The DroidDevCast

Exploring Technology in the Public Sector with Siyata Mobile, Inc.

Episode Summary

The DroidDevCast is a weekly podcast brought to you by the team at Esper, where we explore all things Android, DevOps, and open source software development. In this episode, Esper Platform Evangelist Rin Oliver spoke with Siyata Mobile, Inc. VP of Sales Jason DePue to learn more about the variety of Android devices available in the public sector brought to North American markets by Siyata, and the intersections of the logistics industry and Android.

Episode Notes

The DroidDevCast is a weekly podcast brought to you by the team at Esper, where we explore all things Android, DevOps, and open source software development. In this episode, Esper Platform Evangelist Rin Oliver spoke with Siyata Mobile, Inc. VP of Sales Jason DePue to learn more about the variety of Android devices available in the public sector brought to North American markets by Siyata, and the intersections of the logistics industry and Android.

On this Episode of The DroidDevCast: 

02:03 - What makes the UV350 device unique? 
03:23 - Exploring the software applications available on the UV350
05:07- An introduction to FirstNet
07:38 - How 5G technology will impact the public sector
10:16 - What role does application management play in the public sector
13:09 - Is the public sector still focused on on-premise solutions, or are they moving to the cloud
15:02 - The steps public sector operations can take to transition to the cloud

Episode Transcription

Rin Oliver (00:10):

Welcome to the DroidDevCast, a podcast brought to you by the team at Esper, bringing you the latest news, thoughtful discussion, and insights into all things Android, Android DevOps, and open-source software development. I'm your host, Rin Oliver, Platform Evangelist to Esper, and today, I'm joined by Jason DePue, VP of Sales at Siyata Mobile, Inc. Jason, thank you so much for joining me today.

 

Jason DePue (00:28):

Hey, thank you so much. I appreciate the time.

 

Rin Oliver (00:30):

You're very welcome. We're here this week to discuss the use case around Siyata and Esper, learn more about FirstNet and what you're doing there, and to talk a bit about the logistics industry, especially in regards to the Android ecosystem. With that said, let's get started. First things first, can you tell our listeners a little bit about Siyata? What's the history of the company and what markets do you focus on? Also, what countries do you operate in?

 

Jason DePue (00:51):

Sure, absolutely. Well, first off, I can tell you Siyata Mobile is probably a company no one in North America has heard about, and only because we are new in terms of operations here. Siyata Mobile themselves, they were founded in 2012. We're actually headquartered in Montreal, Canada, and then we design and develop our products in Israel. I was the first US-based employee that they brought on board just nine months ago now and it's been a wild ride, especially during these crazy COVID times.

 

Jason DePue (01:24):

Siyata Mobile, we actually licensed the Uniden brand name in North America, so we're not starting from scratch in terms of name recognition. We've got three different, I guess you can call them product lines. We've got the UV350, it's our in-vehicle device. We do have rugged handheld devices, all operating smartphones, feature phones, and then, of course, the Uniden cellular booster line. I can tell you those boosters sure have taken off with everyone working from home over the last several months. People get home and realize they can't really carry on long conference calls without improved coverage at their home.

 

Rin Oliver (02:03):

Absolutely. Can you tell us a little bit about the UV350? What makes that device unique? Also, why did you choose Android as the underlying operating system for that?

 

Jason DePue (02:12):

Oh, sure. Well, the UV350, of course, it is an Android smartphone, but when you first look at it, you go, "Huh, that's a different form factor." It's because we've taken that form factor, we've turned the smartphone on its side, so it's a 5.5-inch screen in landscape mode with a physical keyboard down below, and when I say "keyboard," I mean a numeric keypad, a navigation button. Even though it is a full-blown Android smartphone, full touch features on it, all the Android apps people know and use and love and those things, it really is designed as an in-vehicle communicator. When I say that, that really focuses on push-to-talk services, whether it's AT&T's Enhanced Push-to-Talk, Verizon's version, the great version from Zello, ESChat is another great one out on the market. Our focus is in-vehicle use, whether it's logistics, transportation, first responders, yellow bus, the list can go on and on when you think about an in-vehicle communication device.

 

Rin Oliver (03:23):

That sounds great. The UV350 is optimized for a really interesting set of software applications. Can you tell us a little bit more about those applications and how they're used?

 

Jason DePue (03:31):

Of course. Well, let's start with the obvious one. We put the name of "in-vehicle communicator" onto the device, so of course, that focus is going to be on push-to-talk services. I think when we think about push-to-talk, a lot of people think back to the old Nextel days and construction guys walking around the grocery store yelling into their phone. That's not what push-to-

 

Rin Oliver (03:55):

That's what I thought of.

 

Jason DePue (03:55):

... Yeah, that's not what push-to-talk is today. All the major carrier support, push-to-talk services, whether it's for construction first responders. It really is an ideal solution for communicating to groups all at once or one-on-one, and because the additional functionality that has come along with Android in terms of messaging, location services, all of those extra things that are thrown in to that solution.

