Cloud-based computing has been implemented in the business world for several decades, but with COVID-19 it has accelerated, and now is making its way into the Public Safety landscape. While there were some early adaptors, primarily in cloud-based RMS (record management system) solutions, cloud-based CAD (computer aided dispatch) solutions are just now being offered by multiple Public Safety vendors, albeit most of them are in the early adaptor phase. What is the appeal of cloud-based computing for Public Safety?
- Less reliance on internal IT (information technology) departments
- Application solutions including CAD, mobile, mapping, RMS, etc., are maintained by the vendor, not internal IT
- New version upgrades to the application solutions are completed by the vendor, not internal IT
- Typically, the cloud-based applications are compatible with many devices including desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.
- Changes to the application solutions occur more frequently and are based on the user community and their preferences
- Typically cloud-based solutions are subscription based with less up-front cost and predictable yearly costs
- Cost effective Disaster Recovery models
Why are cloud-based computing applications for Public Safety not more prevalent?
- Vendors were slow to re-architect their applications because the cost of developing cloud-based solutions is extremely high
- Fear of the cloud-based applications being compromised by hackers
- Internet speeds were not fast enough and reliable enough for mission critical applications
- Internal systems and technologies were adequate
- Agencies were not demanding cloud-based solutions
- It is difficult, costly and time consuming to upgrade to new applications, whether on-premise or cloud-based
Over the past eighteen months we have witnessed many events that caused us to alter our way of life and the way we interact with each other and the community at large. During this time, Public Safety, especially law enforcement, has seen a rise in domestic violence and destruction of property as well as an attack on the law enforcement establishment. Additionally, during the height of the pandemic, 911 centers had to implement innovative ways to keep dispatch operations running and keep their first responders safe.
Innovative approaches were introduced by a number of dispatch centers, including remote 911 dispatch operations and dispatch from home. At the same time, law enforcement started evaluating new approaches for responding to calls/incidents, working with local groups to create civilian review boards, and updating or creating new policies/procedures dealing with use of force and mental health incidents.
To effectively deal with all of these changes, law enforcement agencies need to consider operational and technological changes including:
- Policy and Procedure changes
- Training curriculum changes
- Use of video feeds to evaluate situations and determine proper responses
- Use of video teleconferencing to communicate operational and situational information with officers, other first responders, management and, in some cases, the media and the public
- Criteria based dispatching that takes into consideration domestic abuse, social welfare, mental issues, etc.
- Working remotely on a consistent basis including remote dispatch
There have been a wide variety of initiatives undertaken to deal with these changes including:
- Community outreach programs through different media outlets including social media to encourage public safety and improve community relations.
- Implementation of remote dispatching
- Providing real-time information to surrounding agencies, the media and the public in crisis situations can mitigate false narratives and instill confidence in the public safety community
- Incorporating social media information into the public safety decision making process
- Increased implementation of Body Worn Camera systems
- Implementing greater cyber security
All of these initiatives require either new or updated systems to be able to track and handle these additional requirements. This translates into the installation of either new software or software updates, acquiring new hardware and systems software, training on the new software, and creation of policies and procedures dealing with the new initiatives. Unfortunately, most of the public safety applications including CAD, Mobile and RMS were developed prior to the smartphone and multi-media revolution, and they are not designed to interact with social media applications or real-time video feeds. All public safety agencies, regardless of size, are faced with the daunting task of implementing these new programs which requires a significant amount of resources including operational and technical expertise, that many agencies are short on, especially technical expertise. By moving to cloud-based solutions, agencies are able to more readily move to new applications and programs that are being demanded of them.
While on-premises solutions can provide external connectivity, cloud-based solutions are designed from the ground-up with the latest technology and can easily integrate with external information such as traffic/business video, body worn cameras, internet, and social media feeds. Cloud-based solutions also have the following advantages:
- Subscription based pricing with predictable yearly fees
- Cloud-based solutions utilize hosted data centers with built-in disaster recovery policies and procedures that guarantee 99.999% uptime
- Software upgrades are performed by the vendor with no or minimal downtime because they utilize redundant systems that can be turned on and off during a software upgrade
- Limited internal IT support required. Typically, internal IT only has to provide and maintain two high speed internet connections to the cloud-based host site and the internal network
- Cloud-based solutions natively support various devices including desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc. This native support allows end-users to switch between devices with ease, with no additional training required
- Cloud-based software utilizes current technology and architecture with the capability of integrating and adapting new technologies such as NG911, IoTs (Internet of Things), wearable devices, etc. more easily and quickly
Winbourne Consulting has been serving the Public Safety and Law Enforcement community for over 20 years, and our subject matter experts can help develop a strategic plan and roadmap to support both cloud-based and/or on-premises solutions. We work with all of the major Public Safety vendors in supporting law enforcement agencies with application software, body worn cameras, social media and real-time video connectivity solutions. For additional information, contact Winbourne Consulting at Info@w-llc.com.