Firefighters and police officers will be the emergency app developers of tomorrow, according to Motorola's chief technology officer Paul Steinberg.
Since splitting from the commercial mobile phone manufacturing company Motorola Mobility in early 2011, Motorola's main focus has been on public safety communications. As commercial success of smartphone devices took off, the company has produced a number of Windows Mobile devices designed specifically for use by emergency services. While Motorola has developed a number of apps for the devices, Steinberg told ZDNet Australia at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials Australasia conference that it was important to give tools to the users to make their own.
"I don't expect Motorola to come up with every application that is useful, I think that would be really irresponsible for us to assume we could do that. Now what we've done is we've opened and unleashed a set of incredibly powerful tools and just like you see today around iOS and Android, creativity comes from all corners," he said.
"So you start to see police and firemen of the future, I expect you will see some of them as app creators, and I know some of them already are," he added.
He said that app development would be driven by younger officers moving into the police force and the fire brigade and to facilitate the creation of apps by emergency officers, Motorola has opened up its API.
One of the newest devices Motorola has announced, which is specifically designed for emergency services, is the LEX 700. The LEX 700 is a smartphone-like rugged device — running on Windows Mobile but planned to switch to Android — that works across private emergency networks as well as commercial 2G, 3G, Wi-Fi and US telecommunications company Verizon's long-term evolution (LTE) network in the 700MHz spectrum band in the US.
The LEX 700 cannot be launched in Australia just yet due to the lack of compatible 700MHz LTE networks available right now. While the US Government has allocated 700MHz to commercial operators, it has also given a segment of the 700MHz band for public safety. It is looking increasingly unlikely that the Australian Government will follow the US's lead, instead pushing public safety to the 800MHz spectrum band.
Telstra has previously suggested it could prioritise public safety networks on its LTE network and Anthony Goonan, director of Network and Commercial Planning, Telstra, told the conference yesterday that the company's recent trials of network-initiated dedicated bearers (NIDB) with Ericsson would allow the company to provide dedicated channels of bandwidth on its 3G and LTE networks. This could be used to offer a dedicated channel just for public service workers that would work in conjunction with private networks deployed in the 800MHz spectrum band, Goonan said.
Telstra is planning on releasing a whitepaper on the subject in a fortnight and Goonan said it was time for the industry, device manufacturers and the public safety sector to "sit down and talk" about the best way forward for Australia's public safety communications systems.
Josh Taylor travelled to the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials Australasia conference as a guest of Motorola.