Today’s Featured BizSpark Startup is Resgrid from Reno, Nevada USA
Developer by day, volunteer firefighter by night . . . Shawn Jackson likes making a difference in the world. Now, as founder of BizSpark startup Resgrid, he is helping speed up disaster emergency responses in a bid to keep people safer around the globe.
When a call crackles across a fire emergency response system, first responders rush to their station, grab their gear and get to the scene as quickly as possible. As they drive, though, it’s tough for everyone to know who else is responding or what their own role will be.
“It’s hard to put together the best crew for the situation without knowing who is responding from where and what level each person can operate at,” says Jackson. “Am I going to be the guy kicking in the door or driving the truck?”
The developer side of Jackson’s brain started swirling with ideas to resolve the communications issue. He came up with the concept of Resgrid, a cloud/app combination that first responders can use from their mobile devices to coordinate logistics and resource management. Smartphones and tablets, he reasoned, were owned by nearly every first responder – why not create a universal product for mobile networks that can receive text messages?
He enlisted help from another developer he knew well – Jason Jarret – and, together, they chose to build out the idea using Microsoft technologies – particularly Microsoft Azure – as the foundation. The Microsoft BizSpark program gave them free access to lots of Microsoft software, including Azure.
“Every country has first responder needs and at varying levels of sophistication,” says Jackson. “With Azure we can coordinate all the information we need to help any first responder – anywhere – track operations and even obtain turn-by-turn directions to get to the emergency scene.”
Resgrid uses the cloud platform to deploy its entire product, from the company website to its backend API and everything in between, says Jarret, in large part because it seamlessly connects with any open source software (OSS) package Resgrid uses.
“Our system was designed to work with Azure from the onset,” says Jarrett, co-founder, “because it allows us to leverage all the capabilities of the platform. For example, we use Cloud Services for both Web and Worker roles to help us identify patterns and reoccurrences. Our backend is Azure SQL Database. That gives us SQL as a service that we do not have to manage or failover.”
Azure SQL Database uses a special version of Microsoft SQL Server as its backend. It provides high availability by managing many databases, storing multiple copies of databases, elastic scale and rapid provisioning.
Resgrid’s use of OSS packages in conjunction with Azure is substantial. MongoDB, for example, lets Resgrid integrate real-time analytics into its Azure operational databases. The startup also uses TeamCity CI – a Java-based platform – as a build server and runs it on an Azure virtual machine. AngularJS and Bootstrap, open source web application frameworks, are being used with Azure Websites (a fully-managed Platform as a Service) for the startup’s web site. StackExchange.Redis lets Resgrid connect to the Azure Redis Cache through a .NET API, allowing the startup to create and configure a cache, add or remove objects from it and configure cache clients.
Resgrid’s dashboard shows where first responders are – and what they’re doing.
“Azure is more developer-friendly than any other cloud solution out there,” says Jackson. “It’s Nirvana for developers, really. We can release new code every week to staging and production, plus it scales up and down as needed.”
The startup currently supports fire services in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States. Expansion to other parts of the world, say the founders, will be accomplished using Azure’s datacenter footprint to create localized versions of Resgrid.
“Fire services is what I know,” says Jackson. “It’s our niche market. But there will be a point where we’ve accomplished our goals in this market and want to focus on other verticals. We’re constantly evolving and the beauty of Azure is that it’s always ready when we want to try something new.”
Microsoft is helping these startups succeed through its BizSpark program. To join or see other startup stories, visit us at our website here. To listen to our startups, check out these podcasts on devradio here.
About BizSpark: Microsoft BizSpark is a global program that helps startups succeed by giving free access to Microsoft Azure cloud services, software and support. BizSpark members receive up to $750 per month of free Microsoft Azure cloud services for 3 years: that’s $150 per month each for up to 5 developers. Azure works with Linux and open-source technologies such as Linux, Ruby, Python, Java and PHP. BizSpark is available to startups that are privately held, less than 5-years-old and earn less than $1M in annual revenue.