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.

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Founded in 2012 in Montreal, Canada and with its products designed and developed in Israel, Siyata Mobile, Inc. may not register to some, but is familiar to American markets, licensed under the brand name Uniden. Siyata offers three major product lines under its platform, including in-vehicle devices such as the UV350 and other rugged handheld devices, smartphones, feature phones, and the Uniden cellular booster, which DePue notes has been a critical offering for Siyata Mobile’s customers while they are working from home.

Options for Rugged Devices 

Siyata Mobile’s in-vehicle device the UV350 is unique in that it is an Android smartphone, but re-imagined and designed to suit the needs of the public sector. “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.”

A UV350 Android Device
A UV350 Device — Image Credit: Siyata Mobile, Inc.

Not only is the UV350 interesting from a form factor standpoint, it also stands out for the evolutionary strides that have been made when it comes to push-to-talk support for Android devices, and is part of why Siyata Mobile chose Android for this particular device. DePue went on to explain that carrier agnostic push-to-talk support is now standard across all major carriers, with Android offering robust messaging, location services, and a variety of extras. The key word that came up in this interview was, ‘Flexibility,’ as DePue mentioned. In particular, having the flexibility to design a device such as the UV350 and expand its offerings 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,” said DePue.

A fire truck sitting outside a fire department

The Creation and History of FirstNet

After the tragedy of 9/11/2001, there arose a clear need for a dedicated cellular network accessible only to first-responders. A government mandate was issued to create FirstNet, the United States of America’s first nationwide first-responder network, DePue went on to explain. It is crucial, DePue noted, to understand that while AT&T won the contract to build FirstNet, that it is wholly separate from AT&T, Verizon, or any other standard cellular network. It has its own secure, dedicated cellular network. Regular cellular users cannot operate their devices on that network, but first responders calls and messages will always go through on it. “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,” said DePue.

An interesting component to these technologies is that of 5G. In particular, how the advances in connectivity speeds and data download speeds brought on by 5G will impact things like FirstNet. Siyata Mobile is working on its own 5G offerings, and notes that FirstNet will be bringing 5G to its supported offerings, also. The UV350 is also the only fully certified in-vehicle solution in the FirstNet portfolio, DePue noted. 

An FDNY ambulance in New York City traffic

“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.” 

Technology Solutions for the Public Sector

While traditionally the public sector has been focused on on-premise solutions, it has been slowly shifting towards cloud-based solutions over the last few years. DePue noted that while government agencies have traditionally been slower to move to the cloud, the shift is still present. Others are tied to a vast financial expense in the form of statewide radio networks, and thus will take longer to transition over to a fully mobile-based solution. Though that transition may take time, DePue highlighted that this is often better budget wise for these particular segments of the public sector. “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,” said DePue. 

To cap off the episode, DePue notes that the key to making the transition is baby steps, “‘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.“

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

You can read the full transcript of this interview on Simplecast. We’ll be back next week with another exciting episode. On episode eleven, we’ll be talking about continuous observability and DevSecOps by design with Esper’s Director of Cybersecurity Jasmine Henry and JupiterOne Chief Marketing Officer Tyler Shields.

As always, be sure to like, subscribe, and listen to the DroidDevCast wherever you get your podcasts from.