FirstNet Experience Center to Demo, Get Feedback on Future Technology
Friday, October 18, 2019 | Comments

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) plans to open a 6,000-square-foot experience center that would allow public-safety stakeholders to interact with next-generation technologies and offer feedback.

The goal of the center is to facilitate hands-on interactions with new and future communications technology for first responders, said Jennifer Harder, senior director of product, FirstNet, during the Oct. 9 Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International Emerging Technologies Forum in Westminster, Colorado.

“The idea is to come in and use these technologies in various operational situations to see how they can inform what you do now,” Harder said.

The new experience center will be located near FirstNet’s Innovation and Test Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, and is in the conceptual design phase, Harder said. Harder did not offer a timeline for when the new center might open.

While the design work on the new experience center is underway, FirstNet has set up a temporary experience center in its lab building with the same goal.

The planned experience center and the current temporary space are part of FirstNet’s Experience FirstNet Program, intended to inform first responders about new technology and give them an opportunity to actually get the technology in their hands and use it, Harder said. “We don’t want the experience center to be a museum,” she said.

The center is intended to start a dialog between FirstNet personnel and first responders about Long Term Evolution (LTE) capabilities and allow first responders to offer feedback on how those capabilities can impact their work and test the equipment before investing agency funds in it, Harder said.

The experience center will align closely with FirstNet’s road map and help inform future investments in the network. Public-safety stakeholders from around the country have already visited the temporary experience center, and it is open for visitors, Harder said.

In response to a question about using State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) 2.0 funds to visit the center, FirstNet Chief Technology and Operations Officer Jeff Brachter said that would be possible but encouraged agencies planning on visiting the center to coordinate with FirstNet staff beforehand to ensure that the visit addresses that agency’s needs and challenges.

Kim Coleman Madsen, emergency management specialist with FirstNet, said that the organization hopes to eventually develop a catalog detailing the different experiences available at the center so that agencies can tailor the visit to their specific needs.

“We have a standing invitation for any public-safety entity to join us at the FirstNet Innovation and Test Lab and regularly work with public safety to schedule tours and briefings at the lab and future experience center,” a FirstNet spokesperson said in response to a question about funding for trips to the experience center. “Public safety interested in visiting the FirstNet Lab can contact their FirstNet Authority public-safety adviser for their state via FirstNet.gov.”

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