Improve agent efficiency and situational awareness with robust mobile technology
By Marcus Claycomb, Business Development Manager, Panasonic
A 2021 national survey of police departments found that retirements increased by 45% and resignations by 18% between April 2020 and April 2021. Even in 2019, 75% of law enforcement had more difficult to recruit than five years ago. Adding to this staffing challenge, police departments are facing an increase in violent crime, with the murder rate in the United States rising 30% from 2019 to 2020 – the largest single-year increase since more than a century.
As a retired police officer having served for over twenty years, I understand the departmental challenge of maintaining services with limited resources. Although technology can never replace agents, the right solutions can create new opportunities for efficiency.
A recent study found that public safety professionals believe their agencies need better ways to share information and collaborate in real time. This is where deploying mobile technologies like laptops, tablets, 2-in-1s, and wearables can help departments streamline day-to-day tasks and increase collection efficiency and effectiveness. and data communication.
When deployed correctly, mobile technology can give agents more time to serve in their communities and participate in professional development opportunities. To achieve maximum return on investment, agencies should carefully consider their intended use cases to choose the right technology to meet their current needs and prepare for emerging technologies in the years to come.
Effectiveness of mobile device support agent in three main ways
From digitizing paper-based processes to facilitating collaboration and improving situational awareness, mobile devices play a key role in helping agents stay efficient.
1. Accomplish more at the point of interaction
Many police vehicles have laptop computers docked inside. While these devices can be useful for writing reports and conducting in-vehicle research, they limit officers’ mobility, confining their workflows to the car.
I know firsthand the importance of being able to accomplish more at the point of interaction. Roadside checks, for example, can take up a considerable portion of an officer’s day, requiring them to complete and file necessary paperwork from their vehicles. Digitizing this process via mobile devices equipped with automated scanners to image driver’s licenses can significantly streamline this process.
Mobile devices can also improve workplace productivity. Detectives benefit from being able to bring a mobile device to an interview and record directly on it instead of transcribing the content afterwards.
2. Simplify communication for a coordinated response
Reliable connectivity is essential to help officers maintain communication and share important information with other first responders for an effective response. Connectivity issues can occur during storms or in remote, crowded environments. Mobile solutions that connect to designated first responder networks, like AT&T’s FirstNet and Verizon Frontline, can help essential workers maintain communication.
Beyond these dedicated networks, the deployment of different software and applications can give officers the ability to collaborate seamlessly with other first responders during large-scale response missions. When multiple police departments arrive on the scene, all using different mobile devices and networks, ATAK, free government-funded software, allows them to connect devices in real time for a coordinated response. Typically, officers at the command level can easily talk and collaborate with other agencies, but officers responding directly to an incident find it more difficult to communicate in real time. Applications such as Push to Talk allow these agents to easily communicate via chat or text.
The connectivity offered by mobile devices can also help departments collaborate for day-to-day needs. The City of Mishawaka Police Department, for example, found itself relying on mobile devices to conduct remote roll-call meetings to keep officers safely distanced during the peak of the pandemic.
3. Improve situational awareness
By improving officers’ access to real-time information and streamlining communication, mobile devices help them better prepare for a scene. In the future, mobile devices will also support the transition to Next Generation 911 (NG911). The NG911 is poised to transform officer mobility and situational awareness by giving civilians the ability to share photos and video directly with dispatchers and first responders. These capabilities will help officers respond to scenarios more effectively and efficiently and coordinate better with other responders.
Another key part of situational awareness is having a sense of your surroundings. Mobile devices equipped with voice-to-text capabilities allow agents to write reports and search for information by dictation. This allows them to keep their eyes on their surroundings instead of having their heads down, which makes them more vulnerable.
The ability to accomplish more at the point of interaction, engage in real-time communication, and operate with greater situational awareness is essential for an effective response. By helping officers achieve these goals, mobile devices can lead to more efficient and coordinated operations overall.
Just Add Weather: Key Features to Consider in a Mobile Device
There are a multitude of mobile devices on the market, and finding the right one for your service can be difficult. Rugged design is one of the most important features to consider, as agents need to be confident that their devices will work in any type of environment, especially in critical situations.
Whether it’s extreme heat or cold, the rugged devices are built to withstand the conditions any environment can bring. At Panasonic, we design our devices to withstand these weather elements through the test of time. Our devices also incorporate features such as night mode, allowing agents to see and use the keypad in the dark, in addition to daylight-viewable screens to prevent glare at high noon. Additionally, our devices support touch-with-gloves functionality, allowing agents to use the touchscreen even when wearing gloves, and rain mode, which means the touchscreen will not interpret mistakenly raindrops falling on the screen as an entrance.
In addition to extreme weather conditions, some rugged mobile devices are specially designed to work in noisy environments with enhanced speakers and microphones for accurate voice recognition even in the middle of a siren. Extended battery life means the devices can endure long shifts without needing to be recharged.
At Panasonic, we believe that Dual-SIM functionality is also essential to allow agents to access multiple mobile networks in the event of an outage. I have responded to scenes where an officer loses signal, threatening the overall collaborative process. This is where the ability to mesh devices also becomes important, allowing an officer to transmit a signal to others.
Between their durability and enhanced connectivity, rugged mobile devices are key to helping agents maintain efficiency in the critical environments they operate in.
Achieve maximum benefits for years to come
Going forward, the ability of mobile devices to partner with emerging technologies, such as 5G and AI, will also help departments experiment with new solutions that can transform their operations for years to come.
With data speeds 10 times faster than 4G and an increased ability to download data in seconds, 5G technology is poised to transform law enforcement operations. Additionally, 5G’s strong encryption rate will allow departments to more effectively leverage advanced technologies, such as drones, that have already been adopted in the industry.
Emerging software applications, when paired with a mobile device, can give agents access to new information. A platform helps officers communicate with citizens speaking another language, by detecting the spoken language and allowing each party to read and listen to translated correspondence.
Mobile devices paired with AI solutions will help officers analyze the abundance of data they may collect to ensure it is mission-specific. This use case will be important because data only becomes intelligence when it appears in a usable format and a typical law enforcement incident generates over 1TB of data. The development of NG911 will provide an even greater opportunity for AI to play a role in understanding data, as officers will have access to photos and videos shared by civilians. AI will be essential not only to analyze data faster, but also to prioritize usable information and present it clearly to agents.
As police departments maintain mission-critical services with fewer staff, rugged mobile devices will be essential to help officers accomplish more at the point of interaction and operate with greater situational awareness for a response. more coordinated and efficient. In fact, 98% of agents say their department needs to adopt technologies that improve reporting quality, agent safety, and community visibility.
In order to maximize the ROI of their mobile devices, departments will need to invest time and resources in experimenting with emerging technologies that partner with mobile devices.
Technological innovation is sure to have a huge impact on law enforcement operations and rugged mobile devices will be at the forefront of this transformation, enabling officers to achieve greater efficiency in the short term. term, while preparing them to take advantage of new innovations in the long term. .
About the Author
Marcus Claycomb is Business Development Manager for the Public Sector at Panasonic. It supports law enforcement, fire/rescue, and medical fields. Specifically, Marcus works with internal and external partners to augment and improve existing technologies in addition to working with these same partners to create new technologies and products to fill the “needs gap” in these areas. Marcus began his career in medical and fire rescue and recently retired after a 30 year career in law enforcement. He earned his bachelor’s degree in public administration from Bellevue University and holds an associate’s degree in computer network administration.