How Public Safety is Benefiting from an IT Sector Approach

26 Sep. 2016   News

At a time when most of us are using mobile devices and cloud-based applications to do our jobs it is incredible to think that the typical police officer on the street still uses pen and paper to record important details.
Most of us experience the benefits of mobility as consumers, but fewer understand why it’s more difficult to change the way Australia’s public safety agencies communicate and work.
Providing first responders with better technology is more complex than handing out devices loaded with consumer applications — it’s about making the right long term investments that do not compromise an environment where lives and public safety can be at stake.
Australian Public safety agencies are investing in mobility strategies because it makes sense to keep officers in the field longer rather than at the station completing reports. This creates a “force multiplier effect” whereby an agency’s overall effectiveness significantly outweighs the physical limits of its resources.
When announcing a mobility tender for his State’s police force, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said, “…to think in 2016 there wouldn’t be a crook out there that doesn’t have an iPhone, yet we have Victoria Police members using fax machines, pens and paper … It just goes to show how much catching up there is to be done.”
What might appear to be a humble remark from the Premier merely highlights the fact that public safety’s adoption of technology hasn’t grown at the same pace as community expectation that agencies, like us, can easily enter the mobile era.

Technology change in public safety is slower than in society for good reason. It is essential that any technology is effectively integrated within legacy assets including Computer Aided Dispatch Systems and that communications are not compromised by security threats and reliability and coverage problems.
For any public safety agency, defining a mobility strategy always starts with setting clear operational objectives and goals. Agencies must carefully consider what they are trying to achieve and how better technology will get them there.
In many cases the answers include enhancing real-time, operational awareness by increasing collaboration between officers in the field and control room environments. Among the solutions used to achieve this goal are mobile applications which place vital information at officers’ fingertips, bodyworn video cameras and applications to extend the reach of radio networks to technology users carrying a variety of different devices.
We know that increasing mobility for public safety works. When announcing improvements to a mobility application, Queensland’s Former Emergency Services Minster, Jack Dempsey, said the solution would “cut down red tape and save up to 30 minutes per shift.” He added that the time saved would be reinvested in “frontline policing and keeping families safe”
Similar mobility approaches are being adopted globally, including in the UK where Sussex Police have rolled out an application suite to enable remote workers to access to the agency’s Records Management System. Now the agency can communicate with other national services, with officers working at different locations sharing real-time data at the crime scene.
Investing in the right mobility technologies also lays a foundation for performance improvement over time. This can include having sophisticated analytics platforms which access historical data to map and predict potential crime hotspots and the creation of “Real-Time Crime Centres” where public safety officials make data-driven decisions to keep responders and the community safe.

While some of these capabilities might sound like a futuristic fantasy produced by the "Precrime" department in Minority Report (a film you mightn’t have realised is 13 years old now), it’s possible for public safety agencies to realise the benefits of mobility much sooner.
Applying the IT industry principles of agile software development, agencies can start by rolling out basic mobility functions to the field. For example, providing a basic client application to manage daily workflows and making rapid improvements to it by capturing user feedback and collaborating with the service provider. The benefits of this kind of collaboration are not limited to relationships between public safety agencies and service providers. With a flexible, centralised applications platform, agencies can benefit from comparing the experience of field users across agencies in different jurisdictions to accelerate testing, increase functionality, interoperate with other departments and save money.
For emergency services nationally to gain full benefit from their mobility strategies, it’s vitally important they harness collaboration and the wider support of an ecosystem of technology users and industry. Having this, as well as careful planning and the right mobility policy frameworks, enables our agencies to make a down payment for future advantages.
The future may not look exactly like Minority Report, but if the right steps are taken today it may ultimately help them move from responding to crime to preventing it.
Take a look at HQT Emergency Dispatch System—Public Security Solution.

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