Kansas 911 organization selects AT&T, RapidDeploy to shift key PSAP solutions to the cloud
Most public-safety answering points in Kansas are expected to process 911 calls with the help RapidDeploy’s cloud-native Nimbus computer-aided-dispatch (CAD) system that will be deployed through an AT&T contract with the Kansas 911 Coordinating Council.
This marks the latest initiative by the Kansas 911 Coordinating Council to migrate PSAPs in the state to a next-generation 911 (NG911) architecture. In 2017, the Kansas 911 Coordinating Council became the first to contract with AT&T to build a statewide ESInet, the IP-network foundation for an NG911 system.
Similarly, Kansas now is the first state to announce that it will move the CAD operations in its member PSAPs—more than 80% of all PSAPs in the state, according to a press release—to the cloud, according to Scott Ekberg, director of the Kansas 911 Coordinating Council.
“When someone calls 911, it typically means something has gone terribly wrong,” Ekberg said in a prepared statement. “The caller—whether for themselves, a loved one or a stranger—can’t always articulate their location or vital details of the situation. That’s why we lean on technology to help us operate at our best and deliver the potentially life-saving services Kansans count on.
“We’ve long been a leader in NextGen 911 deployments, and we’re proud to be the first, major system to move our 911 solutions to the cloud. Our continued work with AT&T and the addition of the RapidDeploy Nimbus platform will further our ability to better serve Kansas residents should they ever need to call for help.”
For RapidDeploy, the Kansas announcement is the latest in a remarkable rise for the startup, which only introduced its cloud-based CAD system to the U.S. market two years ago.
RapidDeploy previously announced a two-year deal worth more than $6 million with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services 911 Emergency Communications Branch (Cal OES), but that arrangement is focused on mapping and analytics services. In contrast, the Kansas contract will represent the first large deployment of the cloud-based Nimbus CAD system announced to date in the U.S., according to RapidDeploy CEO Steve Raucher.
“This is really the blueprint of what we imagine NG911 will look like at a state level,” Raucher said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “Kansas has an incredibly future-forward infrastructure, and the last piece of that infrastructure—to put it all together—is obviously hosted CAD and mapping.”
AT&T echoed that sentiment.
“We applaud the Kansas 911 Coordinating Council for its ongoing dedication to deliver an outstanding emergency response experience,” Stacy Schwartz, vice president for AT&T Public Safety & FirstNet, said in a prepared statement. “We’re proud to continue to evolve public-safety technology to help provide better information and enable enhanced decision-making among everyone involved in the public-safety process.
“Working with RapidDeploy, we’re helping unify critical 911 functions to boost speed, security and reliability between 911 call takers, dispatchers and first responders – all for the benefit of those they work tirelessly to help keep safe.”
RapidDeploy’s Raucher said that the first phase of the deployment—rolling out his company’s Radius tactical mapping platform, as well as support for two-way text and video—in 98 PSAPs across Kansas is scheduled to be completed early next year and will include the installation of the only hardware necessary to implement the RapidDeploy solutions. Raucher declined to provide a timeline for the Nimbus CAD deployment in Kansas but noted that the upgrade does not require a visit to the 911 centers, because the hardware already will be installed. This kind of flexibility is very different than the upgrade process of many legacy 911 solutions today, he said.
“What we’ve seen from our competitors is an average project time of 18 months to two years per PSAP,” Raucher said. “We’ve seen between nine months and 12 months for mapping projects. And it’s not uncommon to see the installation engineers walking around the PSAP with a floppy disk, installing the latest software on each machine.”
With a cloud-based solution like RapidDeploy, upgrades to the system can be made regularly with minimal disruption to operations in a PSAP. While such advantage to a cloud-based architecture have been utilized in enterprises for years, public safety has been slower to make the shift to the cloud, because of the risk that connectivity to the cloud could be lost and create downtime for the PSAP for a period of time.
By partnering with AT&T and Microsoft, RapidDeploy believes it has addressed such connectivity concerns, Raucher said.
“The problem that’s been holding public safety back—apart from the vendor community not having engineering solutions for the cloud—was obviously the connectivity piece, which was one of the reasons that we partnered with a great partner like AT&T,” Raucher said.
“AT&T has not only provided this ESInet solution statewide across Kansas, but it’s also providing the AT&T NetBond connection between the ESInet and the Microsoft Azure [Government] data center—that is an absolutely hardened, piece of private pipe from Microsoft’s data centers to AT&T’s core, through the core and out to the ESInet, giving five-9 connectivity from the PSAP directly into the data centers in the back end.”
In addition, this connectivity package is backed up by the LTE-based FirstNet system being deployed by AT&T, which represents a technological upgrade in comparison to the 3G wireless connections in Africa that RapidDeploy CAD technology originally was designed to leverage, Raucher said.
“Our entire platform is designed to run over 3G, let alone LTE,” he said. “If you look at who our solution partners are in this solution for Kansas, AT&T is bringing ESInet, it’s bringing NetBond into the Microsoft Azure [Government] data center, it’s bringing FirstNet out to responders in the field—and all of these are public-safety-grade solutions.
“I think that being able to be the final piece that sits in the middle of this is a very exciting prospect for RapidDeploy. Kudos to our solutions partners for giving us the toolset to be able to deliver an end-to-end public-safety solution.”
Raucher said he believes the Kansas announcement is indicative of a trend within the 911 industry and the public-safety community to embrace cloud-based solutions.
“We really are delivering a complete, future-proof platform for Kansas,” he said. “We’re again pushing the envelope and showing what can be done statewide … I think it’s an incredibly powerful message that being sent to the rest of the 911 authorities around America as everybody’s gearing up for 911 and what that means. What is achievable in a relatively short timeframe would have only been a dream—or a five-year project—even a few years ago
“We’re really, really proud to be a part of the story of the evolving face of NG911 in America.”