Behind every first responder there’s a team of dedicated, hardworking professionals. One of these back-office heroes is the IT department, a team of people responsible for the mission-critical voice and data systems that keep responders always connected, always informed, and never alone out there.
Today’s IT department’s faces big challenges:
- Public safety is now playing catch-up with consumer tech. I’ve heard officials say their children have more sophisticated equipment than their police officers do, and in many cases that's true. Departments need better ways to interact with the public via text, photos and video, and social networks.
- Legacy systems are often decades old. The average citizen would be surprised at how old our 9-1-1 technology is in the U.S., still based on 1960s circuit-switched networks.
- Surveillance cameras, smartphones and other data sources generate a flood of raw information. Agencies need faster ways to analyze it and make it usable.
- Budget pressures make “more with less” an imperative.
Most departments have only recently added a CIO/CTO position, and the people who shoulder this responsibility are generally new to public safety. They know technology, but often they are still learning about the unique requirements of our public-sector industry where systems must be mission critical, interoperable and practical for users under pressure in difficult environments. On the upside, some trends are working in the CIO’s favor:
- The new generation of first responders has grown up with technology. They are not afraid of it; they embrace it and are eager to use it on the job.
- Talented and innovative companies are developing analytical software that can sift through mountains of data (including video) to recognize patterns and bring relevant information to the attention of commanders and users in the field. Motorola is identifying and working with these companies, using what we know about public safety to integrate applications and tailor solutions to the requirements of our customers.
- Many of the solutions that help to build safer cities also save money. For example, police departments have realized major savings in overtime costs after implementing mobile data that allows officers to fill out “paperwork” in their cars, not back at the station house.
- Cities can leverage their public safety technology investments by sharing infrastructure with public works, transportation and other departments. Multiple jurisdictions are pooling resources in shared regional systems. Consolidating multiple IT and communications systems into a single integrated and seamless solution saves money, simplifies administration, and supports cross-agency collaboration for joint emergency response and disaster preparedness.
This is a challenging but exciting time to be working with public safety IT. One of our goals here at Motorola is to help navigate these issues and do more with less. Together, we can build systems to connect government to citizens, tap the city as a source of intelligence, and prepare first responders for what’s next.
Clint Quanstrom is Vice President of Integration Services at Motorola Solutions.
Learn more about IT and public safety at www.motorolasolutions.com/safercities