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Data-sharing solution puts tactical data in the hands of first preventers

Written by Neal Lorenzi

CODY™ Systems, based in Pottstown, Pa., has released version 4.0 of C.O.B.R.A., its real-time, cross-jurisdiction data sharing and analysis system, powered by ExpressBridge (EXB). This vendor-independent solution instantly places tactical data in the hands of public safety first preventers.

“First preventers need an up-to-the-second picture of situations, from seemingly routine field stops to tactical ops,” said Lieutenant Jeff Merriman of the Jasper County (Mo.) Sheriff’s Office. “We don’t care what ‘language’ a data source speaks. What matters is that we have the right information at the right place at the right time, updated to stay completely in time-sync with local systems.”

ExpressBridge, developed by CODY Systems, makes this happen. It allows disparate systems to speak the same language and share data in real time. So as data is entered at the local level, it is translated and available to other agencies within seconds, according to data-sharing profiles, access and business rules. EXB offers a constantly growing library of reusable “templates” for each source provider to bridge the language gap through a “set-it-and-forget-it” process.

It also keeps data sources in real-time sync over the Web, pushing updates seconds after they are made in the source. Any connected agency can become NIEM 2.0 conformant by virtue of participating. In addition, data can be pushed up-stream or cross-stream to the FBI N-DEx or other data-sharing systems.

“There is a language gap among public safety data systems today,” according to David Heffner, vice president of marketing for CODY Systems. “With hundreds of RMS vendors, data warehouses and other rich data sources speaking their own languages, the challenge we face is how to securely bridge this gap by integrating and sharing critical information in real time with those who need it most—our nation’s first preventers.

“These first preventers don’t care what system or vendor the data is coming from; they just need it. They deserve data that is available immediately as it is entered at the local level, not refreshed once an hour. That’s why CODY developed ExpressBridge and C.O.B.R.A.—to bridge the language gap and allow these disparate systems to speak the same language, and to drive this data out to where it is needed most, when it is needed most.”

C.O.B.R.A. (Center-Point Based Regional Access) is a suite of applications designed to translate and link information from different agencies and jurisdictions while providing critical information to the field in real time. Introduced in 1998, C.O.B.R.A. has since evolved into a digital shield for police officers who use the smart-client on their MDCs or PDAs to run names, vehicles and incidents from across jurisdictional borders. It offers Web-based smart clients quick response time in relation to real-time data sharing, and conformance with prevailing data standards such as NIEM 2.0.

The increased speed, standards conformance and broader systems support comes from the incorporation of EXP, a modular data-fusion framework that enables real-time translation and transmission of data from one source to another, regardless of the local vendors, databases or schemas used.

Utilizing CODY’s Silo Approach, C.O.B.R.A. keeps each contributing agency’s information segregated from others within an Insulated Data Silo. Each agency maintains control over its Silo, deciding what information to share. Developed in conjunction with public safety practitioners, this approach meets stringent privacy and criminal history standards in the most critical jurisdictions in the United States, the company reports.

The core issue behind C.O.B.R.A. has always been officer safety, according to Heffner. Getting current, accurate and actionable information across different systems and jurisdictions to officers on the street is the main function of this technology.

“Today, CODY allows public safety agencies to share information among themselves and their officers in the field the instant that information is entered into a local agency’s RMS system. Cross-jurisdictional sharing, cross-RMS vendor translation, instant access for officers in the field, and virtually instant refresh of information are critical components of C.O.B.R.A.”, Heffner noted.

C.O.B.R.A.’s user interface allows an officer to run a person/driver or license plate number across all connected agencies’ databases, as well as NCIC and State CIC, Heffner explained. With one search, an officer can get hits back in seconds from connected agencies. “While this makes an officer’s job easier, the real impact of C.O.B.R.A. is how this information keeps an officer safe,” he added. “The ability to access information from multiple sources within seconds, without having to make phone calls from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, gives officers the information they need at critical moments.”

Heffner offered this example: When an officer stops a vehicle at 5 a.m. on a dark street, he needs access to all the information available, up to the second, on that driver and vehicle. Information should not be limited to that officer’s agency and should not be more than a few seconds old. If the driver was stopped 90 seconds ago just across the township line, the officer should know that. If an officer safety alert was placed on the driver’s record by another agency two minutes ago, stating that the driver is a weapons violator, the officer definitely needs to know that. C.O.B.R.A. eliminates the information gap among agencies and the time lag between when information is entered at one agency and when it is available to others.

With the purchase of a C.O.B.R.A. system, CODY offers a one-year warranty for service. During that period, the client receives technical support and an annual maintenance package, which includes 24/7 emergency phone support and active remote monitoring of all C.O.B.R.A. networks. The system is used by a wide range of agency types and sizes—from rural agencies and counties, to some of the largest urban counties in the nation—as well as at the state level.

Photos courtesy of CODY Systems.

Neal Lorenzi has 20 years of experience in research, reporting, writing, copy editing and graphic design. He can be reached at neal.lorenzi@gmail.com.

Published in Public Safety IT, Jul/Aug 2010

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