Recent conversations with various public safety units – including police, EMS, and firefighter – highlighted a key barrier that has slowed adoption of consumer-grade tablets into the fire department – the lack of Android and iOS applications to support key workflows in this market. Many police departments, on the other hand, have experimented more with laptop and tablet technologies, and thus have drawn more attention from commercial vendors offering applications and hardware packages. In order for fire department units to take advantage of the more cost-effective consumer-grade tablet device, we will need to see a stronger ecosystem of apps develop to further the utility of these devices when firefighters bring these devices into the field.
One FD IT department we spoke with expressed the challenge this has presented for their department in deploying tablets. This unit explained that they would likely deploy Android tablets – largely because the application Streetwise CADlink is currently available for this OS. The Streetwise CADlink was developed by Hangar 14 Solutions – a company led by firefighting veteran Phil Kouwe.
While small, this startup appears destined for strong growth in coming months as this solution enters the market. As Phil Kouwe explained, many fire departments currently have deployed Toughbooks or other netbook form factor devices – these devices often remain closed, and are thus not truly mobilizing these workflows or enhancing productivity in the field. The Hangar 14 solution for Android tablets is designed to integrate critical response information, enabling firefighters in the field to access incident information, maps, turn-by-turn directions, hydrant locations, satellite views, and the locations of other units responding to the site. As the Streetwise CADlink application gains increased visibility and potentially expands to support iOS devices, we expect this solution to significantly impact the adoption of consumer-grade tablets into the firefighting market.