 

Jason DePue (04:24):

That loops me back of why we went with Android. First off, it gives us the flexibility on communications and all those apps that can go along with Android. It gives us that flexibility just to design that device and, I guess you can say, grow it over time. As new technologies, new apps come along, it can work and fit on the device very easily, and that's one of the reasons we're partnering with Esper. We realize that bigger agencies need that mobile device management solution. Well, we want to have a solution that's not only reliable, but a company like Esper that's based here in the US to have it on our devices and be an option for the customers.

 

Rin Oliver (05:07):

That sounds great. Actually, another interesting thing is Siyata's relationship with FirstNet. Can you give us an introduction to FirstNet, as many of our listeners may not be familiar with it?

 

Jason DePue (05:16):

Oh, I don't know if we have enough time. Do we have a couple of hours to cover FirstNet?

 

Rin Oliver (05:19):

Yes.

 

Jason DePue (05:19):

I mean, it only took just over a decade to bring FirstNet to fruition, so to speak. It really came out from 9/11 and the tragedy that happened there. What everyone realized after that horrible day is all of these first responders came into this area to support the building's going down and everything and what they realize is different agencies from all over that area, whether it was fire EMS police coming in from abroad area, couldn't communicate with each other very easily. They were all on their separate radio systems, phones weren't talking to each other, phone network was overwhelmed. I mean, for you, have you ever been to a big sporting event and you can't seem to make a phone call?

 

Rin Oliver (06:04):

Yes, I have. Numerous times.

 

Jason DePue (06:05):

Yeah. Well, FirstNet overcomes all of those challenges. It was a government mandate. AT&T was the bidder that won that contract, that 25-year award to build out a nationwide first-responder network, and how it difference from the other carriers, you can really think of FirstNet as a standalone operator here in the US. It's not Verizon, it's not AT&T. Even though AT&T has built it, it is wholly separate from the main AT&T cellular network. It's got its own secure core, so all of those communications go through a dedicated network away from the regular consumer traffic. Say myself, a regular AT&T user, I can't operate on that FirstNet network, so their communications will always go through, right? They can then talk to other agencies that are on FirstNet also, so if something like that happens again, like 9/11 and there's different agencies all coming in, they can all communicate together and they're guaranteed service, also. You and I still might not be able to make a phone call, but they certainly will, and that's what FirstNet is.

 

Rin Oliver (07:23):

That's actually wonderful. I am disappointed that it came out of such a horrible tragedy, but I'm also impressed that it was created and that it's a fully functional standalone thing that is now there if, gods forbid, we ever needed it again.

 

Jason DePue (07:38):

Yeah, exactly.

 

Rin Oliver (07:38):

Yeah. Moving onto potentially more cheerful things, how do you think that 5G technology will impact the public sector, primarily in the markets focused on by Siyata?

 

Jason DePue (07:50):

Ah, good one. Of course, this current generation of devices that we have don't support 5G, but I can tell you in the future, we'll have 5G devices. Our roadmap in the future, we're already working on those things. Now, when it comes to, I guess you can say FirstNet and 5G, yes, FirstNet's going to absolutely bring 5G technology into what they support, and we will be there supporting 5G also.

 

Jason DePue (08:20):

In terms of FirstNet, because that's really, that's how we started here in the US with the UV350, we started with that device. We are fully certified. We support those dedicated VANS for FirstNet and we are the only device like us, the in-vehicle solution that is fully certified and in that FirstNet portfolio, so as we get to that next generation of devices with 5G, you'll see things when it comes to communications like latency, how fast those either phone calls or push-to-talk connections go through because that's what's really important for first responders, it's the latency. From when that person touches the button, how quick is that connection? Because seconds really matter in life-and-death situations and 5G brings faster speeds, both for data transmission and it reduces that latency.

 

Jason DePue (09:22):

When you go back to the old days of Nextel, when you press that button, from that first chirp to that connection, it took time. Now, we're still talking microseconds compared to other connections, but when you think about LMRs and those radio connections, so those very quick connections, 5G reduces that latency that's already there on 4G/LTE, so it reduces that even more and more, so speed, data throughput, all of those things get better and better with each generation of LTE and 5G is just that next forward step in that progression.

 

Rin Oliver (10:03):

That makes a lot of sense and I actually am really interested by that and I also keep hearing the Nextel chirp in my head now. I think it's embedded in people's brains that were using.

 

Jason DePue (10:14):

Absolutely, sure is.

 

Rin Oliver (10:16):

It's just a thing that calls back. When you hear "Nextel," you're like, "Oh, the chirping noise." Next up, I was wondering, what role does application device management play in the public sector? Where does that come into play?

 

Jason DePue (10:29):

You know what? It's almost easier to answer that from an example going the other way, and this is a total hypothetical answer, an example, but let's take a police officer out in the field using their personal device, okay? They take a picture of maybe some evidence, they do some phone calls or text messaging back and forth concerning whatever incident took place there. No controls in place, no mobile device management on the device. Well, guess what? That device gets tied to that incident. If evidence needs to be collected, guess what? That personal device can be collected and thrown right into the evidence with everything else for an incident and that should not be happening. I think for agencies, it's very important to have a mobile device management in place to be able to block personal applications and really separate that personal from work.

