Outside of the very cool armored vehicles and weapons on display, there were some clear technology trends at this year’s International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) show in Chicago and many of them will have a direct impact on 9-1-1 operations in the future. As I’ve stated before, a number of technology trends (NG911, FirstNet, mobile applications, cloud services) will all drive a change in 9-1-1 and dispatch operations as PSAPs become true communications centers and virtual operations centers (you can read more about the changing world of the telecommunicator in NG9-1-1 here ). Here’s some food for thought based on what was displayed at IACP…
Drones will be based out of PSAPs – Predictions are that more than $100 Million will be spent this year by consumers on drones, and the total drone market will be over $1 Billion within 5 years ( http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/01/08/faa-touts-growing-drone-market-at-ces-2015 ). Given the number of companies either directly selling drones or showing video supplied by drones in their solutions, it looks like the public safety market will be a rapid adopter of the technology as well. Drones are by their nature about real-time information. Given their range, there really is no need for someone to drive a drone to an incident scene where it is launched. There is also a clear return on investment for a sharing of this resource (and the trained pilots) across different response agencies and jurisdictions. So, if it’s a shared resource and should be centrally located, it makes sense to be based out of a center with redundant communications to the different agencies and the ability to merge that real-time information into the response and command and control process.
Body Cameras Will Outpace Fixed Video In Terms of Their Impact on PSAPs – You couldn’t walk down an aisle at IACP without seeing a solution related to body cameras. While many comm centers have struggled with access controls, privacy and retention rules around video sourced from non-public safety sources (e.g. shopping malls, schools), these issues are less complicated with body cameras. To be clear, I’m not saying the issues are easy, but because they have to be addressed by the source of the video (the agency actually deploying the technology), the issues do not have to be independently addressed by the PSAP. Clearly, the applications of this technology for quality control, officer safety, and litigation mitigation are powerful. However, the ability to have a real-time view into what is happening on the scene can drastically change dispatch processes. Whether a traffic stop gone bad, a domestic violence situation escalating out of control, or an evolving active shooter situation – the PSAP is the one entity actively monitoring incidents. Today we rely on radio transmissions, but video can provide an even more powerful early indicator of the need for back-up, and as importantly can provide units in the field with “virtual back-up” from the PSAP until other units can arrive. Imagine a dispatcher watching as individuals start to get more agitated. Instead of the officer having to activate his radio, and perhaps further escalating the situation, the dispatcher can simply dispatch additional units. Similarly, an officer in a traffic stop altercation can focus on subduing the suspect knowing someone is monitoring the situation visually and sending help. Many cities have taken to creating special real-time crime or fusion centers to support tactical situations. For agencies that don’t have those resources, call takers and dispatchers may take on that monitoring role. This obviously has huge impacts on everything from recruiting, staffing, training and stress counseling.
Social Media Will Become an Important Part of the Response Process. Solutions for monitoring and delivering alerts for risks identified on social media or providing post-event forensic analysis are seemingly everywhere. I spoke with 5 different firms all offering very similar solutions. What does this have to do with 9-1-1? Social media is often an early indicator of an issue or the magnitude of an already-identified incident. The IACP show itself was a great example as protestors coordinated and promoted demonstrations over social media. With the proper filters and analytics, social media events can actually generate calls for service. Additionally, social media posts can provide context to traditional calls for service. Whether posts of an on-going fire by bystanders or posts about an active shooter incident indicating there are multiple shooters, the information gained via social media can be crucial in helping better understand a rapidly evolving situation. The key is in providing this information as a resource during the call in a way that is helpful and not overwhelming or distracting.
To sum up, while change can be frightening if not planned for correctly, technology can also create amazing opportunities for improvement and revolutionize the way we provide services to the public. The predictions above are not far out in the future. Already, through products like Rave Mobile Safety’s Smart911Connect and others, a number of different real-time data feeds have been delivered to the telecommunicator’s desktop – from streaming video to telematics data – in an easily managed and consistent framework. We’ve seen the value and enhancements to the response process that can be delivered when properly integrated into procedures that make sense.