What is an Applications Ecosystem?

June 17, 2015
FirstNet’s vision for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) includes providing an applications ecosystem.
FirstNet’s vision for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) includes providing an applications ecosystem.

By Mark Golaszewski, FirstNet Director of Applications

Advances in mobile technology have transformed the way we all live our lives. A massive marketplace exists that provides applications that enhance collaboration, communication, responsiveness, efficiency, and entertainment from a mobile device.

FirstNet’s vision for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) includes providing an applications ecosystem where innovative applications are available to first responders that help improve how they carry out their duties and ultimately save lives and property.

This begs the question: What is an applications ecosystem?

An applications ecosystem is a set of capabilities and processes that provides full lifecycle management of an application, from its creation to end-of-life. FirstNet envisions an applications ecosystem that includes the following key elements.

Evolving portfolio of applications
FirstNet intends to leverage the capabilities of the commercial applications marketplace to the greatest extent practicable to enable a continuous, evolving portfolio of applications that support and enhance the mission of public safety users. In addition to mobile applications, the ecosystem includes support for desktop, server, and cloud applications.

Applications developer community
The requirements and tools required by first responders are evolving at the pace of today’s technology. To support responsiveness to these ever changing needs, FirstNet’s goal is not only to provide a mobile network, but to also nurture a vibrant applications developer community to create next generation public safety grade applications in a timely manner.

Applications development platform
To reduce the barrier to entry for developers of public safety applications, FirstNet envisions sets of tools, tests, and certification capabilities for the development of secure applications that leverage the unique features of the NPSBN such as Quality of Service (QoS), priority, preemption, and local control.

Applications store
FirstNet envisions an applications store that complements existing commercial application stores to provide public safety users with a way to discover, download, rate, update, and manage applications. This applications store ideally will provide users, agency administrators, and application developers with a similar cutting-edge, feature rich, and polished experience as those of commercial application stores.

Local control
The public safety marketplace is characterized by over 60,000 diverse, autonomous, and independent-minded agencies that require local control of their users, subscriptions, services, and applications. The ecosystem must provide tools, interfaces, and applications that enable agencies to control their own operations.

Federation of identity management
Increases in interoperability, availability, and sharing of data enabled by applications require agencies to properly identify, authenticate, and authorize users before granting access. A federation is a centralized union or organization, formed by the linking of local, state, tribal, and federal agencies, where each agency retains the control of its own internal users.

Data, applications, and resource sharing
Access to applications, and the priority of those applications, can be highly dynamic based upon the role of the user and the user’s involvement in an incident. The ecosystem must enable the ability for multiple agencies to dynamically collaborate to support mutual aid and information sharing scenarios.

Core service and applications delivery platforms
FirstNet will need to deliver NPSBN services and expose specific Applications Programming Interfaces (APIs) to enable new applications. These APIs, services, and applications will allow for exciting new capabilities such as dynamic control of QoS, priority, preemption, and creation of public safety analytics.

Data and application security and privacy compliance
The ecosystem must provide the tools and mechanisms for applications to share resources securely, while maintaining the privacy of personal information that may be accessed. Security cannot be an afterthought, so applications must be developed with secure information sharing and privacy in mind.

Applications are transforming the way public safety users perform their duties, for their safety and the greater good of the public. An applications ecosystem will be key to enabling the anywhere, anytime access to mission-critical data, information, and intelligence that first responders require and so richly deserve.


Learn more about apps for first responders in the FirstNet Newsroom.

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