexus of all of these products lives our patented IoT technology, which is our EDG device—emergency data gateway,” Raucher said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We spent the last year and a half in our lab building out this IoT framework that can consume all of the legacy signals in a PSAP.
“As we shift everyone to the cloud, the problem that we have is that most of the interfaces that we have in 911 and public safety are still analog interfaces—serial cables connecting to serial cables connecting to servers. We had to solve that problem before we could go on mass adoption for cloud. So, we have built a framework that can consume all of these signals and assemble that data in the cloud. That’s the real power of what we’re doing.”
One of these EDG devices will be deployed in each PSAP in California, and the Radius software will be available to every 911 call-taker in the state, Raucher said. The analytics solution will let officials gain new data-driven insights into emergency calls placed in the state and public safety ability to respond to them, he said.
In the four pilot locations in California, the early feedback has been “incredibly positive”—beginning with the quick implementation of the RapidDeploy solutions, Raucher said.
“In our worst case, we were up and running in one hour—from being outside the building to being live inside, on the dispatch floor,” he said. “In the fastest case, we were outside the building and within 10 minutes, they were processing 911 calls on our platform—the box deployed, plugged in, connected, the backhaul done and logged in on the front end. 10 minutes … They were expecting us to be on site for four weeks. Instead, within an hour, they were trained, and we left.”
Bob Finney, PSAP director in Collier County, Fla., said that RapidDeploy’s flexibility—in terms of both initial deployment and the ability to make upgrades—was extremely attractive to his county.
“What we saw with RapidDeploy was the ability to easily integrate and implement something in a day or a week—even a month—versus years,” Finney said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “That’s what really got our attention.
“We’ve had our current [CAD] product for two years. We’re not quite ready to dump it and move. But what we did was we bought RapidDeploy as a backup system and as a DR [disaster-recovery] type system, so we have it.
“We’re starting to interface, and we’re starting to use it now.”
Recently, Collier County used RapidDeploy’s CAD in a mobile 911 station that was deployed at the recent county fair, Finney said.
“I sat with the group as they went through the brief training that we did for the fair, and it was so intuitive that they said, ‘Why don’t we use this all of the time? This is great. Why don’t we switch to this?’” Finney said. “I said, ‘Well, it’s not that easy.’ But the initial feedback was just great.”
Finney said the Collier County PSAP soon will get another chance to use RapidDeploy in a more traditional setting.
“This [county-fair deployment] is our first phase of rolling it out,” he said. “Ironically, our next phase will be when we have to go down for our current CAD; when we do the upgrade, we’ll have to take it down for a day. Instead of going to paper and pencil, our plan is to use RapidDeploy as our backup CAD, so we can test it in kind of a disaster-recovery mode.”
Having cloud-based offerings like RapidDeploy, Carbyne and Mark43 in the 911 marketplace is creating unprecedented options for PSAPs, according to Finney.
“What it does for us is that it puts us in the driver’s seat, because even our traditional provider is looking at us and going, ‘What in the world are you guys doing, looking at this?’” he said. “So, they’re leaning over us and saying, ‘What can we do differently?’ What it’s really done is that it’s got the competition going.”
Combined with initiatives like FirstNet and next-generation 911, cloud-based solutions are creating a “very disruptive time in public safety,” with some agencies much more willing to embrace the new technologies than others, Finney said.
“That makes it even more difficult for the legacy providers,” Finney said. “They’ve got shareholders to answer to, and they’ve got to be selling to whoever is buying in the next 12 to 24 months. And, if a majority of people aren’t looking for cloud and aren’t looking for this functionality, that’s not what they’re going to build to. Where’s that going to put them in two years, if they’re not putting R&D into this now?
“For me, what’s going to be interesting is who are the players going to be in two year that are going to be able to provide what then the majority of people are going to be asking for? I don’t think a lot of them are queuing themselves up for that.”
But simply putting existing systems into the cloud will not be enough for incumbents to succeed, Raucher said.
“The difference between cloud-native and cloud-hosted … the most elegant way to say this is that cloud-hosted is putting lipstick on a pig—it’s basically taking your database and putting it in the cloud, expecting that your existing front end to work like there’s no problem with latency,” Raucher said.
“The way we build—in a web page that is designed to work in high-latency environments, so we don’t have lag—is with the database in the cloud. It actually assists our product; it doesn’t slow our product down. That’s where all of these guys who think they’ve solved it by simply dropping their database in the cloud … It’s going to be a disaster brewing, and we’re going to be on the sideline watching them.”
In addition to improving public-safety response times and enhancing first responders’ situational awareness during incidents, RapidDeploy hopes to leverage the capabilities of the cloud to “democratize public safety”—a stark contrast to the existing business model, Raucher said.
“The fact that we’re charging as a SasS-based, volume-based business means that an agency in rural west Texas will have the same solution as a Tier 1 city,” Raucher said. “We don’t believe in these tiers, where companies say, ‘I’m a Tier 1 CAD; I’m a Tier 2 CAD.’ We’re the CAD that does everything, and whether you have one seat or 100 seats, you will be able to afford this.
“That is how the game has changed. Because, right now, life and death in rural West Texas is very different from life and death in Chicago. Because, in rural West Texas, there’s some guy sitting in a PSAP answering a 911 call with a walkie-talkie and spreadsheet.”