Notes from APCO Western Regional Conference

This week, Carbyne is speaking at several sessions of the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials (APCO) Western Regional Conference in Ontario, CA. It has given us a fantastic opportunity to get out of the office and meet with the 911 dispatcher community, Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) operators and communication specialists who make up this remarkable community. Over the course of the past few days, we’ve had a chance to give a high-level overview of our product and technology and to get some feedback from those who are sitting in the dispatcher’s chairs. Here’s what we’ve learned:

Burnt before

When we began to talk about our product to dispatch operators and communication specialists, we saw two different reactions: eyes-rolling and then mouths-dropping. “Why,” I asked them “is there so much skepticism and cynicism?”. The responses that came back were almost as one: “we’ve seen this before.”

Many companies, start-ups, and innovators come to the table with the best of intentions in helping to shape public safety but often end up only muddying the waters and creating a fractured, confusing atmosphere. Apps that are marketed to the public, with almost no input from public safety industry, can not only make it harder for you to contact 911 but also make it more difficult for them to locate you.

It’s always hard to get over first impressions. Once you’ve felt the sting of betrayal, then you’re far less trusting of someone coming along and promising the next great thing. When I mention that we had already rolled out in several countries internationally, I received some skeptical looks but some equally interested ones as well. When I showed videos of our product working in the field, those suspicious looks turned to surprise, and when I invited them to New York to come and see the demo unit for themselves, those looks transformed into enthusiastic nods. The public safety industry is filled with concerned, caring people who want only the best for the people that they’re trying every day to help. For them, any app that promises and doesn’t deliver is dangerous. All I do is tell them that we aren’t an app, we’re an ecosystem.

Inevitability

“The inevitable is no less a shock just because it’s inevitable.” 
- Jamaica Kincaid, The Autobiography of My Mother

When Steve Jobs fired up his iPhone in 2010 and initiated the first public FaceTime call, there were cheers of joy from the audience. From that day, it was only a matter of time until video made its way to public safety. When we began to exhibit how our product worked internationally, there were nodding heads and smiles. Our demonstration was the first time that they had seen the successful deployment of video into the PSAP and it was met with an enthusiastic ‘yes.’

The consensus was that it was inevitable they would soon be dealing with video and multimedia as well as audio calls. The rise of smartphones, video calling, picture messaging, and VOIP has meant that we now have greater means to communicate to, and enhance the understanding of situations with, the public safety community. When we discussed anecdotes about our deployment in Israel, such as how call takers were able to use the video to ensure that CPR was correctly followed, cut dispatch times by 50% they were amazed. Explaining how much time could be reduced, and resources saved, merely with the addition of video led to call takers wanting to know when we could begin to deploy with them.

This week was our initial introduction to the U.S public safety community, and it exceeded every single one of our expectations. Whatever skepticism we may have faced at the beginning of the week was gone by the end of it. The tireless workers of the 911 industry were able to see that a nationwide rollout of next-gen software was not only possible but had been done successfully. When we explained that our product easily integrates into their already deployed CAD systems, they were enthusiastic. When we showed just how many lives could be saved by improving location, adding video, and giving operators greater control over the calls coming into their PSAPs they were floored. We met hardworking, passionate communicators and we were able to provide them with a glimpse of what the future holds. Their response lets me know that they’ve been waiting a long time for Reporty and we’re looking forward to helping them to save lives.