Apr
29
2021
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RapidDeploy raises $29M for a cloud-based dispatch platform aimed at 911 centers

The last year of pandemic living has been real-world, and sometimes harrowing, proof of how important it can be to have efficient and well-equipped emergency response services in place. They can help people remotely if need be, and when they cannot, they make sure that in-person help can be dispatched quickly in medical and other situations. Today, a company that’s building cloud-based tools to help with this process is announcing a round of funding as it continues to grow.

RapidDeploy, which provides computer-aided dispatch technology as a cloud-based service for 911 centers, has closed a round of $29 million, a Series B round of funding that will be used both to grow its business and continue expanding the SaaS tools that it provides to its customers. In the startup’s point of view, the cloud is essential to running emergency response in the most efficient manner.

“911 response would have been called out on a walkie talkie in the early days,” said Steve Raucher, the co-founder and CEO of RapidDeploy, in an interview. “Now the cloud has become the nexus of signals.”

Washington, DC-based RapidDeploy provides data and analytics to 911 centers — the critical link between people calling for help and connecting those calls with the nearest medical, police or fire assistance — and today it has about 700 customers using its RadiusPlus, Eclipse Analytics and Nimbus CAD products.

That works out to about 10% of all 911 centers in the U.S. (7,000 in total), and covering 35% of the population (there are more centers in cities and other dense areas). Its footprint includes state coverage in Arizona, California and Kansas. It also has operations in South Africa, where it was originally founded.

The funding is coming from an interesting mix of financial and strategic investors. Led by Morpheus Ventures, the round also had participation from GreatPoint Ventures, Ericsson Ventures, Samsung Next Ventures, Tao Capital Partners and Tau Ventures, among others. It looks like the company had raised about $30 million before this latest round, according to PitchBook data. Valuation is not being disclosed.

Ericsson and Samsung, as major players in the communication industry, have a big stake in seeing through what will be the next generation of communications technology and how it is used for critical services. (And indeed, one of the big leaders in legacy and current 911 communications is Motorola, a would-be competitor of both.) AT&T is also a strategic go-to-market (distribution and sales) partner of RapidDeploy’s, and it also has integrations with Apple, Google, Microsoft and OnStar to feed data into its system.

The business of emergency response technology is a fragmented market. Raucher describes them as “mom-and-pop” businesses, with some 80% of them occupying four seats or less (a testament to the fact that a lot of the U.S. is actually significantly less urban than its outsized cities might have you think it is), and in many cases a lot of these are operating on legacy equipment.

However, in the U.S. in the last several years — buffered by innovations like the Jedi project and FirstNet, a next-generation public safety network — things have been shifting. RapidDeploy’s technology sits alongside (and in some areas competes with) companies like Carbyne and RapidSOS, which have been tapping into the innovations of cell phone technology both to help pinpoint people and improve how to help them.

RapidDeploy’s tech is based around its RadiusPlus mapping platform, which uses data from smart phones, vehicles, home security systems and other connected devices and channels it to its data stream, which can help a center determine not just location but potentially other aspects of the condition of the caller. Its Eclipse Analytics services, meanwhile, are meant to act as a kind of assistant to those centers to help triage situations and provide insights into how to respond. The Nimbus CAD then helps figure out who to call out and routing for response. 

Longer term, the plan will be to leverage cloud architecture to bring in new data sources and ways of communicating between callers, centers and emergency care providers.

“It’s about being more of a triage service rather than a message switch,” Raucher said. “As we see it, the platform will evolve with customers’ needs. Tactical mapping ultimately is not big enough to cover this. We’re thinking about unified communications.” Indeed, that is the direction that many of these services seem to be going, which can only be a good thing for us consumers.

“The future of emergency services is in data, which creates a faster, more responsive 9-1-1 center,” said Mark Dyne, founding partner at Morpheus Ventures, in a statement. “We believe that the platform RapidDeploy has built provides the necessary breadth of capabilities that make the dream of Next-Gen 9-1-1 service a reality for rural and metropolitan communities across the nation and are excited to be investing in this future with Steve and his team.” Dyne has joined the RapidDeploy board with this round.

