Paradigm Shift - The EDG Device that Connects 9-1-1 with 21st Century Tech.
by Justin Jensen
In early 2018, I had the opportunity to start working on a unique project that would challenge me professionally like never before. My task was to integrate 9-1-1 communications centers with RapidDeploy's cloud-based dispatch environment, an approach that was at the very bleeding edge of delivering software in the public safety industry. The concept was simple enough – find a way to get data from 9-1-1 call handling equipment to the cloud in near real-time. From my experience, I knew this integration would require some form of equipment to be installed at the 911 center. Working for a 100% cloud-based solutions provider I knew that I wanted to avoid any solution that required physical servers or equipment that would have to be installed and maintained in traditional ways. It didn't take long to realize that the solution was an Internet of Things (IoT) platform that leveraged System on a Chip (SoC) computing systems and lightweight communication protocols to implement an industrialized solution for delivering 9-1-1 information to the cloud. I picked up a Raspberry Pi, starting coding, and a few months later, I had a working prototype ready to do some testing with actual 911 systems. Before I knew it, the device I built became a full-blown IoT gateway solution that could be used to stream all kinds of 9-1-1 data securely to the cloud. I'll never forget humbly walking into that first 9-1-1 center with a little box that fit in the palm of my hand, explaining how we were going to connect their 9-1-1 phone equipment to the cloud, but lo and behold 15 minutes later we were up and running getting locations plotted on our web-based tactical map.
Fast forward to today – we are now in the process of installing over 500 of these IoT Emergency Data Gateway (EDG) devices in 9-1-1 communications centers in the US by the end of 2019. In the process, I also achieved another first in my career – the award of US patent 10,264,122 that describes the unique mechanism I developed for the EDG device. It has been overwhelmingly satisfying to go through the process from design concept, prototyping, testing, patent filing, and finally the manufacturing of a production unit in a little more than a year. As an engineer at my core, I always wanted to be a part of the development of a product from start to finish. Seeing the device I designed being installed and finally working was a special day for me.
I learned so much throughout this process that was essential to the overall success of the project. The first thing was to be persistent. So much of this project involved constantly treading new territory and running into roadblocks. However, continuing to work the problem, exploring alternatives, and looking at things from different perspectives always yielded a solution. The next thing was to find a great team to work with. This goes without saying, but I could not have done this alone and finding other people that shared the same passion and enthusiasm for my vision led to a better product than I could have ever dreamed of. And finally, I learned to believe your idea all the way through to the end. I was lucky enough to have amazing support from my leadership from the very beginning, but there were plenty of naysayers along the way who told me what I was trying to do couldn't be done, or that the industry would never accept it. It may be a small piece of the puzzle but in very little time I was able to accomplish something that I believe will make a difference in improving outcomes in public safety. To other engineers out there who want to accomplish something similar: I say to you – it can be done!