When hackers meet paramedics: Motorola Solutions’ public safety hackathon

Some of Australia’s leading minds from software development firms, Queensland’s public safety agencies and technology companies recently came together in Brisbane for an intensive, 48-hour technology hackathon.

For those unfamiliar with the term, hackathons bring people together to engage in computer programming, typically to create new tools and resources including mobile applications and services.

However, the objective of this hackathon run by Motorola Solutions was to apply innovation and creativity to enable Queensland’s public safety agencies to work more efficiently to protect our communities.

Over recent years, the digital revolution has opened our eyes to new ways to stay informed, engaged, connected and entertained – from interactive social media technologies to apps which make it easier for us to travel and manage our online transactions.

These innovations have contributed to greater expectation within Australian communities that public safety agencies can be more effective through the adoption of advanced technologies.

Additionally, citizens also expect to be able to share what they see in their communities with public safety agencies, such as ‘real-time’ information captured on their smartphones which can be used to help manage dangerous incidents.

However, the pace of technology adoption has been necessarily slower in public safety than our consumer experience. That’s because the essential work our first responders do each day can never be compromised through holistic technology change.

Additionally, there are fundamental differences between “good enough” consumer technologies and those fit for “mission-critical” public safety use. This includes the need to ensure all public safety communications are secured from external threats, can be shared between multiple public safety agencies and are robust enough to withstand peak events including natural disasters.

While voice communication will always be essential in public safety, the ability to combine vital two-way radio communications used every day with emerging, broadband-based technologies will improve information flows and increase situational awareness among public safety officials.

This helps to ensure agencies are armed with the right information at the right time and can easily collaborate with each other in a way that enables better and faster decisions being made to preserve public safety.

Designing technology solutions to meet these needs was the challenge faced by teams participating in the public safety hackathon, including software developers from Brisbane-based Spectrum Data Systems International, Victoria’s Gridstone, Western Australian company Fleetsu and Motorola Solutions.

Participants worked in teams using the using the principle of “agile development,” to create solutions which address their most critical needs Queensland’s public safety agencies.

A more efficient solution for asset tracking

After an intense two days of coding and software development, Fleetsu was victorious with its intelligent ‘mobile evidence solution’, an app which will help public safety agencies track where their vital assets and resources are at all times.

With prize money and in-kind services from our company, Queensland government and Amazon Web Services, Fleetsu now have a fantastic opportunity to bring its solution to market and help public safety agencies realise new capabilities in a technology-driven future.

Not a bad result for a fledgling company formed 18 short months ago by the company’s CEO and founder, Jakub Felinski, an ambitious young entrepreneur who is following his vision to enable public safety agencies to achieve more through better technology.

Fleetsu’s success is a Cinderella story, but it also reminds us of the important role the technology industry has to play in breaking down barriers and enabling collaboration to develop more sophisticated capabilities.

A major factor in this hackathon’s success was the fact that its solutions were developed in direct consultation with Queensland’s public safety agencies.

Having clearly defined problem statements from these agencies helped all involved to truly understand the real challenges our first responders face in the field every day.

The hackathon served to remind us that in today’s environment, public safety agencies need and demand more sophisticated technologies to better manage their daily work and deal with increasingly complex threats including online crime.

There is still much work ahead to narrow the gap between community expectation and public safety capability.

However, I am confident that by maintaining the energy and momentum generated at this hackathon we can go a long way toward creating a safer and more secure Australia of the future.

Steven Crutchfield is the vice president and managing director for Motorola Solutions Australia and New Zealand.

This article was originally published on The Mandarin

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