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Google, OnStar, ADT and Others Integrate With 911 Startup

Cloud-based emergency response platform RapidDeploy has integrated with hardware and software from dozens of other companies, trying to create a shared ecosystem for legacy and cutting-edge tech.

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Shutterstock/Adrian Grosu
As cloud, wireless and hardware capabilities have grown in recent years, so has the market for first responder technology. Police, fire and emergency medical responders have smartphone apps, in-vehicle technology, sometimes the ability to tap into smart city sensors and cameras on streetlights, or even stream video from a 911 caller’s phone. But with so many devices and capabilities has come a demand for unified dispatch systems and ways for these technologies to interface with each other.

Texas-based company RapidDeploy announced a new version of its software to do this at a virtual conference this week, along with five new integrations with products from other companies, and partnerships or allyships with more than half a dozen others.

According to CEO Steven Raucher, RapidDeploy serves about 600 agencies today — about 30 in South Africa and the rest in the U.S. It was founded in South Africa in 2013 and won its first U.S. customer for a statewide mapping analytics program, the state of California, in March 2019. Since then it has relocated its headquarters to Austin, secured contracts with Kansas, Arizona and Minnesota, and integrated with products from dozens of other companies.

The latest additions to RapidDeploy’s Unified Critical Response ecosystem — the name of the company’s platform for interfacing with all manner of emergency response tech — are enumerated in a news release. They range from data feeds to dispatch software to alerts and communications:

  • Google will integrate with RapidDeploy’s tactical mapping product, yielding faster data and the ability to receive information from Android Emergency Location Service.
  • OnStar will send crash data directly to 911 map screens with RapidDeploy products.
  • ADT’s house alarm monitoring centers will transfer data to 911 communication centers with RapidDeploy.
  • Priority Dispatch’s emergency dispatching software will be part of RapidDeploy’s tactical map.
  • Rave Mobile Safety will connect its building floor plans, facility information, Panic Button and other communication tools to RapidDeploy’s platform.
Besides these, RapidDeploy announced a partnership with Esri to design a road map with advanced GIS capabilities for first responders in the field. RapidDeploy also added six members to its “Lightning Partner” program, a list of companies that it finds worthy of attention and plans to integrate with in the future. These include Archer, an autonomous drone delivery system for medical supplies; ClimaCell, a weather intelligence platform; Niche, a records-management system for law enforcement; PulsePoint, a mobile app that shares location data; Trainfo, which predicts railroad crossings in real time; and what3words, a high-accuracy geocode location system.

Government Technology reports on integrations all the time, but unveiling so many at once is uncommon. Raucher said the idea of this week’s virtual conference was to kill two birds with one stone by announcing the integrations and coaching customers through what they mean.

“In public safety, change management is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome. So if we can deliver both messaging and technology together for our users, we can give them the best experience,” he said. “It makes it much easier to communicate to hundreds of public-safety agencies at once.”

Raucher said the company’s goal for years has been to enable a technology ecosystem for first responders in which their legacy tech, new devices and communications platforms could all interface with each other. He also articulated a business strategy shared by many in the gov tech space, such as CentralSquare, Motorola Solutions, Tyler Technologies and Mark43.

“It’s been our ethos that RapidDeploy never wants to invent something that a third party can do better,” he said.

Some companies apply this ethos through acquisitions and others through partnerships, but it’s gotten increasingly common as markets like the one for first responder tech get saturated with niche-focused startups. But Raucher differentiated RapidDeploy from some of its competitors by the fact that it was an early cloud advocate created in a “greenfield” environment, without a foundation of legacy software and on-premise product configurations to deal with.

“We weren’t influenced by legacy thinking, so (we’re unique in) the way that we present the user experience, the way that we came into this market with the expectation that no customer should ever be charged for integration, because that’s not how one would do it in enterprise tech,” he said. “It’s not about, anymore, if things can interoperate. It’s about finding partners who want to interoperate. Because there are plenty of companies in public safety today whose business model is charging a huge amount for the initial implementation, and a huge amount in standing up interfaces, both of which, in a SaaS world, those costs don’t exist.”

Raucher has seen progress toward RapidDeploy’s vision of a fully interoperable environment for first responders, not least of all because of cloud adoption. A self-described early evangelist for cloud technology, he recalled being told by a competitor at the first conference he attended to “go back to Africa because nobody does 911 in the cloud.”

Today he’s educating customers on what SaaS (software as a service) does, that it removes the pain of ownership for a customer and leaves them with the functions they want. He said there’s no better market in gov tech for a SaaS-based model than 911, because departments' size and funding correlate with the size of the population they serve.

On the downside, Raucher sees innovation colliding with old thinking in the realm of problem-solving and procurement. He said the No. 1 issue in the market for first-responder tech is the way it’s being prescriptively procured.

“If the procurement is issued from a boiler-plate RFP that was issued five years ago, they’re already behind the eight ball, because technology is evolving, and an RFP from five years ago would not reference cloud at all,” he said. “Try and actually solve the problem. Don’t prescribe the solution.”

Andrew Westrope is managing editor of the Center for Digital Education. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology, and previously was a reporter and editor at community newspapers. He has a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.