Apr
22
2021
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RapidSOS and Axon ink deal to give better real-time information to emergency responders

Every time an emergency responder or police officer responds to a 911 dispatch, they enter an unknown terrain. What’s the incident? Who’s involved? Is anyone dangerous or holding a weapon? Is someone injured and perhaps has an underlying health condition that the responders need to know about? As prominent news stories this week and over the last few years constantly remind us, having the right context while responding can turn a potential tragedy into a much more positive story.

RapidSOS is a startup I’ve been watching for years. The company raised an $85 million Series C round this February to bring real-time location information from all sorts of devices — from Apple and Android smartphones to Sirius XM satellite radios — into the hands of 911 call centers when users make an emergency call. Accurate location can help dispatchers send responders to exactly the right place, offering faster assistance and therefore saving lives.

The company announced this morning a new partnership with Axon, the company behind Taser, the electroshock weapon designed as a non-lethal alternative to traditional firearms, and a variety of body cams and other technologies for public safety officials. In recent years, Axon has increasingly emphasized a suite of cloud offerings that can fuse data from its devices with software to creates operations systems for public safety agencies.

Through the partnership, Axon will integrate the data that its devices generate such as body cam footage and Taser discharge alerts into RapidSOS’s Jurisdiction View, which is used by dispatchers to place a location and relevant information from a caller a visual map. For instance, a dispatcher might now know the location of police or medical responders, and be able to update a 911 caller on the estimated time of arrival or whether they need help getting access to a location.

Likewise, RapidSOS’s location, medical, and other information that it pulls in from user devices during an emergency call will be sent to Axon Respond devices. Frontline responders will therefore have direct access to a 911 caller’s location information or medical information if they have a profile setup, without having to wait for a dispatcher to route those facts to them.

Josh Pepper, VP of product management at Axon, said “What we’re always trying to do is how can we get [first responders] the right information about the incident, the right information about the people involved, the right information about the location and all of the disposition of the units involved, as fast and as accurately as we can … so that they can have situational awareness of what’s happening.” RapidSOS’s data will augment other information streams, helping first responders make those critical split-second decisions.

Michael Martin, CEO and co-foudner of RapidSOS, said “for the first time now, your smartphone, your 911 responder and the police officer in the field can all simultaneously and transparently share data with each other.”

In tech, we are used to having comprehensive information about our products through data analytics. In the emergency space — even today — first responders can lack even the most rudimentary information like location when responding to a call. RapidSOS, Axon and a slew of other companies are trying to bridge that digital divide.

A UI mockup of how Axon’s information will display within RapidSOS’s Jurisdiction View. RapidSOS notes that “This image is for illustration purposes only and does not represent the final solution interface.” Image Credits: RapidSOS

This is the Jurisdiction View from RapidSOS’s platform, with a few elements added to mockup how Axon’s information will be integrated into the product. The two starred badges represent the locations of responding police officers in the field, converging on the location (green pin) of a 911 caller. In the bottom-right corner, a live body cam feed from a police officer can be routed straight to a 911 dispatcher, giving them a real-time look at what is transpiring on the ground. Meanwhile in the info box to the left, we can see that a Taser weapon was fired (noted under “Device Alerts”) and the 911 dispatcher can text to the responding officer directly through the platform.

The companies said the partnership will bear fruit this year as both platforms integrate the data streams into their respective products.

Nov
06
2018
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RapidSOS, an emergency response data provider, raises $30M as it grows from 10K users to 250M

Every day, there are around 650,000 emergency service callouts via 911 for medical, police and fire assistance in the U.S.; and by their nature these are some of the most urgent communications that we will ever make.

But ironically for the age of smartphones, connected things and the internet, these 911 calls are also some of the most antiquated — with a typical emergency response center still relying on humans making the calls to tell them the most basic of information about their predicaments before anything can be actioned.

Now a new generation of startups has been emerging to tackle that gap to make emergency responses more accurate and faster; and one of them today is announcing a significant round of funding on the back of very strong growth. RapidSOS, a New York-based startup that helps increase the funnel of information that is transmitted to emergency services alongside a call for help, has raised another $30 million in funding — money that it’s going to use to continue enhancing its product, and also to start pushing into more international markets.

The opportunity internationally is greater than the U.S. alone: while the U.S. sees 240 million calls per year to 911 numbers, globally the figure is 2 billion.

The funding — which comes only about six months after RapidSOS’s  href=”https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/rapidsos-raises-16m-to-provide-life-saving-data-to-first-responders-300631998.html”>last round of $16 million — is being led by Playground Global, the VC firm and “startup studio” co-founded by Android co-creator Andy Rubin.

