FirstNet and AT&T moving forward with IoT, smart city offerings

FirstNet is working to generate interest among developers for IoT and smart city applications using its service. (FirstNet)

Following news that all of the nation’s states have opted in to FirstNet’s public-safety network, executives at FirstNet and AT&T are now moving forward with their network buildout plans. But, as FirstNet officials have pointed out, FirstNet is more than just a network.

“FirstNet will not only solve today’s communications challenges, but it will create a new, public safety-focused marketplace that offers innovative, life-saving technologies that will help first responders do their jobs safely and more effectively, as well as connect them to the internet of things and smart cities infrastructure, as needed,” wrote FirstNet’s CEO Mike Poth wrote this week.

In an interview with FierceWireless, FirstNet advisor Bill Schrier provided additional details on FirstNet’s IoT and smart city efforts, explaining that FirstNet’s application ecosystem is intended to allow third-party developers to create a range of IoT services for police, firefighters and other first responders.

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Importantly, he said that FirstNet’s contract with AT&T calls for the company to deliver a portfolio of IoT devices by March, gadgets that could be used by police, firefighters and others to create monitoring and tracking systems, for example. A FirstNet representative couldn’t immediately provide details on the carrier’s FirstNet IoT device portfolio.

Schrier pointed out that cities today are investing in a range of IoT-style technologies, from traffic cameras to connected lighting. “All of this has the potential for public safety use,” he said.

For example, he said, a school district could purchase smart monitoring systems for their buildings, and first responders could potentially tap into that system if an intruder entered a building. Or, in another example, police could temporarily deploy sensors around an area during a downtown New Year’s Eve celebration, and could then monitor the area for explosives.

Schrier, a former CIO for the city of Seattle, has been working to educate public safety agencies across the country about the FirstNet smart city and IoT opportunity. Indeed, he will be at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in part to drum up interest among developers to create smart applications for FirstNet’s public safety app store.

FirstNet is working with AT&T to create a nationwide, interoperable, high-speed wireless network for the nation’s public safety workers. Last week, all of the nation’s 50 states, as well as two U.S territories and Washington, D.C., signed on to FirstNet’s network. That means that AT&T will get access to 20 MHz of 700 MHz Band 14 low-band spectrum in every state across the entire country, alongside $6.5 billion in federal funding to help build out that coverage. AT&T has pledged to spend roughly $40 billion over the life of the 25-year contract to deploy and maintain the network.

Next up? FirstNet said that in the first part of this year it will launch “the first core that is dedicated to public safety communications traffic, making sure that it is secure and encrypted from end-to-end on the network,” Poth wrote.