 

Jason DePue (11:30):

I certainly wouldn't want my personal phone ending up in an evidence bag, so to speak, and going into trial, and all of a sudden, all my text messages are there and everything else. What's work should stay as work and what's personal should stay as personable. I think that's just the tip of the iceberg on what's needed for agencies out there in realizing that those MDMs that are in place are designed to control that device. I think Esper has a great solution. Their endpoint, the way you can manage and provision devices, it's really full-proof on the way it works.

 

Jason DePue (12:06):

We're already doing Esper deployments on the UV350, specifically for yellow bus, school bus, school transportation. We can't have a bus driver utilizing YouTube while they're driving down the road. I mean, that would be horrible, having that go on and then looking at the screen all the time, whereas with Esper, we can block all of those applications built into Android. There's no way they should have access to those things. However, we certainly want push-to-talk to work. We want them to be able to communicate. We want the screen to go black very quickly. We don't need the screen lit up all the time when they're just doing push-to-talk calls back and forth, so it's very important to have mobile device management in place to manage those devices for every different customer segment, because everyone's going to be somewhat different and you need that flexibility that an MDM can bring.

 

Rin Oliver (13:00):

That makes a lot of sense. I agree completely. I really am impressed by the solutions that we offer here at Esper, especially in the public sector.

 

Jason DePue (13:08):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Rin Oliver (13:09):

Speaking of the public sector that has historically been focused on capital expenditures and on-premise technology, do you still see this market moving to cloud-based computing and operational budgets, or do you feel they're still going to stick to CapEx and a preference for on-premise service solutions?

 

Jason DePue (13:22):

Ooh. I absolutely think that there's a transition happening, albeit rather slow, and part of that is, especially when you get to government agencies, things like that, they're a little bit slower to migrate, so to speak, to transition. I mean, some of these city/county/state agencies are tied to millions and millions of dollars of expenses tied to statewide radio networks. It's going to take time to transition over to a full mobile solution, say, from someone like a FirstNet utilizing our devices or someone else devices.

 

Jason DePue (14:02):

But at the same time, even though that transition may take some time, I think it's better to those budgets. It's smaller, monthly reoccurring op-ex expenses, easier to manage. No, they're not spending 15, $20 million upfront on a radio network, whereas they can just buy into someone like a FirstNet, get devices, rather inexpensive, compared to 4,000-$5,000 handheld radios, so it really does change that dynamic on expensing and how they account for that, so yes, it's a transition. It's going to take some time as they transition over to that mobile solution. Then when you think about the mobile solution, the applications that come along with it, moving from static servers, they are maybe on-site to cloud-based solutions, managing devices remotely. It's going to happen, but depending on the agency, it's going to take some time to get there.

 

Rin Oliver (15:02):

I agree completely. I think that makes a lot of sense. Depending on the agency, you said, it may take them a lot of time to get there. How do you feel they can get there? How can they get to cloud-based computing, what should they do when they get there? For those businesses that might get there eventually, what do you think the steps are that they can take to move to cloud-based computing? What should they do once they get there?

 

Jason DePue (15:21):

Oh, that's a good one. Well, I think it's going to be baby steps, first off. You're not going to get agencies or school districts or anyone who will rip that bandaid off, so to speak, overnight. It's going to take small baby steps. Maybe the first step is adding a mobile device in supporting push-to-talk. That's that first little step of moving long-term away from a radio, then it's layering on maybe some applications, cloud-based, where the phone can be the body-worn camera solution to get away from a server-based one where they're putting a separate camera on their shoulder lapel, and then that's uploaded there onsite or into the police cruiser. Every one of those is going to be a baby step to transition, and of course, the technology has to be there. I think it's there in a lot of cases, but it's going to be a slow transition.

 

Jason DePue (16:15):

As each agency, depending probably on the IT people, their willingness to try something new based on budgets and things like that to say, "Oh, maybe we can go with this solution versus that old way of doing it," do that first baby step on one thing, do the next step the year after, so again, back to the baby steps. We'll get there, but it's going to take time, and each agency obviously is going to be different. It's going to be much easier for a small privately-held EMS company with 20 ambulances on the road to make a transition versus a nationwide ambulance system. That's got four or 5,000 ambulances on the road to make those transitions.

 

Rin Oliver (16:57):

Absolutely. I think that's really true. Well, that's all the questions I had. Thank you so much for joining us on this episode of the DroidDevCast. We'll be back next week with another exciting show for you. Please remember to like, subscribe, and share this episode on social media. You can also follow us on Twitter at @esperdev and subscribe to our YouTube channel to keep up with all the latest happenings here at Esper. Be sure to check out Siyata and the UV350, and if you already have a UV350 fleet, you can give Esper a try. It's a validated device that's part of the Esper device family. Sign up for a free trial today by visiting esper.io. You can listen to the DroidDevCast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Simplecast, wherever you get your podcasts from. Thank you again for listening.