January 18, 2013

iTolosa built its lifesaving firefighter app with Xamarin

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Sujet : Application GPS DFCIWhen disaster strikes, firefighters and rescue personnel rely on accurate geolocation data to direct their vital efforts. Mobile technology consequently plays a role of growing importance in firefighting and disaster relief.

The availability of a suitably robust and responsive application can mean the difference between life and death in emergency situations–it’s a field where developers can’t afford to make compromises. That’s why IT firm iTolosa used Xamarin to build GPS-DFCI, a free application for iOS and Android that is used by thousands of firefighters in France.

DFCI, an acronym that translates as Defence of Forests Against Fire, is a positioning standard that is used by French government agencies to combat wildfires. The standard allows emergency personnel to succinctly describe a precise location with a simple string of text that consists of three characters and four numbers.

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The simplicity of the DFCI format ensures that coordinates aren’t misunderstood when communicated over long-distance radio. The downside, however, is that special gridded maps are required to determine the DFCI value of a particular location. GPS-DFCI, iTolosa’s free app, is designed to simplify that process–making it fast and easy for firefighters to compute the DFCI coordinates of a given location.

Adopting Xamarin allowed iTolosa to reuse thousands of lines of its existing C# code, making it possible to build the free version of the app in only a few months and release it for both Android and iOS. The productivity advantages of C# also helped accelerate development of many advanced features, such as live remote tracking, that iTolosa later developed for variants of the app that are used by the company’s special customers.

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The free version of the GPS-DFCI app, which has been downloaded by over 50,000 users, is described as a “must have” tool during official firefighter trainings. As of 2012, it is officially supported and endorsed by French fire prevention and firefighting agencies. In the field, firefighters have used it in ground vehicles and in water-dropping aircraft. Some consider it to be an important lifeline.

“We have received reports of firefighters lost in a critical situation, and whose lives have been saved thanks to our app,” said Nicolas Merlet, President and CEO of iTolosa. “In other words, the GPS-DFCI app is both a daily assistant and a precious help in extreme conditions.”

The success of iTolosa’s impressive GPS-DFCI app highlights the value of mobile innovation in rescue services. It also illustrates how Xamarin accelerates mobile development, enables cross-platform portability, and facilitates prodigious code reuse. Developers like iTolosa can count on Xamarin to supply the tools they need to build mission-critical apps that users can soundly trust with their lives.

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