The world of the fire department relates strongly to solid and tangible things. In this context one likes to think of personal protective equipment, portable pumps, rescue equipment or emergency vehicles – a dream of sorts on four wheels with rotating emergency lights and siren. Intangible things like software are (unfortunately) not (yet) very important in firefighting.
In the current discussion on the subject of digitization, the use of information technology is gaining more and more traction. Organizations such as fire departments, rescue services and the police are increasingly seeing the need for and added value of digital support: both in pre- and post-processing, but also increasingly in on-site operations. The new generation of managers who came of age with these technologies is already making efficient use of the potential of software – both in everyday life and in challenging situations.
For more than 15 years, Rosenbauer has been dealing with issues of digitization and the provision of both standardized and customer-specific software solutions. As a manufacturer of fire fighting technology and equipment, developments in this area are an important addition to the existing product range. Information technology will not replace water-based extinguishing in the future, but it will provide important support in coping with a wide variety of application scenarios.
Step by step to customized application software
Many factors are necessary for the development of a good software solution. In addition to the technical components that form the basis of every development, many other qualities and abilities such as commitment, vision, creativity, but also a lot of diligence are required as well. At Rosenbauer, cooperation with the customer is particularly important, as is clear and effective communication. This is the only way to successfully implement software projects.
At the beginning of a development there is usually a creative process. This is largely fired by the practical application of the emergency response organization. Many such ideas accumulate in ongoing discussions with customers. This could be, for example, a request for the integration of alarm data from a fire alarm control center or the idea for the development of a special mission navigation or the electronic recording of equipment in a fire fighting vehicle. Then the actual software development process begins.
Most important in such a software project is the project manager. They take up the customer-specific requirements and coordinate them with the respective software development team. In this software development process, various aspects such as maintainability, software architecture, documentation, but also quality assurance and regular communication with the customer are of great importance. Accordingly, the “right language” must be found between all participants, but also an individual and agile way of working.
A further refinement in this phase is the creation of so-called personas, i.e., a description of a fictitious person who could stand behind the user. Here, demographic data and characteristics such as age, working and living environment and other personal backgrounds are described in a profile. This collected information leads to the description of the usage requirements, which serves as the basis for an initial prototype. These do not necessarily have to be programmed already. They can also be designed as simple drawings – so-called wireframes. This provides a first impression of the required functions. These can, for example, be special buttons in the so-called “front end” of the software with which the user can interact on a tablet in the vehicle (Front end = presentation level, part of an application that the user can also see).
These prototypes also give a first insight into the design of the respective interface, which is then finished in further steps using appropriate design and layout rules.
Once these basics have been defined with the customer, among others, the actual programming of the software can begin.
For the implementation of software for emergency response organizations, a complete team of firefighters or experts is not absolutely necessary. A good mix of experts, designers and developers usually get to the point of specialist topics better and more directly.
An idea is, therefore, not just a finished piece of software. Many steps and even more mental effort are necessary before an application can go to the customer. As Albert Einstein has already pointed out: “Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work.” This is also the case with an ingenious software idea.