The company that used to make branded, customized apps for individual police departments has spun its work with North Carolina's largest city into a one-size-fits-all app for more than just public safety.
After more than a year of delays, tweaks and rebranding, the Austin, Texas-based Atlas One, formally known as MobilePD, is launching a one-size-fits-all mobile app to improve two-way communications between public agencies and their citizens.
The self-titled app, Atlas One, is a free download for iOS and Android that gives citizens in the company's partner cities access to real-time information such as police activity, crimes, channels of communication with officers, personalized alerts and push notifications. This includes geofenced alerts, where the user can choose a specific building or neighborhood and receive relevant communications for that area, or the department can send alerts pinpointed to specific areas. The official launch of Atlas One last week represents an evolution of a product announced in October 2019 by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) in North Carolina, which was a consultant in helping Atlas One develop the app.
Last year, the app was slated for release in the Charlotte area in November, but a delay coincided with changes in the company’s strategy as well as external events. Since 2010, the company had been creating unique, separately branded apps for different public safety agency customers. The company’s CEO, Kushyar Kasraie, recalled being asked three years ago by CMPD to create the most advanced public safety app in the country, and it was nearly ready for showtime last fall.
Co-founder and VP Jamieson Johnson said several things have changed since then: The company changed its name because it’s no longer working exclusively with police departments, and rather than creating different branded apps for each customer, it has decided to build one app that works anywhere.
“The reality is that people don’t download apps the way we used to. Ten years ago, everybody was downloading apps left and right, and now the average person only downloads less than one app a month,” Johnson said. “We realized we need to provide a service that works for all of public safety, so you download a single application and you’re connected with every public safety agency on the network.”
In the midst of rebranding and adjusting the application for a one-size-fits-all model, two nationwide events both delayed the product and suggested the need for it. In March, COVID-19 made in-person events such as press conferences impossible, and it also made virtual interactions with citizens essential.
“2020 has totally changed the way public safety interacts with the community, in the sense that, historically, citizen engagement is mostly conducted face to face,” Johnson said. “So one of the ways we think of Atlas One is a digital version of a cop on every corner. It’s a model where public safety can actually conduct and enter into these live two-way conversations and build dialog, build transparency, build trust, virtually and digitally through the Atlas One network.”
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CMPD spokesperson Sandy D’Elosua said the app is essentially a piece of technology in the service of transparency and communication.
“It’s been several years in the making,” she said. “I think that law enforcement agencies around the country are looking at ways to improve citizen engagement and accessibility to information … at their fingertips as quickly as possible, and that it’s accurate and vetted.”
Kasraie said CMPD will be Atlas One’s only customer with its own, specially branded app, because the department worked closely with the company in developing it. D’Elosua said the app had a soft launch over the summer, and it will be updated with more features in the near future.
Johnson said he expects several cities around the country and most of MobilePD’s old customers to start using the app in the coming months, and several already have: Police in Milwaukee are using it to send real-time alerts about things like shootings, homicides and car accidents; the city of Bakersfield, Calif., is using it for general public communications; and Mt. Juliet, Tenn., has Atlas One accounts for police, fire, city, mayor’s office and parks and recreation.
Johnson predicted the market for personalized, location-based information will only grow in the near future.
“When we spoke with citizens, the end users, really there’s two things that people care about most: They care about what’s going on around them right now, and ... if there’s any crime or safety issues around the places and people they care about,” he said.
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