Critical infrastructure enterprises are experiencing rapid change in communications technology and a corresponding explosion in information. These trends present opportunities to improve service delivery, but also significant challenges in managing all of that change. Meeting the challenge requires the collaboration of technology providers.
Tait has been breaking new ground with an innovative approach to delivering applications for Public Safety. The approach has been to host a series of “AppStorm” days that bring clients, application partners, geeks and gurus together in one room for some high speed problem solving and App coding.
“LMR has typically had very long development cycles, very slow rates of innovation. We set out to change the game, to bring the speed and innovation of a startup to our clients.” says John Whittaker, Tait Lean Development Coach.
The project has produced a range of solutions from better battery management tools, to voice tagging of location, to automated search for survivors using UAVs and asset tracking. With many Apps, the objective has been harvesting and “mashing up” various information sources (regardless of source technologies), and presenting all those sources in one consolidated view, creating simplicity out of complex situations.
The AppStorms have come out of the Tait Application Enablement project. The project aims to provide an easy framework for development of a suite of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that can be used across P25, LTE and cellular. These are now freely available to developers throughout the industry. “Having APIs is not enough though, we needed to build a developer community and prove that valuable solutions can be created. Daring ourselves to engage with our developers early and learning from their feedback is important to us – that’s where the AppStorms came in.” says Whittaker.
Early AppStorms were just five or six people testing the API environment. “We wanted to create a team scenario that fostered Design Thinking.” commented Magda Krause, Partner Technical Support Manager. “That means rapid, customer-centric prototyping. Failing fast, moving on to success.” These early sessions didn’t deliver much at first, but they sowed seeds of an exciting culture of collaboration.
The events then expanded to twenty or thirty people including users and other vendors. “This is where the project really caught fire.” says Whittaker. “We had real-world problems, and we had a bunch of highly-competitive developers who wanted to come up with the most useful solution. Competition is a big part of the AppStorm experience.
An AppStorm is a great opportunity for clients and end users to put forward real-world problems and see multiple solutions emerge in just a couple of days. There are some false starts, but the fast pace of creation brings out the best in people and a focus on what’s essential, so there are also great ideas. The final demonstrations are an opportunity for customers to select the best concept to go forward towards production.
The next phase in the project was taking AppStorm on the road, getting closer to critical communication users. First stop was California, running AppStorm in parallel with the APCO International show in Anaheim. “We wanted to give the developers direct engagement with the public safety customer, so we packed up the whole project and moved to the Anaheim Hilton,” said Whittaker. “We enjoyed a highly-productive couple of days developing public safety Apps with a broad range of technology partners.”
So overall what has been learned? This kind of event really helps a technology company to create an entrepreneurial sub-culture. We were amazed by the rapidity with which multi-vendor teams could form, and the speed of invention, action and delivery of results is incredible. We saw highly-innovative client applications coming through, from the problem to a solution in a matter of hours.
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This article is taken from Connection Magazine, Edition 4. Connection is a collection of educational and thought-leading articles focusing on critical communications, wireless and radio technology.