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New CentralSquare Acquisition to Unify CAD Systems

By folding Tellus Safety Solutions’ CAD-to-CAD communication software into a public safety platform used by over 5,000 agencies, CentralSquare aims to boost sharing between 911 centers around the country.

CentralSquare, the largest public safety software provider in the U.S., has purchased Tellus Safety Solutions, doing so with a goal of taking 911 dispatch centers out of communication silos by connecting them in a nationwide, interoperable network.

CentralSquare announced the purchase this week of the Utah company, whose software allows dissimilar computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems to communicate and share information. The price of the purchase was not released. The deal, however, stands to integrate CentralSquare’s own CAD platform with two pieces of Tellus software: Aware, which allows neighboring emergency response agencies to see each other’s incidents and resources, and Unify, which allows disparate agencies to dispatch resources to an incident.

Touting “safety without borders” in its announcement, CentralSquare is giving Aware to its 5,000 public safety agency customers for free, hoping to cut down on response times across the country by making it faster and easier for dispatchers to coordinate, even if they use disparate software. The company will also continue to support non-CentralSquare platforms and enable them to communicate, albeit with comparatively less speed and function.

The possible upshot of these integrations varies depending on who’s guessing, but at least two sources suggest they could save hundreds of thousands of lives. The Federal Communications Commission estimated in 2014 that cutting emergency response times by one minute would save 253,032 lives a year; in a 2015 report, RapidSOS put the figure at 149,331.

CentralSquare CEO Simon Angove said in Orange County, Calif., giving dispatchers the ability to find and send the closest first responders to an incident regardless of department cut mutual aid request times from 2.5 minutes to 15 seconds. He estimated the time savings in Columbus, Ohio, at about 60 percent.

Angove compared the business strategy to CentralSquare’s acquisition of Lucity in January, which allowed the company to integrate enterprise and asset management software with finance and community development applications — combining complementary tools to streamline government operations. CentralSquare itself is the result of a merger between Superion, Aptean, TriTech Software Systems and Zuercher Technologies, a subsidiary of TriTech.

“Our vision is to build the industry’s broadest, smartest, most unified platform to meet all the needs of our public-sector customers, to make sure all these applications reside on a single platform. Where we believe there is an application that adds value to our customer base, we will acquire that and integrate it with the rest of this platform,” he said. “It’s very much about one-stop shopping for these agencies.”

Angove said CentralSquare’s main competitors in the public safety market are Motorola and Hexagon, who are working on CAD-to-CAD communications in a way that’s “very manual” and labor-intensive. He said CentralSquare’s out-of-the-box solution is easier to deploy, with greater functionality and ultimately, given the size of the company’s client base, greater reach.

Besides more acquisitions, Angove said artificial intelligence may have a role to play in future integrations, with the goal being to make limited human resources more efficient through proactivity and automation.

“We are investing a lot in artificial intelligence. Overall in research and development, we’re spending 19 percent of revenues on R&D, which is about three times our nearest competitor, so investing in product innovation is a huge part of our strategy,” he said. “One of the big challenges in the public sector today is personnel shortages. If you look at the staffing levels in public safety or administration, they’ve been flat or declining for the last 20 years. Citizen expectations, meanwhile, have been increasing. So the challenges for local governments being, how do we do more with less, given our personnel shortages.”

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.