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Post-Paris Attacks, IBM Launches First Responder App Contest

In the wake of the ISIS terror attacks in Paris, many technology companies are looking ahead and preparing for the worst. Disaster recovery is a new focus for some, while others have had their eye on the target for much longer. IBM, for example, announced a contest today that gives developers access to its cloud to encourage disaster response-related app development.

Just days after Friday evening’s attacks that killed 129 people and injured hundreds more in the French capital, IBM has launched the First Responder Application Challenge, which runs through December 14. An IBM spokesman clarified for us that, although the contest was announced three days after the Paris attacks, the contest has been in the works for months and was planned ahead of time for a Nov. 17 launch date.

The First Responder App Challenge is being run in partnership with Vencore, an information solutions, engineering and analytics provider whose solutions are aimed at the U.S. government.

IBM and Vencore are coordinating with the United States Geospatial and Intelligence Foundation and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials to develop an app ecosystem that paves the way for new predictive analytic and mobile apps that help first responders operate more effectively. The apps will be built and delivered on the IBM Cloud and aim to leverage data to solve first responder challenges.

“The best innovation takes place when you drive toward a common goal,” said Anne Altman, general manager of IBM U.S. Federal and Government Industries, in a statement. “And it’s no different in government, where an ecosystem of developers, academia, technologists and others come together to address challenges.”

A Win-Win

Here’s how it works: Challenge participants will use IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform to build apps, just like participants in NASA’s Space App Challenge did in April. IBM is doing a public service, but it’s also gaining plenty of attention for its platform. The NASA challenge resulted in thousand of new Bluemix users, according to IBM.

To be sure, the challenge is part of Big Blue’s larger goal to grow an ecosystem that drives both U.S. federal and public sector cloud adoption. As part of the announcement, IBM also revealed five new federal partners that are working to advance the hybrid cloud. These partners include Ingram Micro, which markets, sells and supports IBM Cloud on the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace and Tech Data Corp., a global distributor of technology products, services and solutions.

Big Blue is playing a big role on this front, according to IDC’s U.S. Government Private Cloud Infrastructure as a Service 2014 Vendor Assessment. The market research firm said the IBM Cloud is playing a “leading role for federal hybrid clouds.” Bluemix is a “game changer” for the federal market when coupled with the capability to deliver new cloud workload innovation, IDC noted.

Five Key Needs

The winner of the First Responder Application Challenge will be the developer who builds the best solution to address at least one of the five unmet needs IBM has identified: improving 9-1-1 services; emergency tracking; first responder assistant apps; easier access to information; and preparation and fire prevention.

IBM is encouraging participants to work directly with vendors and universities to build Web-based and mobile apps that tap into real-time remote sensing data, GIS tools, field data and other content. The winner must have a fully functioning app installed and running on Bluemix or Vencore’s IDEAS (Intelligent Data Exploitation and Analytics System).

Using the latest technology available from IBM, IDEAS delivers predictive analytic solutions, mobile applications, development services and collaboration services to enable first responders to define needs and work directly with providers to build and deploy tailored solutions that meet those needs, the companies said.

In addition to having a fully functioning app up and running, participants must submit a written description of how the app functions, according to the companies. Registration is open until December 11.

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