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Law Enforcement Technology Today: A Peek at Law Enforcement Tech Trends

by Stephanie Atkinson 7. May 2012 09:51

Today's law enforcement officers (police, security, investigators, and prison guards) rely on technology to support their day-to-day activities including the areas of basic communications and administrative duties, as well as tools to provide intelligence to better respond to incidents or emergency situations. Wireless technologies and solutions are becoming an integral part of law enforcement, especially those that are first responders or have primary responsibilities that are away from the police headquarters or offices.  Below are a few highlights that I wanted to share:

Top Tech challenges in law enforcement include:

1.  Interoperability of Systems, Devices, and Radio/Wireless Networks

2.  Budget Shortfalls in State and Local Government are impacting Public Safety IT Budgets

3.  Getting access to critical information to respond to incidents in a timely and informed manner

4.  Inadequate training of technology, devices, and solutions to improve the job of law enforcement

5.  Lack of skilled IT staff with an ever-increasing fast pace of technology change              

Use of Wireless in Law Enforcement and Related Trends            

The top uses for wireless in law enforcement include making voice calls, accessing the Internet or email, and accessing public safety specific applications and information.  End-users feel it is more important to access information on a handheld mobile device or smartphone, than it is to access this information on a laptop or netbook.  Top uses of mobile/wireless while out in the field include accessing criminal information, communicating with fellow officers, gathering information to respond to an incident, communicating with the department headquarters, e-ticketing, and accessing specific applications within Law Enforcement.

Top Applications in Law Enforcement   

Top Applications in Law Enforcement include NCIC (National Crime Information Center) Database and Information, Case Management, Computer Aided Dispatching, Records Management, Location-based/Tracking Services, GPS/Navigation, Field Reporting, and Video/Imaging (In car, mounted, etc.).

Top Challenges for Adoption of Wireless Solutions, Devices and Applications  

Top challenges for the adoption of wireless solutions, devices, and Applications include budget/funding constraints, management/maintenance of devices and solutions, coverage/bandwidth concerns in various locations (continuity of service), security of applications and private data, and interoperability of radios and wireless networks and devices.

Wireless Strategies and Priorities         

First Responders, Law Enforcement, and Emergency workers are now often equipped with smartphones/radios, laptops and other types of mobile data terminals with wireless access, through which they may be able to access timely emergency information. Within the public safety market, wireless data will be a major growth area, with emergency and public safety agencies demanding greater access, more advanced networks, and more bandwidth.  Mobility is expected to play the most influential role on public safety applications now and in the future.  The transition of applications to portable and mobile devices will all lead to applications and software capabilities that allow remote access and more portable access to public safety information. The primary trends include:

• Growth in the use of laptops and ruggedized handheld devices

• Greater interest and expected potential of smartphones in Public safety

• Mobility of applications: Shift of application access in a mobile/portable environment

• Overall nature of the public safety end-user: most are mobile and not in the office during work hours

The Future

The future will involve a heavy focus on interconnectedness between public safety agencies. A national public safety network, while still not a reality, will eventually be created (see my other blog on the Public Safety Broadband Network, FirstNet), and this will form the foundation of all public safety applications and networks in the country. Consequently, new standards will have to be created and adhered to across the board. 

Be prepared for migration to IP-based public safety networks with appropriate technology and integration services.  Public safety centers will ultimately move towards a greater level of interconnectedness, most likely through an IP backbone. State and local networks are also heavily relying on private networks, especially similar to those used in the Education arena like Internet2. Part of this preparation is addressing the new inherent security risks that will be present in an Internet-based public safety application.

The cloud model has generated a lot of buzz in the industry, although at present, it is not widely used in the public safety industry, nor is it in high demand. Most public safety organizations reported having a preference for installing and maintaining their own solutions. Nonetheless, there is a niche for cloud solutions that could be profitable, and this is in serving smaller public safety organizations that may not have the internal resources to install and maintain their own solutions. Given that public safety customers prefer to manage their own solutions, they also report that it is very important to acquire solutions that are easy to understand, easy to implement, and easy to roll out. And of course, customer service and support also scores very highly in terms of importance.

• The future will involve a heavy focus on IP-based communications, for example, E9-1-1/NG9-1-1 and VoIP, and smartphones/PDAs/handheld terminals connected to a dispatch center via a Virtual Private Network over the Internet. This increased level of Internet usage for critical applications will require a greater focus on security to ensure that public safety Internet links do not fall victim to the many Internet-based threats that exist.

• Mobility is already a major factor in public safety applications, and demand for mobility will increase in the future.  

• Cloud solutions are beginning to emerge as a viable business model within the government sector, but as solutions are purpose built for public safety, this area is expected to grow in demand.


Related Reports:

  • Government Technology Contracting: Annual Highlight Report
  • U.S. Public Safety Market The Latest Happenings and Trends
  • US Public Safety IT Expenditures By Category and Level, 2010-2012

Stephanie Atkinson - Managing Partner at Compass Intelligence, High-Tech Consultant/Analyst, Mother, TX Aggie, Dallas native, TX hillcountry resident, Interests: Tech, Telecom, Mobility, M2M,and the use of Tech in business.  You can reach her at or follow her on twitter.

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