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Eric Sun

"10-4, Copy," followed by the digital squawk of a radio system. The in-car rugged laptops, bolted down in the police cruiser and fire truck, each weighing about as much as a suitcase containing $5,000 and costing about that, especially when including the accessories, chargers, and software. Public Safety hardware and software need to be robust, secure, easy to use, and reliable, which is why it’s often several years behind. But that's radically changing.

Last year at the Fire Department Instructor Conference (FDIC) and International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), two of the largest public safety events in the world, departments were content with their legacy dispatch software and laptop systems. This year, both fire safety and law enforcement are starting to mobilize their operations through phones and tablets. In a time of personnel cuts and reliance on neighboring towns for mutual aid, technology is filling the gap. Mobile technology can inform first responders of nearby hazards, persons of interest, fire hydrants, floor plans, and other critical information not only in their town, but also in those of neighboring jurisdictions.

ipad-in-cruiser

Why phones and tablets? Today, everyone has a smartphone – you might be reading this from your phone. In the private sector, these powerful devices are already integrated in business processes to increase productivity and reduce response times. Public safety can use powerful smartphone features such as built in GPS, front and rear facing cameras, and internet connections and translate them to broadcasting real-time unit locations, live video streaming, mobile reporting, state checks, and access to state and government databases. Since these devices can be taken outside the vehicle, they provide true mobility and can be used on foot, on bikes or motorcycles, and in unmarked vehicles.

When responding to a call, what if the actual incident is not at the reported location? Often it isn’t. Is the next-door neighbor aggressive towards authority, or a registered gun owner? This information is often available, but bottled up in the backend – it isn’t radioed out. Mobile devices provide situational awareness, mitigate risk, make responders faster, and have a positive impact on lives and property.

firefighter-with-ipad

Are these "consumer devices" rugged enough to withstand real life situations? They are. These devices may not be as robust (or heavy) as ruggedized hardware, but with the right case, they come close. They are also much cheaper and replaceable, and safer in the vehicle in the event of an accident.

Are they secure enough to hold sensitive data? They also are. In June 2013, Apple iOS cryptographic modules were FIPS 140-2 validated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, making Apple devices suitable for law enforcement use. Similarly, Windows 8 and Android modules have also been approved for use in Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) information sharing environments.

There are still challenges towards maintaining a secure network, similar to the corporate world, where BYOD, CYOD, and a jungle of other acronyms co-exist. However, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) software for mobile devices provides end-to-end security and allows IT staff to lock down devices, remotely push updates, and wipe compromised devices if necessary.

Our company’s vision is “A world where public safety runs on phones and wearables.” This is already becoming a reality – many departments have made the switch and are benefiting from phones and tablets. To see public safety running PublicEye on smartphones and tablets, including events such as the 2014 Boston Marathon, Federal Emergency Management Agency drills, and connecting neighboring fire departments for mutual aid, visit our homepage at http://www.publiceyes.com.



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