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Accurate and timely data is critical to the efficient operation of any business. However, it is even more crucial for those working within the security and emergency services, where every second counts in often challenging and dangerous situations, writes Coeus Software’s CEO, Simon Hall, pictured. He covers the need for accurate data in such scenarios, with the ability to view, process and share it quickly. Features within the latest mobile cloud advancements can help mobilise workers on the frontline to become more efficient and less restricted by form-filling and large amounts of paperwork, or the problems caused by disconnected systems and data silos.
Whether it’s dealing with the fallout of a major incident, or any other challenging situation, fast digital access to data from a range of sources is critical in often complex, fast moving scenarios. But with much of this data/intelligence held in paper form or siloed data repositories, which is much more susceptible to human error and confusion, the ease and speed with which information can be directed around an organisation is severely hampered. This can be hugely detrimental to planning and decision-making, resulting in serious inefficiencies, higher costs and staff frustration. It can also affect how quickly and effectively an incident is resolved, which can be extremely costly when lives are involved.
On arrival to the aftermath of a major incident the police and wider emergency services need to be able to work as quickly, effectively and calmly as possible to safeguard the area. Whether it’s a critical link to incident information from a Command and Control system, intelligence checks on people or vehicles from the Police National Computer (PNC), or a mix of these, frontline teams rely on accurate and real-time data from these systems to do their jobs. They also need to be able to share data with other partner agencies, which is particularly vital during a major incident.
If their data collection systems are still largely paper rather than digitally based, and not sufficiently integrated with the systems that their partner agencies use, Police Forces will struggle to keep up with fast changing demands. Data and intelligence held in paper form is also susceptible to a greater risk of human error and even loss, which can seriously impair decision making and the ability to stop incidents from escalating. With a single, cloud-based mobile platform seamlessly integrated with their backend systems, frontline officers would have all the tools they need to view, process and share information from the palm of their hand. The ability to access and transfer data in real-time could help save time in the aftermath of a major incident.
Police forces are trying to adapt, with many having invested in business change to implement digital transformation, but the biggest problem has been with the depth and speed of this deployment. In ten years of mobile data implementation less than 10% of all police processes have been mobilised. Current bespoke solutions take far too long to deploy and can be out of date before they get implemented. Another important dynamic is the constant changes in law and its effect on operating processes which then need to be amended.
There is also a challenge among Forces at present about adoption by frontline officers, as a consequence of cumbersome user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) in current systems. Such challenges have resulted in some cases in less than 50% of officers embracing the new technology and opting to return to the station over the course of a shift instead.
Following the inexorable rise of commodity technologies and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions including Office 365 and SharePoint, and software vending portals such as G-Cloud, a new wave of mobile cloud advancements is emerging that can help boost the mobility and responsiveness of frontline workers.
The latest generation of solutions is smoother, faster and more intuitive to use, with users able to deploy a single app for any operational business process, anywhere in or out of the office, on any device and in real-time. Smart features that prompt or autocomplete information wherever possible also save time, particularly when dealing with repeat offenders. With a single portal to access, record and report everything they need, it’s quick and easy to complete tasks, share information with other agencies, and better ensure the accuracy of data.
By adopting a user environment and interface that is familiar and shares the same simplicity enjoyed by popular social media platforms, user comfort and a more intuitive user experience is also assured and training times massively reduced. However, most crucially, the best mobile platforms are also fully customisable by users themselves. So whatever data they need to view or forms they are required to complete, the right tools are always available to design and implement these processes without the need for hefty third-party consultancy.
Given the open standards inherent within many cloud architectures that’s making it simpler to integrate other systems, the latest cloud-based mobile platforms also provide stronger integration with back-office databases. Such seamless access to backend intelligence and emergency response systems, makes it quicker and easier for the security and emergency teams to verify the identity of suspects, or retrieve, view and process any documentation they need. There is also a number of initiatives currently in development to further improve the data available to officers at the frontline and the Home Office is leading the way.
The National Law Enforcement Data Programme (NLEDP) is part of the Home Office’s Crime and Policing Group Law Enforcement Portfolio of Programmes. NLEDP will build the new Law Enforcement Data Service (LEDS), which will replace the outdated Police National Database (PND) and Police National Computer (PNC) by 2020.
Through its (NLEDP), the Home Office will look to introduce new and enhanced data sets into LEDS including biometrics for fingerprint identification, images from DVLA and Passports, ANPR and analytical tools. By collaborating closely with the wider industry and developing API gateway support channels, the Home Office is working to ensure these developments are built into future solutions, making identification quicker and easier for frontline officers going forward.
Quick, Simple to Sign Up to Solutions
The latest cloud-based solutions for mobile are increasingly available online, some of them on a simple subscriber model and in some cases even on a free trial sign-up basis. For those operating in the public sector, software vending portals like the government’s G-Cloud digital marketplace offer a fast, effective way to find the solutions they need, without being locked into expensive contracts with single suppliers. It’s quick, simple and without great risk or cost.
The popularity of G-Cloud has grown rapidly with total sales through the portal increasing from zero to £2.4bn in just five years. It is also an increasingly important procurement channel for the emergency services, particularly Police Forces. Since the portal’s launch in 2012, Police Forces have spent a total of £58 million through it, with their expenditure increasing by 98pc between 2013 and 2017.
Given the new anti-terror measures announced by the Home Office and calls for much closer working between the intelligence service, the police, partner agencies and private organisations to thwart future major incidents from happening, the need for better, faster and more accurate intelligence has become even more crucial. It is worth noting however that due to the nature of information being handled at different security levels, OFFICIAL and SECRET, with both of these requiring different implementations of how they handle data, there could be an approach, which looked at providing sub-sets of data that could be useful to the intelligence services. However, this would have to be asymmetrical with the intelligence services potentially needing to redact some of the information it holds when tightened security was required for more sensitive data.
More generally the emergency and wider security services have for too long now, been held back by outdated systems, which are either paper based or made up of a patchwork of legacy IT systems and technologies. Not only is their performance poor, but the lack of systems integration is simply not up to the job of today’s data/intelligence needs. It’s now time for a fresh approach and to seize the initiative with the new wave of mobile cloud advancements offering much better functionality and systems integration. Only then will we be able to enhance collaboration and the inter-agency sharing of intelligence that’s needed if we are to disrupt major threats at a much earlier stage and prevent more incidents from occurring.
About Coeus Software
Coeus Software is a mobile solutions company established by founders CEO, Simon Hall and CTO and Cambridge University graduate Chris Eccles. Visit www.coeussoftware.com.