View from the Top

Taking a bite out of public-safety hazards, one byte at a time

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The new possibilities that information and communications technology (ICT) innovations enable—particularly in the area of mobility—are tremendous. When they are applied to a service as indispensable as public safety, the net result is safer, healthier and more stable communities that provide a dramatically higher quality of life for all.

By Kevin Wrenn 

As digital innovations continue to play a crucial role in our day to day, the need for advanced technology for public-safety professionals has become more and more important. In fact, according to the last U.S. Census, a staggering $228.7 Billion was spent on public safety and justice alone. You probably won’t hear many people disagree that first responders arriving at the scene of a crime, a fire, or the aftermath of an accident or natural disaster have a difficult job. And, if you’ve ever been in need of their services, you know firsthand how vital their jobs truly are. To me, as a long-time information and communications technology (ICT) professional, the combination of “difficult” and “vital” in the job description is all I need to know that cutting-edge technology can—and should—be used to assist those brave men and women who keep us safe day and night.

I’d like to show a few examples of how the digital transformation that’s currently shaping so many parts of society is also setting the stage for a modernization of public-safety efforts across the country and around the world. The new possibilities that ICT innovations enable—particularly in the area of mobility—are tremendous. When they are applied to a service as indispensable as public safety, the net result is safer, healthier and more stable communities that provide a dramatically higher quality of life for all.

Barriers to adoption should be as low as possible

For public-safety agencies, there is no downtime. That’s why, oftentimes, there is some trepidation on their part to consider making major changes to their back-office and frontline information-technology (IT) infrastructure. Whether it’s IT software used to manage and maintain highly sensitive data or a sensor and surveillance program, they might ask: What if our old system needs to be migrated? Will there be complicated new software that everyone has to learn? And most importantly, how will it affect our ability to provide uninterrupted service?

These are valid concerns, and they are probably the best place to begin talking about the important topic of digital transformation in the public-safety space.

First of all, when we’re talking about IT, it’s imperative to keep in mind the needs of the users who rely on it to do their jobs. In the United States, public safety end users include 700,000 officers, 1,140,750 firefighters, and 840,699 EMS personnel.  I’ve found that many organizations tend to favor familiarity over anything else when it’s time for an upgrade. And who can blame them? Simply getting to a point where all the users are comfortable on the new equipment requires extensive training that can be costly, time-consuming and highly disruptive to the organization’s performance.

Fortunately, it’s getting easier for organizations to reap the benefits of both familiarity and innovation. For example, we know that the backend of many public-safety operations runs on Windows. When faced with the decision of whether to provide tablets to officers and other first responders (more on that later), they have to carefully consider how those devices will integrate into the overall IT environment. These days, some vendors offer Windows-based mobile products that not only are compatible with existing infrastructure, but they offer benefits such as reduced support costs and streamlined application management, because the entire operation is integrated. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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Forward-looking perspectives from top leaders, regarding where our industry is today and, more importantly, where it is heading.

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