Industry giants join forces
Working under a new alliance with Microsoft, Motorola is marketing software it says will help public-safety agencies share mission-critical information more efficiently. The new solutions also make it easier for agencies to move data among different public-safety applications and mine raw data for strategic information, Motorola said.
Last month, the two giants announced that Motorola would develop solutions for the public-safety and criminal-justice market that are built on Microsoft platforms.
In the past, Motorola has built its public-safety products on several different architectures and database systems, said Tim Boyle, vice president for business development at Motorola’s Government and Enterprise Mobility Solutions sector.
Now, Motorola is heading to market with new Microsoft-exclusive applications, Boyle said. For products already developed in a Microsoft environment, such as its computer-aided dispatch (CAD) and records management system (RMS) solutions, Motorola plans enhancements to take better advantage of the latest Microsoft technologies, such as .NET — which provides a framework for developing Web-based services and software — and the Windows Server System, an operating system (OS) and set of related products.
Motorola currently is marketing an integrated suite, called Digital Justice Solutions, built on these Microsoft platforms. The suite includes modules for: RMS; mobile data for field reporting; CAD; mobile messaging, query and dispatch; and corrections management.
Motorola has joined forces with Microsoft for several reasons, Boyle said. One is that many of its customers ask Motorola to interface its CAD and RMS with applications from other vendors, and many of those are built on Microsoft platforms.
The new alliance will give public-safety users “the ability to tie the information that they have available in different systems into one common operating picture,” said Tom Richey, executive director of homeland security for Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector. For example, a police officer in the field who was dispatched to a domestic dispute could use his mobile computer to query the jail and court systems for information about the people involved, he said.
Another reason for moving to the Microsoft platform is that, in many cases, public-safety agencies’ IT departments no longer function as stand-alone operations, Boyle said. As they promote an enterprise approach to IT across the entire government operation, chief information officers (CIOs) are getting more involved in public-safety information systems.
“The CIOs are looking for a common platform across the enterprise, where interoperability and communications are optimized,” Boyle said. When IT systems across an entire government use a common software architecture and database technology, those systems are less expensive to operate, and “they don’t have to hire people with multiple skill sets,” he said.
|Year of release||Microsoft-based products||Components|
|2005||Digital Justice Solution||NetRMS (law records management system)
Cruiser (mobile extension to NetRMS for field-based reporting)
Premier MDC (mobile messaging, query, dispatch)
Offendertrak (corrections management solution)
|2006||Unified Public Safety Suite||CAD, mobile data, records management and corrections management designed on a common operating platform. Suite will offer enriched feature functionality and will be optimized to function with Motorola network and wireless broadband solutions.|
|2006||Customer Service Request System||Not applicable|
CIOs also want tools to help them analyze data from public-safety applications. “If they want to import data from a CAD system to do response-time analysis, they want to be able to port that from a Microsoft type of solution to a Microsoft desktop solution, like a spreadsheet, without any difficulty,” Boyle said.
Finally, Motorola and Microsoft are both active in the push for Justice XML, a standard that will allow public-safety agencies working on different IT platforms to exchange data. Standardizing on Microsoft platforms will make it easier for Motorola to comply with that standard as it emerges, Boyle said.
Using Justice XML, Motorola can create an “integration hub” based on the .NET platform that will allow Motorola’s CAD, its RMS and its jail management system to share data, Boyle said. Different agencies and different jurisdictions will be able to access that hub to share data.
Since many portable data devices run on Microsoft operating systems, as Motorola migrates its mobile data technology to the Microsoft platform, “we’ll be able to easily work in the mobile data environment, on the laptop computer solutions in police cars as well as hand-held solutions for the more mobile work force,” Boyle said. Mobile phones that use Microsoft technologies also can form part of a public-safety solution, and moving to Microsoft technology “would certainly help us interface to those solutions as well,” he said.
Motorola expects the relationship to yield new public-safety applications in the future, although none of those has yet moved past the idea stage, Boyle said.
“They could be in areas of on-scene command-and-control capabilities, some areas in the corrections arena, as well as some applications that work in conjunction with the larger applications that will help agencies mine through data and analyze it better.” They could, for example, help police departments predict future criminal activity or help supervisors evaluate employee performance, he said.
One upcoming result of the Motorola/Microsoft alliance will be the Integrated Justice Solution, a Web-based service that lets public-safety agencies in multiple jurisdictions share information easily, Richey said. “No longer am I just making data calls against my set of legacy applications,” he said. “I can quickly expand those data calls against my neighboring regions, cities, states and move very quickly.”
However, Motorola’s move to the newest Microsoft environments does not, in itself, “distinguish them from other players in the market,” said Dan Hawkins, director of public-safety programs at the SEARCH Group Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides technical support to public-safety agencies. But the alliance will likely lead to stronger products as a result of tighter integration, he said.
Joseph Hindman, police technology director at the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Police Department, called the Motorola/Microsoft alliance “a very good move for the customer because I think it adds flexibility. It’s certainly easier to program in the .NET environment,” he said.
Scottsdale Police officials looked hard at Motorola’s Premier CAD system during a procurement in 2004 but ultimately chose another vendor to supply an integrated CAD, RMS and mobile data system, Hindman said.
“Functionality-wise, we were very pleased with what they [Motorola] were offering,” he said. “But when we got under the hood, so to speak, it was some older technology that was being used. So to me, this is an announcement that they’re moving to a state-of-the-art technology platform, and I see that as a good thing.”