Mobile devices, integration are huge themes for law and order

With mobile devices being as pervasive as it is in our daily lives and at work, it is also showing tremendous appeal for the public safety and critical communications space. These particular industries recognise the immense potential mobility has, at keeping first responders in an ever-ready stance to respond to events, among other benefits.

When Andrew Sinclair became Motorola Solutions’ first global head of software in 2017, it marked the cognisance the company had to make their command centre software available on as many mobile devices as possible, and not just on their own ruggedised portable radios like the APX P25 series.

Last June, for example, Motorola Solutions completed deployment of a new mobility managed service for Victoria Police. In this particular deployment, the police opted to use iPad minis and iPhones in rugged cases. But these Apple devices are loaded with the iOS-native IRIS application suite that allows queries of local and national databases, as well as CAD (computer-aided dispatch) software and more.

IRIS was developed by Gridstone, the application development company that Motorola Solutions acquired recently.

Accommodating variety in mobile devices

Andrew commented, “As in everything in life, we have to give customer choice. Victoria Police is a great example. They have made the decision that consumer, off-the-shelf mobile devices work for them, and they do not need customised, purpose-built devices that cost more.”

He shared that this won’t be the case for other public safety agencies like fire departments. “These need ruggedised devices that can withstand heat, dust, shock and be submerged in water, for example.

Motorola Solutions recognises that law enforcement and public safety agencies vary country by country.

“But, we do need to make technologies that enable different style of policing. Because of that, we provide a lot of options to customers to work with different mobile devices.”

He added that because of the nature of how these agencies buy technology, Motorola Solutions has to make sure they interoperate with other brands.

“Obviously, there are levels of interoperability. It’s a lot easier when it’s built on the same platform, like ours is. For example, to be able to access the same records database. But you can still do integration with other brands.”

Andrew also pointed out that his division is a recurring revenue business, and as a separate business entity, their financials will be able to reflect that. “But, our teams (software and services together with products and devices) still work very closely together.”

Time saving on the end-to-end software stack

A summary of the command centre workflow that is possible in a public safety or law enforcement agency. (Source: Motorola Solutions)

Throughout the lifecycle of an event, different resources and personnel are activated and/or deployed at each stage. Each stage is an opportunity to save precious minutes. 

It typically begins; although not all the time; with a call being taken from a citizen about an event. This event is directed to a computer-aided dispatch (CAD) who will send first responders to the scene of the event. These first responders ideally would be equipped with mobility solutions, for example from Gridstone.

The application can provide information before police officers enter a potentially dangerous situation. It is also expected to enable to complete crime reporting and administrative tasks, while in the field.

In 2014, Gridstone was deployed by Queensland Police, giving police officers a time-saving of 30 minutes each shift from desk work because reports were generated on-the-fly instead.

There are other solutions that not only save time, but present timely pertinent information for personnel to do their jobs. “For example, when a call comes in, there is location information and supplemental data such as background info of a suspect,” Andrew explained.

Now, traditionally this would only go to the call taker. With a platform, we also have that information available to the CAD operator. This saves time usually taken for the information to be relayed down the workflow.

Mobile devices enable timely and relevant information

Andrew said, “There’s a thing called spill records, which gives abbreviated versions. Our belief is that you should make the information available to everybody in the workflow, including the first responder on location, and they just filter out for what they need.

“So, you don’t lose time when all the information is pushed out into the platform. In fact, these agencies can decide what information goes to which role. We can tailor it so it makes sense for the different functions.”

Ultimately, the relevant information and records are kept in Command Central Vault, the unified digital evidence management solution. This solution that comes complete with audit trail logs, which helps improve the efficiency and maintain the integrity of a case’s management, immensely.

For example, police departments that use this solution can process and package relevant digital evidence (notes, photos, videos etc) for judicial partners (when and if the case goes to court), and with the chain of custody, still intact.

Notably, an automated redaction function is also available to quickly protect personally identifiable information (PII) before content like videos and photos is shared publicly.

Andrew shared, “Body-worn cameras have become prevalent in the US. So when video is recorded with it, it is subjected to a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request typically from news agencies.

But, the images of people who are not involved in the incident have to be redacted.”

This can be done quickly and simply with Command Central Vault.

Detecting crime – leveraging mobile devices in a compliant way

There are only so many police officers that can patrol the streets to make them safe, not to mention there are many more areas where these officers won’t necessarily be patrolling, like our homes, commercial buildings and so on.

This is where surveillance cameras and community policing can play their part.

“In large enough deployments, there could be community engagement as well,” Andrew shared. Tip Submit, is a Motorola product integrated into the overall platform, whereby citizens can text in suspect activities to a phone number or a mobile device app.

“There are some agencies that use Twitter. It’s customisable and agencies use it as a channel to get information, because the police just need to get in as much information as possible,” he explained.

These neighbourhoods and communities engagements, enables a live stream of “tips” which can be integrated into a bigger whole that public safety agencies and police departments can look at, for added situational awareness.

As more of these engagements become prevalent, a lot of digital content could potentially be generated, which public safety and law enforcement would need to manage.

Andrew cautions, “Motorola does not own the data, the agency does. We can however provide them with technology to ensure they adhere to policies.”

Many local legislations disallow the storing of certain data after a certain period of time, for example.

“We will see privacy legislation being taken up globally. The important thing is to work with local legislation and local agencies to make sure they can fulfil their privacy obligations.

“Our approach is to ensure the agencies are compliant by building a platform that is inherently compliant,” Andrew concluded.