Others in the round include a mix of previous and new investors (and a lot of illustrious names): Highland Capital Partners, M12 (Microsoft’s Venture Fund), Two Sigma Ventures, Forte Ventures, The Westly Group, CSAA IG, three former FCC chairmen and Ralph de la Vega, the former AT&T vice chairman and CEO of AT&T Business Solutions and International. It brings the total raised by the startup to $65 million.

Michael Martin, CEO and co-founder of RapidSOS, said the startup is not disclosing its valuation, but he did point me to the company’s stunning growth over the last year. “We went from 10,000 users to 250 million,” he said, noting the range of agencies and other partners the startup is integrating with to provide more detailed information across the emergency services ecosystem.

Partners on the two sides of RapidSOS’s marketplace include, on one side, Apple, Google, Uber, car companies and others making connected devices and apps — which integrate RapidSOS’s technology to provide 911 response centers with more data such as a user’s location and diagnostic details that can help determine what kind of response is needed, where to go, and so on. And on the other side, you have the emergency services that need that information to do their work and organize assistance.

RapidSOS offers a few different products to the market. Its most popular, the RapidSOS NG911 Clearinghouse, works either with a response center’s existing software, or by way of a web application. This product now covers some 180 million people in the U.S. in terms of the number of people touched by those different emergency response services, the company says.

The RapidSOS API, meanwhile, is used by a number of device makers and apps to be able to channel that information into the RapidSOS system, so that when a response center is using RapidSOS and a caller is using a device or app with the API integrated with it, that information gets conveyed.

The startup also offers a rescue and recovery app called Haven, and found its profile getting a huge boost after Haven went viral in the wake of a succession of natural disasters in the U.S.

The company generates revenue in different ways across that range of services. On mobile, the service is free to consumers, with licensing for the integrations paid for by large tech partners like Apple, Google, etc. In the areas of safety and security (including integrations with home security, digital health, medical alert, personal emergency response (PERS) and vehicle crash response providers), RapidSOS is “typically bundled in with the service offering,” Martin said.

Martin — who co-founded the company with now-CTO Nicholas Horelik (respectively Harvard and MIT grads) after Martin said he was mugged in New York City — said that he sees a big opportunity for RapidSOS, and indeed emergency services in general, once we start to join up the dots better between the trove of data that we can now pick up with connected objects, and conveying what’s important in that trove in order to make emergency calls more effective.

“Most emergency communication today uses infrastructure established between the 1960s and the 1980s, and it means that if you need 911 but can’t have a conversation you are in trouble. 911 doesn’t even know your name when you call,” he said in an interview. “But there is all this rich information today, and so our job is to help make that available when you really need it.”

(I should note he spoke to me while driving on a freeway, but he noted that the car he was in was part of a RapidSOS pilot, and so if he did have an accident, at least the responders would be more aware of what happened… Not a huge comfort, but interesting.)

When you consider the number of connected wearables, connected cars and other inanimate objects that are now becoming “smart” through internet-based, wireless controls, sensors and operating systems, you can see the strong potential of harnessing that for this particular use case.

RapidSOS is not the only company that’s addressing this gap in the market. Carbyne out of Israel raised a growth round earlier this year led by Founders Fund in its first investment in an Israeli startup, also to build systems to provide more data for emergency services responders.

(Carbyne, by coincidence, was also borne out of the CEO getting mugged: necessity really is the mother of invention.)

“We are completely different from Carbyne,” Martin said of the other startup. “They are trying to provide more modern software to the industry” — where companies like Motorola have long dominated — “and it’s great to see new innovation on that front. But when we looked at industry, we found the challenge was not software but the data that was being provided. There is a lot of information out there, but no data flow, which is limited by the typical emergency response system to 512 bytes of data.”

He says that RapidSOS, in that regard, works with multiple vendors, including Carbyne, to transmit that data.

And it’s that platform-agnostic approach that interestingly caught the eye of Playground.

“RapidSOS is on the forefront of emergency technology, working with companies like Apple, Google, Uber, and Microsoft to transform emergency communication,” said Bruce Leak, co-founder of Playground Global, in a statement. “We see endless opportunities for connected device data to enhance emergency response and are eager to work with RapidSOS to expand their life-saving platform.”

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