Tablet Command Enables Firefighters to Respond in Real Time
With PubNub, Tablet Command:
Provides firefighters with real-time updates to incidents, helping them to respond faster and improve the outcomes of emergencies.
Can provide these updates with continuous reliability—they've never experienced an outage with PubNub.
Replaced their in-house solution for updates, which has saved their team significant dev and maintenance time.
Can easily scale these updates to service their growing customer base.
“In firefighting, one second can mean the difference between life and death. PubNub is essential to delivering updates to crew members so that they have a real-time picture of what's going on and can respond properly.” William Pigeon, CTO and Co-Founder at Tablet Command
Meet Tablet Command
Tablet Command, Inc. provides incident management and response software to fire departments across North America. Their aim is to improve situational awareness and accountability to firefighters by helping them quickly and efficiently respond to incidents. Tablet Command achieves this through their app, which gives fire departments the knowledge, resources, and plans needed to easily make the correct, timely decisions in order to successfully resolve emergencies.
The advent of the iPad and 22 years of fire service served as the catalyst for Tablet Command’s founding in 2010. Around this time, Will Pigeon, Co-Founder and CTO at Tablet Command, was working as a firefighter. Andy Bozzo, Co-Founder, was talking with their department about accountability and ways to improve command communications to help prevent injuries and fatalities. “Andy was playing Words with Friends with a friend, and he had this epiphany,” said Pigeon. “If he could draw and send letters to somebody in Texas, why couldn't he do the same with a fire engine, when trying to track an incident? The company just took off from there.”
What originally started as a standalone app for incident managers, has evolved into the end-to-end incident response and management platform Tablet Command provides today. Their platform is fully integrated with 911 dispatch centers, so when an emergency comes in, it is immediately routed to Tablet Command. All crew members are alerted through push notifications on their individual devices whether they’ve been assigned to the incident or just informed of one. In the platform, firefighters can pull up the map location of the emergency, click on the location for essential building information, see where fire hydrants and other resources are, and see how far out or close assigned engines are to the incident.
Once on site, battalion chiefs can manage incidents directly out of Tablet Command. Compared to the paper logs and whiteboards fire departments traditionally use, their platform enables firefighters to create templates for different scenarios, where they can easily drag and drop resources on command—like if a second alarm is needed. This means that fire departments can truly manage emergency situations reliably and in real time—and that’s where PubNub comes in.
Providing crucial, real-time updates to improve response outcomes
Tablet Command uses PubNub for real-time updates of incident changes to firefighters. All mobile devices in a department are subscribed to a dedicated channel, which Tablet Command uses to push in-app updates as battalion chiefs and incident commanders make changes in the platform. For instance, if additional engines are dragged and dropped to an assignment in the app, all the devices are updated; so everyone knows, in real time, what those assignments are.
Before PubNub, Tablet Command was powering these updates through contracted backend support. But as a small dev team, they wanted to be able to focus their time and energy on their product and roadmap, not mastering and managing in-app messaging infrastructure. Plus, their in-house solution operated by checking in with devices every six seconds, not quite in real time like they preferred. “The true reason we went with PubNub was that we wanted to provide this real-time feel to our app without having to pull our backend services,” said Pigeon. And for a platform that assists fire departments in efficiently responding to emergency situations, real-time updates are essential.
Firefighters are often awoken in the middle of the night, and need to get up to date and stay up to date to increase the chance of a successful outcome. “In firefighting, one second can mean the difference between life and death,” said Pigeon. “PubNub is essential to delivering updates to crew members so that they have a real-time picture of what's going on, and can respond properly in a mission-critical environment.”
“The true reason we went with PubNub was that we wanted to provide this real-time feel to our app without having to pull our backend services."
Operating continuously and reliably in emergency situations
Even after switching to PubNub to power their incident updates in real time, Tablet Command still has an in-house, backup solution in place as a fail-safe. “That’s nothing against PubNub,” said Pigeon. “That’s just the mentality we have across our platform, and as a company servicing emergencies—we cannot fail.” But, thankfully, they’ve never had to rely on it.
“We’ve never had a single issue regarding PubNub,” said Pigeon. “We don’t even consider the possibility there could be a problem. We think of PubNub like water: it’s always on.” This confidence in continuous operability is yet another reason Tablet Command ultimately selected PubNub for their in-app updates. “When we were evaluating PubNub we saw the huge, global presence available,” said Pigeon. “And we knew by selecting PubNub that our app would continue to operate reliably—we always had that confidence.”
Since using PubNub, Tablet Command hasn’t needed to resort to their backup updates. In fact, they haven’t struggled with even a single small outage or blip. This knowledge that their updates will continue to be pushed in real time to improve response times and incident outcomes for firefighters, instills essential peace of mind in their team, and customers as well—especially as their company scales.
Scaling to support an ever growing user base
Today, Tablet Command has over 12,000 users on their platform across 170 different fire departments throughout North America. With the tremendous growth they’ve seen year-over-year, it’s crucial that every part of their platform is built to scale—and their selection of PubNub was no exception. “PubNub has been a great solution because it’s easy to integrate it into our platform,” said Pigeon. “We don’t have to worry about managing a separate vendor or backend, and it’s truly built to scale with us as needed.”
Scalability for Tablet Command is essential because their customers cannot afford to miss out on reliable, real-time updates, even as more demand and usage is put on the platform as the company grows. Plus, because their platform helps manage spontaneous emergency situations, Tablet Command frequently deals with fluctuations in usage on their platforms and must ensure that all their features work perfectly throughout spikes and dips.
Pigeon feels confident that he can count on PubNub to operate reliably to power their in-app, real-time updates as their user base grows, and throughout spikes of activity on their platform. “The infrastructure and level of service are so profound, and we see that PubNub is always working to continuously improve their offering to benefit their customers,” said Pigeon. “So we have never even considered worrying about PubNub in terms of scalability.”
“PubNub has been a great solution because it’s easy to integrate it into our platform. We don’t have to worry about managing a separate vendor or backend, and it’s truly built to scale with us as needed.”
Tablet Command relies on and trusts PubNub to power their in-app incident updates, because they’re confident we can operate reliably, in real time, and at scale to deliver firefighters the crucial information they need to successfully respond to emergencies. If you would like to learn how PubNub can help power your real-time, in-app experiences and interactions, get in touch with our team of experts.